Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Cougars, Coyotes and Bobcats come to Town

Not long ago I got up early to head out of town and beat the traffic. It was trash day and I was rolling the trash container out to the street in the dark. We only have street lights at the end of the block so it takes a moment for my eyes to adjust to the early morning darkness. I noticed trash on the street and then I saw what I thought was a dog’s rear end sticking out of a neighbor’s trash container. I started toward the container and yelled at the animal which immediately jerked its head out of the trash and looked back at me. I was surprised to be making eye contact with a large coyote. It took off for far parts unknown at a rapid pace. I often see coyotes while driving on the outskirts of our community. When a fire or ambulance siren goes off at night you can often hear coyotes howling an answer in the distance. It amazes me how well they have adapted to city life.

A few years earlier in the same area, my daughter had something kill one of her show rabbits through the wire of an outside cage in our backyard. Several nights later I heard the rabbits hitting the wire of their cages and went running out just in time to see a bobcat run across the backyard and clear the fence.

Last week someone walking on a hike and bike trail a few miles from us came face to face with a mountain lion just on the edge of town. He had enough thought to get a photo of it walking into the brush on his cell phone camera. The local deer herds congregate in these greenbelt areas and fan out at night to eat in the medians and yards of suburbia. I imagine the mountain lion has found a smorgasbord of well fed deer to hunt in this greenbelt area.

Many of the homes in suburbia that are close to us have problems with deer, rabbits and hogs eating up their yards and living in the greenbelts of subdivisions. Everyday we see dead deer and other wildlife on the roads that have been killed by collisions with vehicles. All of the land out here in suburbia was once home to large numbers of wildlife. Man came out and developed the land, built houses, schools and shopping centers with no thought of the wildlife. Much of the wildlife stayed and adapted to living around and with humans and their activities. I do not find it unusual that the predators that prey on that wildlife decided to stay around too.
Many of the predators such as coyotes and fox have found an abundance of not only wild prey but small pets are thrown into the equation. They have also found that they can get free handouts from trashcans and pet feeders and the populations of such predators are doing well if not increasing in such places. There are always missing cat and small dog posters at the entrance to our subdivision. Most of these will never be found as they were most likely dinner for some predator.

The thing that really makes these predators more dangerous to pets, children and humans in general is that hunting and discharging a firearm in these areas is illegal. What happens is the predators lose their fear of man. The worse that happens when they are seen stealing a pet or rummaging through trash is that they get yelled at or chased. They soon come to see that they no longer have to fear humans and later generations do not have the built in or learned fear of man. When that happens then joggers, hikers, bike riders and children start getting added to the prey base. I have seen mountain lion tracks following bikers in the Big Bend Country of South West Texas. It will not take a mountain lion long to learn that a human is much easier to kill than a full grown deer. California is having problems with this because they have passed laws protecting all these predators and they are now at record numbers. Many areas in Texas are passing similar laws. As we build more and more homes and destroy more and more wildlife habitat we will be having more confrontations with predators. It is up to us to maintain the fear of man or not. Think about it. Wild Ed

1 comment:

Patty P said...

Cool article! I di enjoy seeing wildlife and do remind others from time to time that we are in their home, not the other way around.