|Photo courtesy of SMPD|
On another late afternoon drive in the same area, I came upon several deer in the roadway. They calmly looked at me in my car, completely unafraid. I sat and watched them graze on either side of the roadway, until they disappeared down a hill.
Once, up late reading and writing on a summer night, I heard a commotion in my fenced-in and vine-covered backyard. I came out with a flashlight and saw nothing amiss on the patio. Upon shining the beam up into the trees, I saw a constellation of twinkling yellow lights. They were not stars but eyes. I counted at least a dozen tree rats using the branches as a rodent expressway to the fruit trees in the yards up and down the block. One of them eventually found my car engine and made a nest in a wheel well to catch some residual warmth. I have also seen possums back there, including one juvenile who had obviously fallen from the trees. The mother sat on a thick limb directly over the patio, waiting for me to disappear so she could mount a rescue.
Driving home late at night in my neighborhood, I have slammed on the brakes for a family of raccoons living in a storm drain. A few weeks later, walking after dark, I passed the spot and heard wicked growling and thrashing in the bushes. The mother raccoon was not happy that I had invaded her space.
|Black bear tranquilized in Glendale |
(Raul Roa/Glendale News Press)
I tell these stories not because they are unique, but because in
they are commonplace, everyday occurrences.
And if you talk to people long enough, you will hear far more
frightening encounters with wildlife than my rather pedantic tales. I know people who have watched their small
dogs torn to pieces by coyotes. Blackbears make regular appearances in urban neighborhoods to swim in pools and eat
from garbage cans. Joggers and hikers
have been attacked by mountain lions in the hills around the city. And that brings me to the 75-100 poundmountain lion who decided to take an early morning stroll in downtown Santa Monica just a few blocks from the beach. The animal paid for his indiscretion with his
According to an article in the Santa Monica Patch, this two-year old mountain lion would have died anyway, even if he was successfully tranquilized and transported back into the mountains. Reporter Jenna Chandler quotes Jeff Sikich of the National Parks Service who told her that “Nearly every one of the handful of mountain lions of the same age tracked by the park service since 2002 in the
has died while trying to establish his own home range.” Santa
The cat was simply doing what comes naturally: at a certain age, the male lions must find their own space. The area above
is saturated with the big cats right now, so it is difficult for a youngster to
find his own territory. If he had been
able to find a suitable spot, with so many mountain lions prowling around, this
often leads to a lack of genetic diversity and inbreeding. Mountain lions usually turn back when
encountering people or freeways, but often they are hit by cars and killed, or
come in contact with a hiker with deadly results.
Sikich believes this mountain lion bedded down off of
because he was lost. He would have had
to cross major streets and intersections, and walk by people both sleeping and
awake to get to the center of town. The
Third Street Promenade, a major tourist and shopping center, was a block
away. When authorities tried to dart the
cat and the sedative didn’t work, they felt the public was in enough danger to
shoot and kill the animal. Still, as
many comments indicate on the Patch article, we will never know what might have
occurred had the cat been saved and transported elsewhere.
May be we need to re-evaluate our compact with nature. Here in
Angeles, we live in such proximity to hills and
mountains. Urban growth mixes uneasily
with the natural world that once occupied the space, and neither humans or
animals are safe. No one likes to see
their beloved pets torn apart, and from the response this week, no Angelinos
are comfortable with law enforcement gunning down lions and bears in their
Police officers must have non-lethal weaponry on hand in their vehicles to use against animals. As long as we continue to build into each other’s habitats here in
we will face this problem, and therefore, both animals and humans will be in
jeopardy. The only solution is to be
better prepared for the next encounter.