Carolyn and I recently took our son Aaron’s dog Saffy for a walk near our house. In front of the Presidio Landmark apartments (in the Presidio National Park), we spotted an interesting dog. Well, Carolyn thought it was a dog. I knew what it really was.
Coyotes started popping up in San Francisco a decade ago. At first, Animal Control came by where a coyote had been spotted, but that practice soon ended. Coyotes were everywhere—a new fact of urban life.
San Francisco isn’t alone as a home to animals once driven off by urbanization. Coyotes can be found from coast to coast—and on the coasts. Not just Chicago, Kansas City and Dallas but also Seattle and San Diego, New York and Boston.
As our human population keeps growing and our response is to build housing further into the countryside, traditional coyote habitats dwindle. So coyotes circle back to urban parks and suburban neighborhoods. They even stroll city streets. And they’re not alone. Mountain lions have returned to Los Angeles with Griffith Park as one major “new” habitat.
Don’t forget bears, either. As we build more hotels, motels and homes to bring people closer to nature, nature comes closer to people. Black bear sightings in the Florida panhandle and Alabama have increased markedly. People in Lake Tahoe and other mountain towns in the West know that bears think nothing of going through dumpsters and garbage cans. They poke through cars, too. And they break into homes. But this isn’t limited to the West. In 2014, a mama bear entered a house in West Milford, New Jersey, a town of 25,000 some 41 miles from Manhattan.
California and Western states face a related problem, and it’s far worse. As the climate grows warmer and drought conditions continue, fires have become more numerous and severe. Fire season once began in summer. Now it starts in spring. Moreover, our approach to fire goes against nature.
Fires are normal in the West. Yes, arsonists and careless campers contribute to the devastation, but lightning sets numerous fires every year. Nature lets them consume dry underbrush and thin out forests. New life grows while forests and hillsides become less prone to major burning for a long time. Humans put fires out and leave other areas untouched to serve as tinder, awaiting the next match or lightning strike. We do it to save buildings and their occupants, including animals, erected by people seeking the beauty and solace of nature but risking its unpredictability.
Something of the same situation exists with people who live in flood plains, tornado areas and those like me in earthquake zones. Human footprints are heavy, so we have a lot to lose. We prepare as best we can then lurch from one costly disaster to the next.
As to those coyotes living nearby, I don’t blame them. Or fear them. Their attitude is pretty much, “You go your way, and I’ll go mine—unless you leave your small dog off its leash.” We can co-exist. But will San Francisco soon see bears? If so, risk will grow exponentially.
It’s critical that we assume responsibility for where and how we live. That means not complaining when nature displays its greater power and persistence. Which our neighborhood coyotes constantly remind us.
If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too. And if you see a coyote, stop and appreciate nature’s handiwork. But please don’t try to pet it.
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