NEW CASTLE —
Lions and coyotes and bears! Oh my!
It’s no secret that once-exotic animals are making a comeback in many parts of America. Even here in Lawrence County, we have our share of black bears and coyotes.
In other parts of the United States, we are seeing expansions in the populations of such animals as wolves and mountain lions. As you might imagine, whenever humans and these creatures operate in close proximity to one another, problems arise.
Those problems occasionally result in human death or injury, but not very often. Wolves, for example, have no track record of attacking humans. And despite their size and strength, bears are mostly scavengers and foragers, not predators. About the only time bears attack humans is when they perceive a threat or if they are absolutely starving to death.
Individual coyotes are too small to attack humans, at least adults. Conceivably, a child playing in a yard could be targeted by a coyote. But again, humans aren’t seen as a food source under normal circumstances.
Mountain lions are a different story. In the American West, there have been multiple accounts of humans who were killed for food by these predators. Cats are by nature hunters and opportunistic. An isolated human is indeed at risk.
I bring all this up after reading news accounts of a symposium last week at Ohio State University in Columbus. Urban ecologist Stan Gehrt, who has been observing the activities of about 700 coyotes in the Chicago area for the past 12 years, spoke at the event. His main conclusion: Coyotes are doing quite nicely around the Windy City.
For instance, his data indicates pups born in the suburbs of Chicago are five times more likely to survive than their counterparts in more rural areas. That suggests there’s plenty to eat and little to worry about.
And that means the populations of these suburban coyotes are almost sure to grow.
But what really attracted attention to Gehrt’s symposium was not so much the talk of coyotes, but his speculation that their expanding presence around humans may be a hint of what’s to come. If coyotes can thrive near people, what about bears and mountain lions?
The growing ranges of these creatures will have consequences.
From a practical standpoint, the increased presence of such animals leads to damaged property more than human harm. Bears will destroy bee hives, break down fruit trees, smash bird feeders and toss trash cans to get at food.
And coyotes and mountain lions can attack farm animals of different types, making easy meals of domesticated flocks.
Gehrt argues that eradication efforts aimed at predators may not work. He cites the targeted killings of coyotes in some areas. Within weeks, he said, other coyotes move in to fill the niche.
But in the past, eradication obviously worked, or we wouldn’t be talking about the expanded range of these creatures today. However, hunting projects in the suburbs, or using poisons to kill unwanted animals, come with their own set of problems.
I also suspect that larger predator populations won’t be as difficult to control as coyotes. They are more likely to make their presence known, and they are not always as elusive as the smaller coyotes.
Plus, bears and mountain lions aren’t inclined to reproduce as fast as coyotes, which is a big factor in keeping their populations down.
So while we may not have to contend with mountain lions in Lawrence County anytime soon, some places will. Nature, in its assorted guises, is always looking to take back what humans have acquired.
NEW CASTLE —
Lions and coyotes and bears! Oh my!
- Mitchel Olszak
Mitchel Olszak: Playing impeachment politics
This may be the first time in U.S. history that an administration has welcomed talk of impeachment.
Mitchel Olszak: IRS email fight clouds the issue
A scandal involving the Internal Revenue Service is now focused on missing emails. The absent data could represent the smoking gun Republicans have been seeking in their endless efforts to discredit the Obama administration.
Mitchel Olszak: Iraq is good argument for fracking
A friend of mine is a big advocate of shale gas drilling. It’s not because he owns land and is looking forward to royalties. He owns no property.
Mitchel Olszak: Government officials can’t dismiss Sunshine Law rights
There’s a fundamental problem I frequently see with government. It has to do with the people who hold positions of authority. Too often, they seem to overlook the real reason they are there.
Mitchel Olszak: Forced pooling and a clash of rights
There’s an old saying: The right of your fist ends where my nose begins. It’s a reference to the fact that in a free society, there are still boundaries that must be respected.
Mitchel Olszak: The consequence of cowardice
The anonymous letter came with a question. The writer claimed to be concerned about a decision made by a municipal governing body. Supposedly, this action was suspicious, devious and possibly illegal.
Mitchel Olszak: Jitters about the health effects of coffee remain unfounded
I drink plenty of coffee. The reasons are mainly two-fold. First, I like it. Second, it’s something of an occupational hazard. Traditionally, coffee and the news business go hand in hand.
Heartbleed raises the stakes on Internet security
My column last week dealt with Internet and related scams, along with steps people can take to protect themselves. Today’s column could be termed Part 2 of that topic, albeit from a different angle.
Mitchel Olszak: There’s no reason to be surprised by modern scams
P.T. Barnum once observed that there is a sucker born every minute. Judging from the people who complain about being caught up in computer scams, I think he was too conservative in his count.
Mitchel Olszak: Doubting the basic intelligence of ravens nevermore
Every now and then, I find myself watching the ravens around my house. That’s because their behavior is fascinating, and at times more than a little disturbing.
- More Mitchel Olszak Headlines
- Mitchel Olszak: Playing impeachment politics