Monday, September 29, 2008

Keep Them Wild

We recently had to kill a mountain lion who had been preying on our lambs and hens. It turned out that he was missing one of his canine teeth and had a gum infection, so he might have been having trouble bringing down deer.

This really got my attention, because the Guerrilla Painter has been living here for 30 years and cougars have only been seen twice (up in trees). This one was coming around the buildings, sometimes in the daytime.

I did some reading, and it appears that the cougar population has been increasing at the same time that people have been moving into their habitat. They are by nature reclusive, but they will follow the deer (and raccoons). Sometimes people allow deer in their neighborhood, or raccoons may be attracted to dumpsters, and if a cougar follows them there, it can become habituated to humans and possibly become a threat to pets and people.

I used to live in a foothills neighborhood with its own year-round resident herd of mule deer, and they were so much fun to watch. It never occurred to us to chase them away. Cougars (and their tracks) were seen only occasionally, and we expected that they would remain aloof. But that isn’t always what happens.

Keep Me Wild is a program that California has implemented to reduce wildlife/human conflict. There's no place to relocate problem predators in California, so prevention is the only good solution. Sometimes it's counter-intuitive to chase deer off your property, but it keeps them (and the rest of the food chain) wild. If you see a predator, you might be saving its life if you blast it with bear spray, an air horn or rubber buckshot.

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