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The human residents of the district will be counted in the 2010 Census but wildlife abounds in the district, too. We often forget about of our wild residents but they are here and we should welcome them.
I hear reports of sightings for all sorts of animals, including snakes, skunks, coyotes, and bobcats. Natural creeks cross the district and many are little changed from the time before man ventured through this area. We are blessed to have the Spring Creek Forest Preserve and Rowlett Creek coursing through the district. The Richardson ISD Environmental Studies Center is in the district. Many smaller creeks flow through and between neighborhoods on their way to larger creeks.
There is a rich variety of wildlife and plants sustained by these creeks. The Forest Preserve is the exclamation point but other areas are also unique.
I hope everyone will embrace and cherish the nature that is so close to so many District 1 residents. If you should be concerned about any wild animals, please do not set traps or use other techniques that will surely be more dangerous to children and pets than the wildlife. If you have a genuine concern, you can contact the city and Animal Services will investigate and take proper action.
An e-mail from a District 1 resident included the picture accompanying this post. I wanted to share his message because it expresses my feelings and those of many other residents.
A fairly large bobcat has been spotted in our neighborhood. Apparently, she is a healthy female feeding two kittens, as I see her almost daily going back and forth with prey to feed her kittens.
There are both negatives and positives to her presence. On the good side, she represents the reason many of us moved out here in the first place - the chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city and to fool ourselves into thinking we're far removed from the concrete jungle and all that represents. The downside is that she does represent a bit of danger mostly to our pets but only minimally to we humans. As you know, coyotes are also a frequent sight in our area, as are many other mammals, rodents, insects, and even snakes.
While this bobcat's presence certainly represents a significant danger to our pets, opinions vary with regards to how dangerous she may be to we humans. My son and a few of his friends walked upon her recently and she was clearly more interested in making herself scarce than she was in taking any aggressive action. We'd like to ask all residents to please contact us rather than taking any action yourself. I suspect they’ll recommend we let her be, but we'll be getting in touch soon with local authorities to decide what the best course of action would be. There has been a burgeoning squirrel supply around here in the last few days so I’m sure that’s why she liked it here.
The bobcat is probably the most rare and significant animal in the area so I'll try to highlight some information that comes from the DFW Wildlife Coalition.
What function do bobcats serve in our cities?
Many ecological studies show that predatory wildlife, including bobcats, exists to preserve the balance of nature. Wild animals help to keep rodent populations in check. In the past, some cities have attempted to eradicate predators, but as a result have seen an increase in rodent population, as well as rodent-borne diseases. The ways of nature can sometimes seem cruel to us, but many prey and rodent species would overrun both rural and urban areas, damaging crops and vegetation, if their natural predators did not keep them in check. Bobcats and other predators also consume carrion (dead animals), and so provide us with free waste removal services.
Why not trap and relocate bobcats to the country?
There are many reasons why trapping and removal is not a long-term, viable solution.
- If there is a litter of kittens, it’s difficult to trap and relocate the entire family. If only the mother is trapped and removed, the young are left behind to die of dehydration and starvation. If the entire bobcat family is trapped, often the young are too small to travel with the mother and are left behind when the mother is released at a new location. When this happens, the young will either die or have to be taken to a wildlife rehabilitator. Although a rehabilitator would care for the kittens for upwards of six months, it should be noted that professional wildlife rehabilitation cannot replace the skills the natural mother would teach her young.
- Most DFW Metroplex animal control agencies were originally created to deal with problems arising from stray dogs and cats, and to enforce laws pertaining to pets. Wildlife is often only included in their scope of services to a very small degree.
- Predator species, such as the bobcat, establish and defend a territory. When such an animal is relocated to an established territory, the defending (established) animal will attack - potentially killing, injuring, or driving the relocated bobcat from its new territory. An injured bobcat may not survive, since survival depends upon the ability to hunt, capture and kill prey.
- A wild animal that lives within the boundaries of a city and has lived its life as a scavenger may not have adequate hunting skills, and therefore may not be able to survive without the opportunistic foraging of outdoor pet food, plentiful rodents, backyard fruit, vegetables, and trash of its urban upbringing. Wildlife studies show that urban wildlife learn survival skills for urban living, and country wildlife learn survival skills for country living; they do best when left in the environment for which they have developed survival skills.
