By Jason KUROSU
Living in close proximity to the surrounding wilderness has produced a dual- edged scenario of sorts for foothills residents, one that affords them a view of spectacular scenery and wildlife while also occasionally bringing the wildlife too close to home.
The Mattersteig family experienced this over the Thanksgiving weekend when a mountain lion entered their backyard and killed their dog Bridget.
A wildlife forum was held on Tuesday night at the Center for Spiritual Living in La Crescenta to inform residents about the wild animals that share local neighborhoods, specifically how to deter animals from residents’ property and what to do in case of an encounter with a wild animal.
The forum featured California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Lt. Supervisor Marty Wall, biologist Rebecca Barboza and Andrew Hughan, spokesman for the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.
“You can’t make your houses completely animal proof,” said Wall, but he did offer strategies for keeping animals out, specifically the local predators such as mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes and bears.
While some residents may not be able to raise their fences due to zoning/permit issues, Wall did have suggestions for people with low fences. These included growing or raising bushes and plants to a height above the fences, utilizing lights (motion activated if possible), electric fences or rollers which can attach to the tops of fences, keeping the animals from getting a solid grip on the structure.
“Predators need darkness and stealth in order to hunt,” said Wall. “If we eliminate the cover, the concealment that they use to hunt, that’s a huge advantage.”
Another suggestion was to remove the temptation of food including bringing family pets and their food inside. A concern many had not considered was the intentional feeding of the wild animals.
Some residents may feed non-predatory animals, such as deer or raccoons, but this was discouraged because these animals will attract the dangerous animals that prey upon them.
“Don’t feed the wildlife,” advised Hughan, adding to not feed even those animals most would consider innocuous. “You’re just setting the plate for those predators.”
As for feeding the predators, Wall said he always hears one comment in particular.
“We hear some people say, ‘Well, if I feed them, they won’t eat my cat.’ No, but they will invite all of their friends later and then they will take your cat.”
Wall also said that those inclined to leave their animals outside must take their surroundings into account.
Wall, who described his residence as “in the mountains,” said, “My wife has cats that will never see the light of day. The coyotes remind us just about nightly that we shouldn’t leave the cats out.”
Although one can remove the incentives from the household and property, the animals are here to stay.
“Some people like to ask, ‘Why can’t you just move these animals from the neighborhood?” said Barboza. “That would be great, if it worked.”
Barboza said that the animals are particularly attracted and habituated to a certain area. “Moving wildlife is ineffective. They’re going to come back.”
Many of the audience members in attendance at the forum asked what they should do if they encounter a dangerous animal face to face. Wall replied that it could often be as easy as getting out of the animal’s way.
Referring to bears, Wall said, “You never want to be between where a bear is and where it wants to be. It can be that simple.”
And if a bear enters a resident’s backyard?
“Go inside,” advised Wall.
Wall also said that projectiles can often rattle animals, even something as harmless as a spray bottle filled with ordinary water. “I’ve resolved more wildlife incidents with a well thrown lemon than I have with a tranquilizer gun.”
Mattersteig and Hughan are planning to set up a blog so that residents can share any information on wildlife appearances within the neighborhood.
“We shouldn’t keep this stuff to ourselves,” said Mattersteig, who hopes the blog will help residents keep each other notified of any roaming animals. “You’re putting yourself in danger. Why aren’t people talking with each other?”
For anyone who encounters a predatory animal, officials recommend calling 911.
In the early morning hours on Wednesday a neighbor near Mattersteig’s home video taped a mountain lion on his back patio. Click on the QR code below or go to www.cvweekly.com and click on the video tab to see footage of the cat that was frightened away when the light sensor was activated.