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Bobcat with bunny
Bobcats and other predators can be found around Edwards base housing. Residents are urged to take cautionary measures to protect their pets from these animals. (Courtesy photo)
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Base residents play biggest role in protecting pets from predators

Posted 5/19/2010   Updated 5/19/2010 Email story   Print story


by Environmental Management and 95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

5/19/2010 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.  -- Coyote and bobcat attacks on family pets continue in base housing and these common desert predators persist in roaming base backyards and side streets with a compulsory purpose-gathering food.

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

For the sake of both pets and predators, it's a lesson that needs to end.

"Edwards is an oasis in the middle of the desert. And the desert is filled with wild animals that are very good at foraging for the things they need most-food, water and shelter," said Col. Joe Torres, 95th Air Base Wing vice commander.

"If we don't do everything we can to cut off the easy access to food, water and shelter, we will continue to have pets injured or killed by predators. We need to be smart and be vigilant to ensure our pets don't become part of the desert food chain," Colonel Torres said.

The recent attacks on pets have Security Forces and the Environmental Management staff ramping up efforts to control bobcats and coyotes in housing areas and the base Fam Camp, where the incidents occurred.

But there is only so much success base actions can have. Residents play the biggest role in protecting pets from desert predators, base leaders say.

Residents must ensure pets are not left outside unattended, even in yards enclosed by fences or walls. Fences and walls can't keep predators out. They easily find ways over and around them, base biologists say.

In response to recent attacks, Security Forces has increased patrols in housing areas. Last week, they shot a coyote using a paint ball gun to scare the animal off.
"The paint balls are relatively harmless and act as a deterrent," said Mark Hagan, base wildlife biologist.

Three recent bobcat attacks on pets led Environmental Management to place live traps in two locations near housing areas. However, predators have been captured after more than a week of attempted trapping.

The base requested help from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services team to assist in removing the predators that have been identified as particular problem animals- those that habitually hunt the housing and Fam Camp areas or that repeatedly target pets.

On May 11, a team comprised of Security Forces, Environmental Management and Wildlife Services took appropriate measures with a coyote that had attacked two large dogs in a backyard in base housing to mitigate the risk of further attacks.

"We took action to remove this problem animal," said Mr. Hagan.

They also chased a bobcat, but lost it. They set more traps and will hunt again next week if the traps are unsuccessful.

"If Wildlife Services cannot locate this bobcat and take appropriate measures, we will continue with the traps," he said.

While the immediate benefit of capturing or terminating predators is the safety of people and pets on Edwards, they are last-resort options. As good stewards of the environment, base officials stress the removal of food, water and shelter from housing areas as it ultimately protects the wild animals by encouraging them to live in the natural environment and away from humans.

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

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. 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 biologist with EM. "But we need to do all we can do to discourage them from lingering."

"We not only need to remove all unnatural food sources for predators like bobcats and coyotes, we need to stop feeding the smaller animals, like rabbits and squirrels. Feeding the smaller animals will bring the predators."

Base biologists offer the following suggestions to residents to discourage coyotes, bobcats or other wild animals:

· Do not leave pets outside and unattended. Small pets are in greater danger of attack, but even large dogs have been attacked by desert predators. This is even more crucial at night.
· Eliminate all potential food sources. Never put pet food or water outside. It attracts hungry predators and other animals.
· When trash is not being collected, secure garbage cans so they cannot easily be knocked over or rummaged through. Use rope or elastic cord to secure the can to a fence or other immovable object and use one to keep the container closed. Try to put garbage out just before it is collected.
· Never intentionally feed a wild animal of any kind. The cute, fluffy animals that seem to pose no harm will come for the food and attract predators. Even for residents who don't have pets, feeding wild animals of any kind could bring a death sentence to the family pets of their neighbors.
· Trim bushes and shrubs to minimize hiding places or shady spots.

"Eliminating food, water and shady areas around your home will discourage a coyote or bobcat from hanging around," Mr. Bratton said. "The less comfortable they 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 up 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.

If a 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.

More information about bobcats can be found on the Arizona Fish and Game Department website at http://www.azgfd.gov/w_c/urban_bobcat.shtml.

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