Wednesday, November 9, 2011
No matter where we live, we share the land with wildlife. Birds of prey, like hawks and eagles, can pose a danger to cats, small dogs, kittens and puppies. Depending on where you live, coyotes, mountain lions and bears may also be a threat. An attack by a wildlife predator can happen in the blink of an eye. How quickly we react can make a difference, and learning how to protect yourself and your pet is your best weapon.
Most predators are active during sunrise and sunset, but they will hunt anytime. Unless you have a 10 foot fence around your property, wild animals will venture into your yard in search of food. Protect your pets by keeping your yard clean. Keep fruit and nuts picked up under trees, and don't leave food sitting outside where it can be found by wild animals. Coyotes will eat anything, including fruit, and you don't want to encourage predators to come into your yard.
Compost piles, thick brush or bushes and wood piles make great hiding places for predators. Situate your compost pile away from the areas used by you and your pet, or keep it in an enclosed area. Keep the area under bird feeders cleaned up. Never leave uneaten pet food outside. Secure trash cans with locking lids so they can't be tipped over, or keep them in a garage or other outside building. Make sure doors are closed to outside buildings to keep unwanted guests out.
Keep your dog on leash during hikes. A dog running ahead of his owner on a trail may return with a predator hot on his heels. If you meet a predator in your own backyard, or while out hiking or walking your dog, stay calm and never run. Pick up small dogs and cats. A stout walking stick is a good weapon to help fend off an attack.
Coyotes hunt in packs where large game, like deer, is available. If you see one, there's probably more around. Stay calm and don't run. Keep eye contact with the animal and slowly back away. Never turn your back on a predator. Make yourself look bigger by stretching your arms above your head. If it looks like the coyote is going to attack you or your pet, yell or throw sticks or rocks at him. Dirt, gravel or sand can be thrown in the eyes. Before going outside with your dog at night, use a flashlight to check your yard. I always carry a flashlight at night and check the dogs' pen before I let them go out. I've had coyotes come up to the fence while I've had my dogs outside. If your pet is acting nervous, pay attention to that signal and be sure to scan your property for predators!
Mountain lions are solitary animals that sneak up behind their prey. Face the cat and keep an eye on it, but avoid making direct eye contact. Don't run, and be ready to protect yourself and your pet with anything you can find. Put your arms above your head, talk in a loud and strong voice, and slowly move away. Make sure you don't trip and fall down. If the cat attacks, throw whatever you can find, including dirt or sand in its eyes.
Bears bluff charge to give an intruder time to back down. If you're hiking in bear country, be loud so bears know you're around. Stay calm and avoid sudden movements if you do see a bear. Keep your dog on leash and never let them run loose. Bears don't usually bother pets, but if a dog startles it or acts aggressively the bear may attack. A mother bear with cubs is likely to attack a dog that's too close to her cubs. If confronted by a bear, keep your dog at your side or behind you. Pick up a small dog. If you hike in bear country, it's highly recommended that you leave your dog at home. If you should have an encounter with a bear, you will not be able to protect yourself and your dog.
Bear experts recommend using pepper spray when an attacking bear is within 25 feet. Pepper spray is an effective deterrent to carry, and it can be used on other predators too. Make sure you read the instructions and practice how to use the pepper spray before you need to depend on it.
Healthy habitats need predators, and all wildlife should be respected for their role in the environment. But sometimes, heroic pet owners are forced to confront a predator head on to save the life of their pet, and knowing how to react can help you survive a scary encounter.
Photo by Jon Keegan
Read more articles by Linda Cole