Local

February 8, 2013

Base residents play biggest role in protecting pets from predators

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Gary Hatch
412th Test Wing Public Affairs

A coyote pauses near a sidewalk on main base. Desert predators like coyotes and bobcats can be seen all over the base, including the housing areas. Residents need to be aware of the risks these predators pose and take precautions to protect their pets.

Base residents reported that a family pet – a small dog – was attacked by a coyote and taken from the back yard of a home in base housing Jan. 20.

It is the first reported attack by a predator on a family pet in more than a year, biologists say, but it is also a demonstration of the stark reality that desert predators will attack family pets if they have the opportunity.

Given this reality, base residents need to take every precaution to ensure the safety of their pets.

Security Forces wildlife officers have stepped up efforts around housing areas to scare and chase away predators like coyotes and bobcats whenever possible. These actions will help, but will likely have limited effect in reducing the threat of predators on family pets.

Residents play the largest role in ensuring the safety of pets, said Mark Bratton, a contract biologist from Environmental Management.

“Desert predators like coyotes and bobcats have a natural wariness of humans, but that wariness can go away if the animals begin to associate humans with food, water and shelter – the things they need to survive,” Bratton said.

“We really need people to look at their yards and eliminate all sources of food, water and shelter for wild animals of all types. Feeding the smaller animals will bring the predators.”

Base biologists offer the following suggestions to residents to discourage coyotes, bobcats or other wild animals:

  • Do not leave pets outside and unattended. Small pets are in greater danger of attack, but even large dogs have been attacked by desert predators. This is even more crucial at night.
  • Eliminate all potential food sources. Never put pet food or water outside. It attracts hungry predators and other animals.
  • When trash is not being collected, secure garbage cans so they cannot easily be knocked over or rummaged through. Use rope or elastic cord to secure the can to a fence or other immovable object and use one to keep the container closed. Try to put garbage out just before it is collected.
  • Never intentionally feed a wild animal of any kind. The cute, fluffy animals that seem to pose no harm will come for the food and attract predators. Even for residents who don’t have pets, feeding wild animals of any kind could bring a death sentence to the family pets of their neighbors.
  • Trim bushes and shrubs to minimize hiding places or shady spots.

“There will always be some contact between humans and the wild animals in the desert,” Bratton said. “But we need to do all we can do to discourage them from lingering.”

“Eliminating food, water and shady areas around your home will discourage a coyote or bobcat from hanging around,” Bratton said. “The less comfortable they feel around us, the better. We want them to maintain their wariness of humans.”

Coyotes and bobcats do not usually pose a danger to people. The animals will, however, protect their young or a fresh kill and will defend themselves if they feel trapped.

Anyone who encounters a coyote or bobcat in one of the housing areas should keep the following tips in mind:

  • Do not panic or run.
  • Stand up straight and make yourself appear tall and large.
  • Be careful not to corner the animal.
  • Turn your body sideways and slowly walk away from the animal.

If a wild animal seems to be aggressive or is harassing pets and will not leave the area, call the base’s law enforcement desk at (661) 227-3340 or the wildlife section at (661) 810-7896. Other concerns and biological questions may be referred to Environmental Management at (661) 277-1401.

More information about coyotes can be found on the California Department of Fish and Game Web site at www.dfg.ca.gov/news/issues/coyote.html.

More information about bobcats can be found on the Arizona Fish and Game Department website at www.azgfd.gov/w_c/urban_bobcat.shtml.




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