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A coyote seen roaming the chaparral-covered hills of San Diego. Stock photo
A coyote seen roaming the chaparral-covered hills of San Diego. Stock photo
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Conservancy Corner: Protecting your pets and predators

By Zoe Kessler

Within North San Diego County, predators roam the chaparral terrain. While it is a joy for humans to live so close to nature, we must remember that it is our responsibility to keep ourselves, pets, and livestock safe from these animals as, in doing so, we also keep them safe. 

Predators are a vital part of our ecosystem and it is imperative that they stay within it. Our job is to implement safety measures to keep us and our beloved furry friends safe, such that humans and wildlife can thrive and coexist. Below is a breakdown of some common local predators, ways to deter them from entering your property, and how to prevent human-wildlife conflict. 

Starting off with an all too well-known predator: coyotes. Coyotes are incredibly beneficial in balancing ecosystems and preventing the spread of diseases. As opportunistic feeders, they prevent the spread of ticks. They also help avoid an overpopulation of rodents, such as rats. Coyotes are adaptable and intelligent, making these animals challenging to keep away from the property at times.

Simple measures you can take to secure your home are to never actively feed a coyote or leave pet food outside, consider installing coyote rollers or other fence exclusion devices to provide fully-enclosed shelter structures for your animals, secure all trash and compost bins, always keep cats indoors, and supervise dogs when they are outside, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

There are also numerous deterring techniques to keep coyotes away. Installing a variety of bright flashing lights may make them shy away from the area.

Sounds can also be a great dissuader. Try setting up a speaker that plays the sounds of humans talking like this YouTube video recommended by The San Gabriel Valley Council of Government. Coyotes tend to avoid crowds, especially when outnumbered, so the chattering of voices may help to keep them away.

You may encounter a coyote on a trail or within your neighborhood, This is where hazing comes in. Make yourself big, wave your arms wildly, maintain eye contact and yell in an authoritative tone.

If the coyote pursues you, throw rocks or sticks near it. The goal is not to harm the coyote, only to frighten it, so it avoids humans.

To leave an encounter, CDFW recommends you move away slowly, find the closest nearby shelter and do not turn your back. Other hazing techniques for coyotes include shaking an empty trash bag or umbrella to scare them.

You can also create “shakers” using a soda can or coffee container filled with pennies or pebbles, sealed with duct tape to shake around coyotes, added Jessia West, Human-Wildlife Conflict Specialist with CDFW.

Mountain lions are majestic cats naturally scared of humans. However, with the increased human population leading to less suitable lion habitats and restricted wildlife corridors, interactions between people and mountain lions – though infrequent – are more likely to occur.

However, they don’t need to end poorly. In the past three decades, our preserve managers have only encountered a lion once during a late-night wildlife survey. The lion was just as shocked as they were and quickly disappeared into the brush. This interaction is why we prohibit the general public from our preserves at night, as it’s when many animals hunt. 

To prevent human-lion conflict or harm from coming to your animals, you must take steps to protect yourself and wildlife by securing all domestic animal enclosures. Barns, horse stalls, pens, cages, and coops should all have walls, windows, doors and even a roof sturdy enough to keep a lion away.

Fences are not enough, as lions can jump up to 15 feet, according to CDFW. Visual and sound deterrents similar to those that keep coyotes away can work for mountain lions. Remember, prevention is key! If you ever encounter a mountain lion, remain calm, do not approach nor crouch down, stay where you are, and make yourself as big and intimidating as possible.

If the lion pursues you, throw things in its direction. If they continue to approach you and attack, fight back with anything on hand; sticks, rocks, garden tools, or even using your backpack as a shield, according to the National Park Service. The Mountain Lion Foundation also provides additional information about preventing mountain lion interactions.

Like mountain lions, bobcats are shy of humans. They’re most active during dusk and dawn. However, increased urban areas close to their habitats may make them more comfortable approaching human-inhabited areas. It’s rare for bobcats to attack people, as they prefer to seek out easy prey, like chickens and other small livestock.

Not leaving food outdoors to discourage wild prey animals from coming on to your property, trimming back hedges and trees to prevent bobcats from having a place to shelter, adding motion-detecting lights or alarms around your property, and making sure all animals are in secured shelter structures prevents any unwanted hunting from occurring, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Human-wildlife conflicts are avoidable when correct safety measures are in place. To protect your pets and wild animals, your goal is to make your home as unwelcoming to predators as possible. It is as much our duty to keep wildlife away from us as it is for them to stay away. 

People and wildlife can live in harmony if we maintain the natural fear towards one another and ensure boundaries are in place to prevent interactions. Additionally, wildlife needs preserved lands to roam in peace, as nature intended.

For wildlife to remain a part of San Diego County, we must all work together. That is why The Escondido Creek Conservancy strives to preserve and protect the Escondido Creek watershed. Learn how the Conservancy is working to provide wildlife corridors for animals here

Zoe Kessler is a Communications Consultant at Escondido Creek Conservancy. 

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