Co-existing with our furry neighbors
Many species of wildlife that once were seldom spotted in Connecticut now have found ways to co-exist with humans. These species have expanded their habitats into suburban and even urban territory, meaning they more often come into closer contact with humans.
Nearly daily, neighbors warn each other on community social media sites about the presence of coyotes, black bears, foxes and even bobcats. These warnings are generally supported by photographic evidence of an animal trotting through a backyard, rummaging in garbage or feasting at a birdfeeder.
The postings serve as valid reminders for residents to keep their pets and young children out of harm’s way. For the most part, however, we should understand that wildlife, even carnivorous predators such as the growing number of bobcats, generally do not pose a direct threat to humans. Residents need only take some simple and recommended steps to ensure the safety of the wildlife, pets and people.
Bobcats have made one of the most dramatic comebacks among predatory species. Officials at the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said they have received 2,389 bobcat sighting reports in 2022. The wild felines seem to actually prefer settling closer to human populations and have been sighted even in densely populated urban areas such as Hartford and Bridgeport.
Another predatory species that is more commonly sighted is the coyote. DEEP information indicates coyotes didn’t exist in the state at all until the 1950s. Since then, however, their numbers have increased and their range expanded to every community in the state. By some estimates, there may be as many as 5,000 coyotes in Connecticut.
Black bear sightings also have increased in recent years. DEEP estimates 1,000 to 1,200 black bears are living in Connecticut. Numbers are increasing, as are the areas in which they are living.
While some residents may feel more comfortable if these predators were not in their backyards, preferring perhaps the animals be trapped and relocated or even killed, we must instead learn to safely co-exist with our wild furry neighbors. Fortunately, this is not difficult to achieve.
Because bears love to gorge on birdseed, suet and fruits and nuts left out to attract songbirds, for example, DEEP officials recommend removing bird feeders from late April through November. At this time of year, wild birds can easily find their own food and have no need for supplements from humans. Bears also will feast on household garbage and grease from outdoor grills, so it’s recommended that grills be thoroughly cleaned and a few drops of ammonia be added to garbage bags to mask food odors.
Many reports of contact with coyotes involve pets. Coyotes are hunters and will snatch small animals to feed themselves and their young. Pet owners can avoid such heartbreaking encounters by keeping their cats indoors, especially at night. Dogs should be thoroughly supervised, even in fenced backyards and pet food should never be left outdoors.
While many dog owners exercise their pets off leash, this increases the risk of a coyote-dog encounter. For those who hike with their canine companions, especially if they go out in the early mornings or near sunset, it’s safer for dogs, humans and wildlife if dogs are kept leashed.
Children should be taught to recognize coyotes and other species of wildlife. If a child spots a coyote, bobcat or bear in a play area or backyard, they should know to immediately head indoors without running. They also can yell at the animal to try to scare it off.
By taking some common sense precautions, residents can easily co-exist peacefully with the increasing numbers of wildlife species becoming more prevalent in the state. Let’s enjoy watching our furry neighbors when we spot them, but also be sure to take steps to keep both pets and people safe.