urban wildlife

Around 2:30 am one night during the last full moon I was awakened by one of my cats growling. Peeping in my SECOND STORY bedroom window was a stray cat! I’m sure it was frightened up there by a predator–probably a coyote. Cats and small dogs are natural prey to predators such as coyotes, foxes, raccoons, owls, Red-tail hawks, and more. All cats should be kept indoors, but especially at night.

In addition, this is the “disbursement time” for coyotes–when the youngsters leave their parents and head out to establish their own territories and find mates. Urban coyotes are numerous and usually keep to themselves. But this time of year more frequent sightings and possible interactions occur. The recent cold-snap exacerbated this activity–young coyotes are not as efficient hunters as their parents and so go hungry much of the time, especially when weather creates additional obstacles to finding prey.

Every urban neighborhood has wildlife, although interactions are rare and usually at a distance. It is crucial that if you’re a pet-owner, that you don’t allow your pets free roam, especially since the days are shorter and darkness brings out hungry nocturnal hunters. Cats especially, should always be kept indoors. They see themselves as the “hunter,” and rarely realize they may be the “huntee.” Often they don’t run away, but stand their ground, arched and hissing. They’re easy catches for the more wily wildlife. In addition, many cat diseases are airborne and don’t require contact with a sick cat to be transmitted. By keeping your cat indoors, she’ll remain healthier and alive.

Dogs should always remain on leashes and human walker distractions (headphones, smartphones, etc) should be eliminated. Keep your dog safe near you and because you’re taller than the dog, visually scan your area at all times, watching for danger–whether its auto traffic or predators. Relish the time with your best friend and attend to him–your time with your dog is short and precious. Why throw it away with distractions like smartphones?

If a coyote or other animal is nearby, make yourself big–raise your shoulders, stand up straight, and if you have a coat on, lift out the sides to make your stance more intimidating. Make noise–carry a whistle (available from the Colorado Division of Wildlife), a can of pennies, clang your Flexi-leash handle on a rock or your leg, and yell. Always carry pepper spray. Odds are the wild animal will never get close enough to use it, but the goal is to keep wildlife afraid of people.

Once habituated, or used to, people, coyotes and foxes will lose their fear. Unfortunately, that’s when uneducated people call police to have the animals eliminated. This never works, as when one animal is killed, others move into their territory. It’s best to educate the ones you already have to stay away. NEVER feed wildlife–feeding is the surest way to sign their death warrants.

Living in peace with our fellow wild creatures is doable. All it takes is education and the willingness to protect the domestic friends you live with in your home.

Sunny Weber

Sunny Weber

Sunny has over 25 years’ experience in pet rescue, humane education, shelter & sanctuary work, service dog training, obedience competition, dog & cat fostering, pet medical care, horse ground training and has authored articles and books in several fields.

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