I grew up in a Southern California suburb, where the only wild things were the birds, gophers, and moles. Now I live in a Northern California semi-rural small town, next to a wildlife conservation area and the Redwood National/State Park. In our neighborhood we get a multitude of birds (including bald eagles), raccoons, foxes, mountain lions, black bears, and Roosevelt elk.
I love it here. The primary reason I live here is because of the ocean, mountains, and wildlife. Fortunately we’ve had jobs here, but that allows us to remain where we want to be.
In the early 1990s a state prison opened in our county, and for the first time since the Gold Rush era we had an influx of people who were not used to wild land. While it helped keep the area afloat economically (fishing and the lumber industry went downhill because of over-harvesting), it also caused problems. People with higher incomes meant higher rents and property values — good for some, but not most of the residents at that time. Drug use and related crime escalated. It also meant an influx of people who were used to subjugating the land and wildlife, not living with it.
Mountain lions and bears come down off the ridge into our neighborhood once or twice a year — Spring (when the elk give birth, and their afterbirth provides free protein) and Autumn (when the fruit trees and blackberries are ripe). Two years ago someone in our neighborhood began circulating a petition to have Fish and Game come shoot the mountain lion that had come down in the Spring. I refused to sign. She talked about protecting the children at the bus stops in the mornings. I pointed out a mountain lion wouldn’t be stalking children in a crowd, and if they were that worried they should send along an adult with bear spray (a type of pepper spray that will work with most wild animals). Apparently they made enough noise that Fish and Game did come to check out the reports of missing cats, mauled dogs, and missing turkeys. Turned out only the missing turkey was attributed to a mountain lion. Fish and Game declined to shoot the mountain lion, but gave a permit to the turkey owner.
When people move into an area with wildlife, they need to realize they are the newcomers there. It is up to them to alter their lifestyle to protect themselves and their property if necessary. Want to raise chickens? Build a sturdy chicken coop with below ground fencing. Want fruit trees? Maybe keep dogs in the backyard or orchard, or build sturdy, high fences. (Elk like fruit, too.) Want to eat local seafood? Then don’t dump chemicals or paint into the storm drains or sewers (which empty into the ocean).
I suppose it comes down to a mind-set that sees animals and ecosystems as being just as important as humans. I know it is possible to learn that, because I did. Humans have done FAR more damage to the Earth than animals and even natural disasters. It would be nice if we learned to get along with all the inhabitants of Earth before we make it uninhabitable.
(My husband made the first two photos, I made the last one — all in our yard or neighborhood.)