The only wildlife I experienced growing up in New York City was the occasional squirrel, pigeon, or duck. I loved to watch them outside of the five-story building where we lived. There was a park nearby and I would laugh as I watched the squirrels collect acorns to store, the birds retrieve sticks to make a nest, and two ducks swimming as a bonded pair. I remember begging my mother to allow me to go to the park every day. Other kids would run to play on the swings in the playground, but all I wanted was to be around the animals that made the park their home. Sitting on the bench, I would bring food for the animals hoping that they would come close enough for me to touch. I wanted to be part of their world, to understand why they did what they did. I would get lost in their antics. While the concrete jungle of the city was a wonderful place to grow up, I always dreamed that I lived somewhere else, a place that was rich and vibrant with trees and wildlife aplenty.
Now that I live near the San Gabriel Mountains, my dream is a reality. It’s amazing to see the wildlife that now shares my community. Every day I wake up to the sound of a female mockingbird outside my window. I notice that she has a nest and protects it in the same way that I protect my son. At night, I see a family of coyotes walking the street, foraging for food on their evening exercise routine. Over the weekend, I went hiking at Monrovia Canyon Park and saw two young bears playing in the bushes like toddlers at the playground. And just last night, a mom deer and her two fawns took up residence in a friend’s backyard. She was grooming and cuddling them like she was reading a bedtime story. I could have watched them for hours!
I feel extremely lucky to live amongst, and experience, such beautiful animals. I realize that I have a responsibility to learn to live in harmony with them as we share the same environment. Much to my chagrin, however, I regularly get calls from people who are unhappy that wild animals live so close to their homes. To be honest, this surprises me. I think about the fact that our homes have taken over their environment, and then I wonder where we expect them to go. I think about the fact that we create opportunities for wild animals to come close to our homes by leaving food out and trash unsecured. I think about the fact that we spend so much time worrying about our wild neighbors that we don’t take the time to learn about them and how to prevent problems through educating ourselves and our children. And I think about the fact that we have biases towards some animals and revere others based on their look.
A few things to consider:
- Watch wildlife from a distance. Getting too close can make an animal fearful and can cause an animal to get aggressive or bite.
- Maintain a clean environment to help keep animals away from your home and from becoming a nuisance. This includes covering your trash with a locking top, picking up fallen fruit, making sure you don’t have standing water, and keeping a brush free yard.
- Keep your pets safe. Primarily, keep your dogs and cats inside the house. When your dog is outside, put them on a leash so you know where they are and prevent them from interacting inappropriately with a wild animal. Always make sure your pets are vaccinated to protect them from diseases. And don’t feed your cats or place bird feeders outdoors as that can attract unwanted visitors.
- Enjoy the wildlife. Get out binoculars, go for a hike with your camera or sketch pad, and celebrate the fact that you get to wake up to a vibrant animal community every day.
The Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA offers tips, classes, and a helpline on living in harmony with wild animals. For more information, visit pasadenahumane.org.