It seems like the news lately is brimming with stories of wildlife crossing paths with people and our domesticated pets. From coyotes encroaching on neighborhoods in Decatur, to a grizzly bear mauling a man to death in Denali National Park, to roaming house cats posing a threat to wild animals. We need to coexist with nature to be good citizens of this planet. How can we do that?
Tuesday, September 4th is National Wildlife Day. How can we appreciate the creatures who roam free in our neighborhoods while being respectful? In general, the best way to get along peacefully with wildlife is to live and let live; that is, leave it alone. This Morgan County, Georgia newsletter has some information on local species and how to handle an encounter with each.
People have suggested removing coyotes from woods on the edges of neighborhoods. The problem with this strategy isn’t just the difficulty, time, or cost involved. Once a colony of wild animals moves out, another one will move in. The same applies to feral cats. If an area is ideal for the survival of one group of animals, it will be occupied. That’s why the best way to deal with a colony of cats is through Trap, Neuter, Return. This keeps the group under control and limits breeding while providing rodent control for the area. Coyotes in general leave people and their pets alone, unless directly confronted. This implies the avoidance strategy as being best.
Birds don’t actually have scents until they are fully grown. Predators are unable to find babies who have fallen or been pushed out of a nest. Sometimes a mother bird will lead a predator away from their baby by letting them follow her scent. Mothers also push their young offspring out of the nest to teach them flight and survival skills. If you see a bird that is in a roadway or some other dangerous spot, move it out of harm’s way and leave it alone. The parents may well be nearby and able to help.
Outdoor cats do kill many species of wildlife. They attack birds, rodents, snakes, and anything else they can catch. Since roaming felines are unsupervised there is no way to know how many or what types of animals your pet may exterminate. Indoor cats live much longer lives and avoid the troubles of fights and car injuries. Some cats, however, have trouble becoming accustomed to living inside at all times. If you have questions about acclimating your cat to indoor living, consult your veterinarian.
As for the Denali incident, the hiker who was killed had been trained to stay a quarter mile away from any bears he encountered and to back off if he came close to one. Instead, he took photos of a bear grazing a mere 50 yards away from him for almost 10 minutes. Unfortunately his disregard for the park regulations and education cost him his life.
If you encounter an animal and are unable to leave it alone, call the Wildlife Resources Division of the Department of Natural Resources. They should be able to help with questions about the wildlife you see and what to do. The phrase “Let nature take its course” is sometimes disheartening, but it is how animals have lived for centuries without our interference, and it can prevent unfortunate consequences for the people and the animals involved. For volunteer opportunities that will benefit animals living in nature around us, the DNR has resources to help.
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