Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What Other Options?

There's a tough one. What to do with the sometimes-irritating, sometimes-dangerous incursion of wildlife into geographies once their very own, now overtaken by tract housing. Most people find it amusing and even wonderful when they see small woodland creatures venturing from the presumed comfort of their natural surroundings, to seek comfort elsewhere. Where food may be easier to come by, at bird feeders and where pet food is placed outside and easily accessed.

But then, when clever raccoons continue to come by at night to raid backyard composters, and when equally clever crows rip apart plastic garbage bags set out for waste collection, people become irritated. They become alarmed, however, at the thought, the sight of, and the realization that increasingly some forest creatures are venturing into urban areas and present a real danger by their presence.

Coyotes have become a real headache right across the country; prevalent in the countryside, but now increasingly so in the suburbs, and even directly in urban areas. It is not just their presence, but far more a problem is their growing ease with the presence of humans. Once fear of humans has left their consciousness, they view life on the edge of human existence as an opportunity to advantage themselves.

People begin to realize just how advantaged coyotes can make themselves. Farmers could inform them how vulnerable their poultry, and sheep can be at the presence of coyotes. And now, urban dwellers tell their own stories of pets suddenly vanishing. Cats never returning home, and small dogs suddenly absent, even from well-fenced backyards where they're let out at night to relieve themselves.

If the story ended there it would be troublesome enough, but it does not. The lack of aversion to human presence is on the rise, and with it a greater display of audacity on the part of coyotes. There are many people who could readily confuse a coyote for a large dog. Except that some of these people have been confronted by snarling coyotes, sufficiently confident to track them to their front doors.

Very young children have been seen by coyotes as potentially superlative meals. And these young children have been attacked. From British Columbia at one end of the country to Nova Scotia at the other end, coyotes slinking through public parks, startling people, presenting as moderate threats to domesticated animals, and more stark threats, to people, have become a growing confrontational problem.

As for that moaning mea culpa on the part of animal lovers that human beings have been steadily displacing the wild animal populations off their traditional land, that is true to a degree. It is not true to the degree that coyotes now choose to share urbanized land with humans, for they do this entirely to advantage themselves, to be around where the pickings may be easier than living in the wild and having to stalk more alert creatures; their usual prey.

There is a distinct problem associated with human and wildlife contact. Obviously so, in the presence of bears, far less so when confronted with a squirrel. Bears do not normally, if they are in good health, seek out the presence of human beings, but they will most certainly seek out their dumps to avail themselves of anything remotely edible. They do not normally stalk human beings to feast on people.

Now we know that coyotes may do just that very thing. Six months ago a 19-year-old woman, a nature-enthusiast, out for a solitary walk on a popular trail in Nova Scotia, was attacked by a group of coyotes and killed by them. Nova Scotia is now introducing a $20 bounty on dead coyotes in an attempt to decrease their presence, in the hopes of decreasing the presence of potential human predators.

This is a sad and perhaps predictable end to a tragic story. Of course it's no help that wildlife biologists and previous such experiments point out that taking this tack produces no useful results.

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