What’s in Your Neighborhood?
Yesterday I read a newspaper article in the Coeur d’Alene Press about over-population of deer in Dalton Gardens, a suburb of the popular resort town of Coeur d’Alene. The article expressed the fears of some Dalton citizens about predators now coming in to prey on the deer. No longer, the article reports, is the problem about that of deer eating the flowers of home owners; it’s escalating some say to being about the dangers to children and pets in these deer-populated communities. The abundance of deer is attracting mountain lions and coyotes, both predators of whitetail deer. That’s not a light statement; it’s a real problem.
Are Deer a Neighborhood Problem?
The challenge for many rural-area neighborhoods is that urban regulations create unintended refuge for wildlife. As prey species such as elk, deer and moose get used to humans inhabiting the environment around them, they find escape from the more timid, if not cautious predators that prey on them as food sources.
North Idaho deer predators on the list are wolves, coyotes, mountain lion (cougar), black bear, grizzly bear and of course man. But deer don’t know the boundaries of regulated areas, they discover safety simply in the course of reacting to life situations. So prey species such as those named above take find safety in places where predators are less common. That holds true, of course, until the predators themselves become bold or hungry enough to overcome their natural fear and distrust of man. This phenomenon is true around the world.
In 2010, on the perimeter of a small town in Alaska, a 32-year-old special-education instructor, Candice Berger had been teaching at a small village at Chignik Lake when the horrible attack happened. At least four wolves were involved, and biologists later reported that the dominant male wolf of the small pack, a healthy and strong animal, was the primary killer. It was not a lone, diseased and weak wolf as many at first claimed. According to another report in the Los Angeles Times, she was jogging after work, alone on the 3-mile stretch of road between the village and its little airport, listening to her iPod when the attack occurred.
In Montana, young children have been taken from their backyards by mountain lions. It’s happened in California as well. Pets in Los Angeles are sometimes killed and eaten by coyotes living within city limits.
Regulations in many more densely populated rural areas, especially in the lower 48, prohibit residents from hunting, killing or even defending themselves with firearms against animals, especially inside city limits. Quite frankly that’s understandable. So what are people to do? If prey animals enter residential neighborhoods seeking safety and/or food, what’s to prevent predators from doing the same eventually?
It’s a Serious Challenge for Controlling Agencies
The Dalton Gardens problem has been turned over to Idaho Fish and Game according to the newspaper article. I hope to report what they plan to do about this situation as I learn more. The question is: what can Idaho residents in any game-protected area do to protect themselves or minimize the danger? Stay tuned.
The first area of regulatory ordinance taking effect is to prohibit residents from feeding wildlife in their neighborhoods. Easy food attracts more animals, which in turn attract more predators. Many people who love to see deer and other wild animals often give themselves over to feeding deer, turkey and other prey species. That, too, is understandable especially in severe snow or under subzero snow conditions. But Fish and Game says “no!”
Is it enough to regulate against feeding prey animals? Maybe not, because many of these animals are seeking refuge from roving bands of predators such as wolves. Though populated areas may seem safer to them, however, the case is not always true.
not always safe.
Is a 1000-pound bull moose or an antlered elk or deer a safe neighbor to find suddenly confronting you when you take out the garbage? Of course not. How about a cow moose with a full grown calf? No this animal can be lethal as well. Many people have been stomped to death by a hooved adult animal protecting its young from a perceived danger.
So what’s the answer?
I’m glad I don’t have to decide.
I like the peaceful surrounding of my water habitat. Yes, I’ve seen a black bear in my yard (in June!) eating the seeds out of our bird feeder and then wondering off to our neighbors for more. I’ve had coyotes every winder in my yard, making their way through the rural housing looking for pets upon which to prey. Well, I’ve got a small dog so that makes me cautious when I let him out, especially during the winter months when the coyotes are roaming and setting up new territories.
Can I shoot a coyote, if I claim it endangered or attacked my dog? No, not from where I live within the city limits of Dover. I can’t hunt ducks from this property either for that very reason.
So the question remains: Can I run out and shew away a predator if I get there in time? Is that what I want to do? I can leash my dog or keep him inside until and unless I can walk with him. That’s an option. But he’s a long-haired Chihuahua. He’s not very big but far too brave. My greatest hope in this environment is that he has no confrontation with a predator of any kind. To help him with that I keep myself informed and remain cautious on his behalf, even for my own sake.
Just before posting this article, my wife, Claudia, told me of a mountain lion sighting earlier this week on the residential ridge of Syringa Heights just across Highway 2 behind us. Like our house, Syringa Heights is within the city limits of Dover, the southwestern neighbor of Sandpoint. A friend standing with me corroborated her statement saying his parents who live on the other side of Syringa Heights saw a “big” mountain lion pass openly through their yard in the middle of the day.
Claudia then added that a mountain lion had killed and eaten at least 2 dogs in the small logging community of Clark Fork on the east end of Pend Oreille Lake sometime in the last two weeks. Clark Fork is about 20 miles from us.
Maybe it’s the time of year. Maybe it’s anything. Who knows? It’s rural life. It’s what you sometimes get. Seems better than human predators in urban settings.
When you choose to live, as so many of us do, in these incredibly beautiful environments you are going to have wild animals in your neighborhood. Still, residents of North Idaho whether rural or urban are safer here than in many other parts of this world.
Dwayne Parsons, the owner/editor of SandpointPR
is also a Realtor with
208-290-2300 Dwayne’s mobile phone