By Terry Miller
If you’ve noticed, it’s a bit warmer and summer is certainly here. Many of our wildlife friends are seeking water, food and perhaps a cool splash in your pool or pond. For the most part, they are not a threat to humans—unless provoked.
Bear sightings near the foothills always increase in summer months after the hibernation period as well as the much more common coyote sightings.
Recently, there have been some notable instances where bears have attacked men in Sierra Madre and more recently, in Fairfield, N.J., an aggressive, possibly rabid coyote attacked a mother and 4-year old while strolling through a park early one evening.
These instances, fortunately, are extremely rare and what caused these animals to attack is still a mystery but suffice to say we need to educate ourselves about wildlife and how we can live in harmony with mother nature.
I must say that the incident in New Jersey struck a particular nerve, particularly when Fairfield police released a “trophy hunt” photograph of a smiling police officer proudly posing with the bloody carcass of the coyote he just shot. CNN and other news organizations plastered that photo on their websites.
Admittedly, the cop did the right thing in shooting the aggressive coyote which may or may not have attacked the mother and child earlier, but to blatantly pose it as a trophy is unconscionable at best and immoral at worst.
We’ve all seen these types of photos before—the trophy hunters posing with innocent creatures they’ve killed for “sport.” This reprehensible behavior goes against everything most of us were taught: “Thou shall not kill.”
Thankfully, those of us who don’t believe in killing innocent animals are still the majority but there lingers many a hunter who takes gratification in this, for whatever outlandish reason(s).
We must learn to live with our wildlife friends and perhaps be a little more ecologically aware of their importance in our bionetwork.
Coyotes are usually wary of people and will avoid us whenever possible. According to the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy, “Bold behavior is unusual and is most often a result of habituation due to intentional or unintentional feeding, the presence of a dog, or the coyote defending a den and young. If you encounter a coyote, remember the following: Never feed or try to ‘tame’ a coyote; appreciate coyotes from a distance. Walk dogs on leashes; pick up small dogs if a coyote is near. If approached, be BIG and LOUD. You can also scare the animal by blowing a whistle, shaking a can with coins inside, popping open an umbrella, or throwing objects.”
The Pasadena Humane Society offers tips to discourage bears from your property: “Do not put out trash cans the night before pick up. Store garbage cans in a garage or closed shed. Keep garbage cans clean. Deodorize and disinfect them with bleach or ammonia. Promptly collect fruit that falls from trees. Harvest fruit as soon as it’s ripe. Remove plants that attract bears, such any berries including Dogwood. Eliminate bird feeders during spring and summer when there are natural foods available for birds. Eliminate compost piles. Keep barbeque grills clean and free of drippings. Consider purchasing bear spray and keep it next to your front and/or back door.”
Black Bears are more timid and are rarely aggressive unless they are defending their young. Bears are intelligent. The normal human reaction to a bear encounter is to freeze and/or run away, which actually sends the bear the wrong message; you need to let the bear know that it needs to leave. Make sure the bear has a safe escape route. When you are at a safe distance, make eye contact and yell at the bear. If you have bear spray, make sure you are upwind of the bear before using it.
A Bear’s sense of smell is approximately seven times greater than a bloodhound, or 2,100 times better than a human.
Keeping this fact in mind is very important. Do not leave food out for pets at night. It is literally an invitation for any wildlife to enter your property.
How to Live in Harmony With Wildlife
The state of California says:
“You may not realize it – a simple bag of garbage, bowl of pet food, or a wild bird feeder can create problems with wildlife.
“If wild animals have access to human food and garbage, unnatural foraging behavior can begin. Wildlife venturing into residential neighborhoods seeking food and garbage puts both people and animals at risk. Wildlife is made susceptible to vehicle strikes, pesticide poisoning and disease that can spread among wildlife that would not normally come into contact with each other.
“Whether you live in a city or a rural part of California, wild animals are your neighbors. They naturally fear humans and keep their distance – so long as they remain fully wild.
“Please – stash your food and trash.
“Keep them wild.”
It’s not just bears and coyotes to be aware of; it is also the wildcats, mountain lions, bobcats and deer who all roam amongst us.
Education, most experts say, is the key to living in harmony and a safe distance from these wild animals. We cannot treat wild animals as pets and feed them. This leads to inevitable cyclical visits that you may regret.