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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

In Other Words: If You Want To Live Near The Woods Then You Need To Accept What’s In The Woods

Part of my garden
It took a few years to get to this point but my garden was finally looking good. I had thirty-two varieties of hosta lilies planted among ferns, lily of the valley, bleeding heart, columbine, roses, and various shrubs. Then the deer arrived at the Keller All You Can Eat Smorgasbord and they decimated that carefully cultivated garden. They acted like they owned the place - and, in a way, they do.

So instead of spraying plants or erecting high fences I took another tack. I planted things they wouldn’t eat - lots of ferns, coneflower, a variety of native plants and shrubs. Things are a lot better. The deer follow the food so if I cut off that supply I might be okay. They still pass through the yard but now they are usually on their way to somewhere else - somewhere with hostas, no doubt. Oh, they still visit to bed their fawns for the day under a tree or shrub or to nap on the soft pine needles under the tree, but things are growing again. I just had to adjust my thinking. I had to adapt.

And that’s the point to a lot of perceived problems. We often don’t ask enough questions to arrive at a viable solution. And we are often unwilling to adapt.

Caught in the act!
Recently coyotes have been spotted in town and have been a topic on social media. But really, there have been reports of them throughout town for a couple of decades now so this isn’t really new. But still we need to ask questions. Why are they here? How can we get rid of them? What can we do to protect our property, pets, and selves? All good questions.

Coyotes are like the deer, they are just following food. And they have lots to eat here - deer, rodents, rabbits, birds, and such. Now these are just casual observations from my deck, but we have seen an uptick in turkeys, owls, hawks, eagles, deer, foxes, and coyotes.  And some of them are on the coyote menu. Now I’m not too worried about coyotes unless I inadvertently corner one, but that is highly unlikely. These wily characters really try to avoid us. But I find it kind of fascinating that we can walk our streets and park trails and really not interact with the world living in the nearby woods. They are so good at avoiding us. Same planet; different worlds.

As we destroy habitat for homes and businesses, the animals have to go somewhere. We push animals into a more confined space. They adapt. So we must adapt too. Coyotes have adapted and are now a fixture in many cities. They have been spotted in New York City and Chicago. It’s amazing that an animal like that can go undetected for so long before being spotted in the city center. And here’s something else to ponder, there is no effective program to get rid of coyotes. None. Nothing works. You might be able to capture or kill one every now and then but they are clever. Heck, we haven’t been able to cut down on the deer population and they walk right up to the front door and practically ring the doorbell for service.

So make it a rule to not feed animals like deer or coyotes. Yes, they are beautiful and majestic creatures, but feeding them is dangerous. And you might be inadvertently feeding them if you feed an outdoor pet or throw things like meat into a compost pile. By the way, never toss meat into a compost pile.

Unsplash: Ben Hershey
Coyotes mostly feed on smaller animals but they have been known, and this is still pretty rare, to attack outside cats and small dogs. So keep an eye on your pets. If you should happen to encounter a coyote, use hazing techniques where you try to make yourself look bigger by waving your arms, shouting, yelling, or even spraying them with a hose. The problem is that some urban coyotes are so accustomed to people that they may be a bit more aggressive. We will only get to that problem if people feed them.

It’s unlikely that the city will ever be overrun with coyotes. They tend to regulate their population according to what their territory can handle. Our forests cannot sustain a large population.  If you feel threatened by one then call the police but chances are that animal will disappear quickly into the nearby woods. Coyotes are adaptable and they have adjusted to living with us in their territory. It’s only fair that if we want to live in a “city in a park” then we should adapt our thinking and behavior as well.

The natural world (and I dislike that term because it artificially separates the urban world from nature of which it is a vital part) is beautiful. I still get a little thrill when I see that groundhog scurry off to its den or a hawk swoop down to capture a field mouse or a fox trot through the back yard or a snake slither through the grass.

We need to live with the natural world because we will never be able to control it. Never.

A deer preparing to cross North Fort Thomas Avenue. 

1 comment:

  1. Thinking through my gardens...OK for bleeding hearts, crocus, daffodils, pink primrose, lily of the valley, iris, peony, obedience, cerastium, lupine (kinda), poppies, cranesbill & other perennial geraniums, black-eyed susan, marigolds, ferns, coneflowers, ironweed. Eventually some that are grazed on early in the year are spared (sweet william, yellow primrose, ageratum) as the deer move along to tastier stuff; happens as well for pussy willow, rose of sharon, redbud. Of course, alas, they won't touch the asiatic honeysuckle or wild garlic. Grrr.