Wildlife of Rohnert Park
Iím talking about the four-legged kind
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By Mickey Zeldes  October 12, 2012 12:00 am

My sister recently sent me two photos, which gave me pause.  She lives in Sherman Oaks, a very built-up residential area of Los Angeles, surrounded by freeways and roads and yet there, walking down the street of her neighborhood, was a coyote.  The next picture was not quite so shocking, because it was in one of the canyons where she takes the dogs to hike. But there was a fairly close up shot of a bobcat the dogs had treed.

Encounters with wildlife typically evoke one of two emotions.  Either people are up in arms and want “something done” about these wild animals and see them as a threat, or people are thrilled they had a chance to actually see one of these animals up close.  What both are missing is there is a reason that these encounters are happening more frequently, and it usually bodes ill for the animals.

These encounters are happening not only in Southern California.  Just last week, I received two separate phone calls about wildlife.  One was about a sighting of a bobcat on Snyder Lane by a mobile home park.  Mind you, the animal wasn’t doing anything particularly threatening, but the resident felt that someone should be notified because schools would be out soon and there would be children in the area.  The other call was from just outside our city limits but indicated coyotes were attacking pet cats in the “L” section, and she wanted to know what we could do about it.

It is not unusual at the end of a long, dry summer for wildlife to move closer into inhabited areas seeking water and food.  And we are only too happy to comply.  With all our swimming pools, ponds and waterfalls, Rohnert Park is a veritable oasis compared to the dry county land surrounding us.  In addition, there are many people who feed their cats outside, leaving large bowls of food out as a beacon to all who are hungry.  It is surprising run-ins with wildlife don’t happen daily.  As a rule, even if you are feeding feral cats, food should not be left out unsupervised all the time.  You can get even feral cats trained to know when dinnertime is and they will come out for the food when they hear you coming.  Leaving food out is an invitation not only for raccoons, coyotes, and other predators but also for rats and other pests.  Trust me, no one in your neighborhood appreciates all the wildlife you are bringing around with a full dish of cat food left out.

What I learned when I called Fish and Game about these nuisance calls is sort of what I expected.  We live in an area containing wildlife, which is part of what makes Sonoma County so beautiful and worth living in, and we need to find ways to co-exist.  That means making sure your pets are safely indoors, especially at night when the predators are more active. It means not leaving food and water out to attract wildlife in the first place.  The caller complained about having to keep her cats inside, but truly, risks from wildlife are just one of the many reasons why keeping pets indoors is safer – there’s also the danger of cars, cat fights, rat/gopher poisons, and the list goes on and on.

If there is a particular animal doing damage, you can call the county’s Agriculture Office and see if they have a trapper available.  But before even the trapper can do his thing, he needs to assess the damage and verify a particular animal is causing it, and then he needs to request and receive a permit to take that particular animal.  So “getting rid” of the problem is a process and takes time and I’m sure money.  No quick fixes here.

In some ways, we are so blessed to have this rich variety of animal life close by.  The key is to keep a safe distance and not to try to interfere with wildlife so they can remain free and healthy.  I know I was thrilled the first time I saw a live, free-living bobcat!

Upcoming events: 

Meet the Bunny, second Saturday of each month (next one is Oct. 13), 1-5:30 p.m. at the shelter.  Meet our adorable adoptable rabbits, have your care questions answered by our knowledgeable volunteers, bring your bunny for a free nail trim, and shop our Bunny Boutique for fresh hay, fun toys and fabulous deals on supplies.

Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at mzeldes@rpcity.org.

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