- Wildlife disease is another factor. Wild predators in urban settings may have been exposed to diseases associated with domestic pets, which could be transmitted to other wildlife not normally exposed to these threats.
- Trapping and removing animals has done nothing to correct the human equation. The cycle of imbalance will continually repeat itself, at great cost to the community, if people fail to change their own habits and environments.
- Recommended long term solutions for homeowners involve modification of the premises. Address the factors that attract wild animals, such as gaps in construction that allow access to the attic or under the deck; eliminate thick undergrowth in landscaped areas. Modification to the environment creates an inhospitable atmosphere, and will encourages wild animals to relocate. Such changes will prevent roaming wildlife from showing an interest in staying on your property. Relocating animals, on the other hand, simply leaves a "vacancy sign," inviting other wild animals to move in. The belief that the solution is to remove and relocate animals is like assuming that if you moved out of your home, no one would move in.
- Some laws (depending on species and/or city) require that trapped animals be euthanized.
I'm worried about my children ...
Perhaps you have seen a bobcat in your neighborhood. Rest assured, bobcats do not attack people. In fact, bobcat attacks are virtually unknown; however, no one should ever attempt to touch or handle a wild bobcat or her kittens. Bobcats weigh between 15-40 pounds, which makes them small-to-medium sized carnivores. Coyotes weigh slightly more, but also stay under 40 pounds in the DFW Metroplex area. Carnivore biology studies show that carnivores in this weight range take prey that is “much smaller” then themselves. In the U.S. there are approximately 3-5 million people attacked by domestic dogs every year, averaging 20 deaths per year. A child is much more likely to be hurt by a domestic dog then a bobcat – or a coyote. In fact, statistics prove that your family dog or your neighbor’s dog is a hundred times more likely to kill someone then a coyote or bobcat.
I'm worried about my pets ...
Here's how you can protect your pets from bobcats and other wild animals:
- Always walk your dog on a leash.
- Always keep pets vaccinated as some wildlife are susceptible to diseases transmissible to dogs and cats, i.e. feline panleukopenia (feline parvo), canine distemper, and rabies.
- Take steps to ensure you are not attracting predators to your yard – clean up brushy areas or woodpiles, and remove any food sources.
- Do not allow cats to roam free outdoors. Some cities have laws against free-roaming cats. Cats prey on many wildlife species, i.e. songbirds, face many dangers outside, and can attract predatory wildlife to your yard, as well.
- Avoid bushy areas or paths near abandoned properties.
- If you notice a coyote or bobcat in your area, never let it go by without scaring it. Yell or clap loudly to scare wildlife away; carry something with you to make noise, i.e. an air horn, or something to throw, like a rock or baseball. In the long run it’s much safer for us, our pets, and the wildlife as well – if they remain fearful of humans.
- Never encourage or allow your pet to interact or “play” with wildlife.
- Make sure your fence is in good repair.
- Do not leave pets unattended outdoors.
- Remove food sources, i.e. fallen fruit, food refuse, pet food.
- Small mammals such as opossums, raccoons, and skunks, are not a threat to domestic pets. In fact, it is usually the other way around, as such animals are often the victims of dog attacks.
How can I discourage bobcats from coming into my yard?
Bobcats are quiet, shy and reclusive – usually seen by themselves or a female with kittens. Typically, it is easy to persuade them to leave. We recommend the use of deterrents and adjustments around the exterior of your home (all endorsed by the Humane Society of the United States) for making your yard and home less inviting to wildlife.
Try these tactics:
- Use noise and/or motion-activated deterrents to make a bobcat uncomfortable.
- Try an air horn or motion-activated sprinkler; bang pot lids together, or put a radio outside set to a news or talk channel.
- Clear any excess vegetation to remove secluded hiding spots.
- Do not leave pet food or water outside when your pet is indoors.
- Pick fruit from trees as soon as it ripens and pick up all fallen fruit.
- If you feed the birds or squirrels, ensure there is no overflowing bird seed on the ground to attract rodents at night, or restrict feeding. Bobcats can be attracted to the squirrels and birds that come to our yards to feed.
- Do not leave small pets outdoors unattended or in a poorly-enclosed yard.
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