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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Living With Wildlife

Air Date: Week of

Host Steve Curwood interviews Shelly Stump, a co-author of the recent book Living With Wildlife. Stump offers practical advice on how to increase pleasant encounters with wild animals where they dwell.


CURWOOD: Apart from birds, the animals North Americans most often meet in their backyards are deer, raccoons, and skunks. These chance encounters aren't always welcome ones, and often leave both sides wondering what to do. Shelley Stump has just co-authored a new book that answers that question, at least for the people involved. it's called Living With Wildlife, and it's drawn from her research and experiences at the California Center for Wildlife. Ms. Stump says too often, we act out of ignorance.

STUMP: A couple of different examples, a baby fawn that was found in an urban area, downtown San Rafael, California. The person who found it thought it was orphaned, took it to the center. Usually fawns, though, are not orphaned; their mothers are feeding and come back to gather them later. So a volunteer took it back to the place where it was found, hid in a nearby area for about 3 hours, and sure enough, mama deer came back and gathered up her fawn and they headed to the hills.

CURWOOD: Ah hah.

STUMP: Now, the, unfortunately the contrary experience is one we heard of where an apparent sick raccoon was found near an elementary school and the police were called, and unfortunately a police officer beat the animal to death in front of a bunch of small schoolchildren.


STUMP: So that gives you sort of the range of experiences that the Center can encounter.

CURWOOD: Right. Now your book is entitled Living With Wildlife: How to Enjoy, Cope With, and Protect North America's Wild Creatures Around Your Home and Theirs. And what are some of your most important suggestions?

STUMP: The most important suggestions are basically preventative in nature. First of all, we encourage people to share the land if at all possible. That means don't fence your property; that means plant native plant species that act as a food source for the animals. Build small ponds for water sources. That sort of activity. Another suggestion is to make sure that on a regular basis you check your home to close up any openings that wild creatures can get in through.

CURWOOD: Now those are some things to do. What shouldn't we do?

STUMP: What you shouldn't do is approach wild animals too closely, ever. Wild animals are wild; even if they have seemingly adapted well to living around human beings, they still can be dangerous.

CURWOOD: What about feeding them?

STUMP: Feeding animals generally is not encouraged. Because a dependency can be created for wild creatures. Bird feeding is very popular, and we understand that many, many people enjoy doing it. And we don't necessarily discourage that entirely. What we do say, however, is people need to understand the responsibility they're undertaking by starting it. The other important thing to remember with bird feeding is to keep the bird feeders clean, because non-clean bird feeders are a large source of passing disease between birds.

CURWOOD: Okay. Now you say bird feeding is okay, but only in certain circumstances where you keep it up regularly. But we just had a story from Dan Grossman that says some species like the bluebirds rely on humans for their survival. What about this apparent contradiction?

STUMP: Well, that's true. There are species that have been so impacted by human contact and also by non-native species that humans have introduced to the continent, that without human intervention they will not survive. One way around that, though, is not just to undertake putting out bird seed and undertaking the feeding in that way, but to plant native plant species in the area, so that the animals, the birds or whatever other species are around, have their natural food source. And those plants then live year-round and are there whether the humans are there to put the bird seed out or not.

CURWOOD: So people with large yards or even larger amounts of land, should they be trying to attract wildlife to their property or not?

STUMP: Well, our position is yes they should be, because as humans continue to move into rural areas and develop wild land, the habitat of wild animals is increasingly disappearing. So unless we do things to encourage homeowners to share their land, to encourage the purchase and protection of corridors of land between, for example, national parks and national monuments, state parks, wildlife refuges, many species ultimately will disappear because they don't have enough land on which to survive.

CURWOOD: Shelley Stump is co-author, along with Diana Landau, and the California Center for Wildlife, of the new book Living With Wildlife: How to Enjoy, Cope With, and Protect North America's Wild Creatures Around Your Home and Theirs. Thank you.

STUMP: Thank you.



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