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Bobcats
A bobcat, similar to the ones inhabiting Edwards licks its lips. Officials say bobcats roam base housing, gathering food. They choose base housing because residents have taught them that's where the food is. It is unlikely a coyote or bobcat will attack, they will however, defend themselves. (Courtesy photo)
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Base residents must protect both pets and predators

Posted 6/19/2009   Updated 6/19/2009 Email story   Print story

    


95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

6/19/2009 - EDWARDS AFB, Calif. -- Bobcat attacks on family pets continue in base housing and coyotes roam base backyards and side streets with a common purpose - gathering food.

Why base housing? Because, base officials say, some residents have taught them that that's where the food is.

For the sake of both pets and predators, it's a lesson that has to stop.
"We live in a desert environment that we share with a large number of wild animals that are very good at foraging for food, said Col. Nancy Reeves-Flores, 95th Air Base Wing vice commander.

"We cannot remove the animals from their natural habitat and, if we tried, others would move in to take advantage of the easy access to food, water and shelter. We must cut off that supply if we're to safely coexist."

However, that alone does not solve the immediate problem.

"Since the animals know the food and water are there, they will continue to return for awhile," she said. "Regardless of who's been feeding the animals and have stopped, an unprotected family pet may become the next meal in that feeding area."

"In this situation we have few attractive choices; we must trap and relocate the predators, or shoot and kill them," Col. Reeves-Flores said.

While the immediate benefit of trapping and euthanizing these predators is the safety of people and pets on Edwards, they are last-resort options. As good stewards of our natural environment, base officials stress the removal of food, water and shelter from housing areas ultimately protects the wild animals by encouraging them to live within the natural environment offered by the high desert.

According to Edward's biologists residents need to eliminate food and water sources for smaller animals like rabbits and squirrels as well, as they are part of the desert ecosystem and will attract larger predators to the housing areas.

Base biologists have done a number of surveys in and around the housing areas in past months. In addition to identifying problem animals they have noted many instances of people carelessly, and perhaps sometimes knowingly, attracting wild animals.

As the biologists were doing their surveys they noticed many instances where food and water bowls were left out in front yards. Many people feed their pets in the backyard and that will quickly attract wild animals of all types.

"They noticed garbage left at the curb in nothing more than plastic bags, sometimes for days, said Mark Hagan, a base biologist in Environmental Management.

"Ravens, squirrels and other animals would rip the bags open and scatter the garbage around. We really need residents to make the connection that these actions cause wild animals to lose their fear of humans and go for the easy pickings," he said.

Bobcats, coyotes and other desert animals will usually try to avoid people at all costs. They may stop and stare for a few seconds, but from a safe distance.

These same animals, however, are often attracted to the conditions that people create. And if they begin to associate humans with food they can become more aggressive. Attacks on humans by coyotes and bobcats are rare, but they do sometimes happen.
The key is to eliminate as many attractants as possible to all forms of wildlife.

"There will always be some contact between humans and the wild animals in the desert," said Mark Bratton, a contract biologist in EM. "But we need to do all we can do to discourage them from lingering."

Base biologists offer the following suggestions to base residents to discourage visits from coyotes or other wild animals.

· Do not put food or water outside. Cat and dog food attracts hungry coyotes and other animals.
· Do not leave small pets, including cats, domestic rabbits and small dogs, outside and unattended, especially at night.
· Trim bushes and shrubs to minimize hiding places or shady spots.
· When trash is not being collected, secure garbage cans so they cannot easily be knocked down or rummaged through. Use rope or elastic cord to secure the can to a fence or other immovable object or use one to keep the container closed.

"Eliminating food, water and shady areas around your home will discourage a coyote from hanging around," Mr. Bratton said. "The less comfortable coyotes feel around us, the better. We want them to maintain their wariness of humans."

Anyone who encounters a coyote or bobcat in one of the housing areas should keep the following tips in mind:
· Do not panic or run.
· Stand 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.

It is unlikely a coyote or bobcat will attack a human, base biologists said. The animals will, however, defend themselves if they feel trapped or to protect their young.

If a coyote or other predator is threatening to harm a pet or family member, Security Forces is prepared to respond. Base residents can contact Security Forces at 277-3340.
Other concerns or biological questions may be referred to Environmental Management at 277-1401.

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.



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