Two recently reported attacks on family pets in base housing by desert predators serve as a reminder that pets are not safe if left outside alone.
Base housing has unfortunately always been a place with reliable sources of water and food for native desert animals. Two years of drought means it now looks even better.
According to wildlife biologists at Environmental Management, two years of below-average rainfall is tempting coyotes and bobcats to do their hunting in the developed parts of the base. Once here, predators do not differentiate between a cottontail rabbit on a front lawn and a Chihuahua in a backyard.
Given this stark 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 have limited effect in reducing the threat of predators on family pets.
Owners play the most crucial role in ensuring the safety of their pets according to Staff Sgt. Ryan Ball, 412th Security Forces Squadron, chief of wildlife and animal control. “One of the key actions residents can help with in deterring wildlife around housing is that owners don’t leave their pets unattended, especially the smaller ones,” said Ball. “An unattended pet presents a perfect opportunity for a hungry bobcat or coyote.”
The Edwards Veterinary Facility supports the need of pet owners to be responsible and look after their animals. “Around this area, allowing your pets to roam outdoors unattended can be exceptionally dangerous. We need to raise awareness with residents that their pets cannot survive when put outside on their own.” said Army Capt. Allison Schroder, Veterinary Facility officer in charge.
This guidance to on-base residents is echoed by base leadership. “It’s important the community understands we need to co-exist with the wildlife here in the desert and that individual pet owners take responsibility for the care and well-being of their own animals,” said Col. Robert Hoff, 412th Mission Support Group commander.
Edwards wildlife control officials and veterinarian staff offer the following suggestions to residents to discourage incidents with coyotes, bobcats or other wild animals:
· Do not ever leave pets outside unattended. Small pets, such as cats and small dog breeds as Chihuahuas, are in greater danger of attack, but even large dogs have been attacked by desert predators. This is even more critical at night when many desert predators are more active.
· Eliminate all potential food sources around your home. 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 squirrel or cottontail that seems to pose no harm will come for the food and attract predators. Even residents without pets shouldn’t feed any wild animal because it could be a death sentence for their neighbors’ pets.
· 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,” said Ball. “But we need to do all we can do to discourage them from lingering.”
“Eliminating food, water and easy shelter around your home will discourage a coyote or bobcat from hanging around,” said Ball. “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 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. Other concerns and biological questions may be referred to Environmental Management at (661) 277-1401.
If your pet is injured in the housing area please bring it immediately to the Edwards Veterinary Clinic. For any questions or issues related to the Edwards Vet Clinic and it services, please contact the clinic directly at 275-PETS (7387).
More information about coyotes can be found on the California Department of Fish and Game Web site at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/news/issues/coyote.html.
General information about bobcats can be found on the Arizona Fish and Game Department website at http://www.azgfd.gov/w_c/urban_bobcat.shtml.