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Sierra Club to host wildlife safety talk

Recent mountain lion, animal scares raise questions about creature control
By: Andrew Westrope, Staff Writer
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 LIVING WITH WILDLIFE AND LEAVING IT WILD

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 26

Where: PlacerCounty Library in Auburn,

350 Nevada St
.

Cost: free

For help with animal nuisance, contact:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (530) 346-6305

Wildlife Services (530) 889-7372

The Placer County Library in Auburn and the Sierra Club, a nationwide environmental organization, will host a free program on wildlife safety tonight at 7 p.m.

Spearheaded by the Sierra Club, “Living with Wildlife and Leaving It Wild” will enlist guest speakers Sara Holm of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Placer County Agriculture Commissioner Josh Huntsinger to educate attendees on how to cope with their non-human neighbors.

Sierra Club member Marilyn Jasper said a rash of local wild animal encounters combined with an apparent need for this sort of information spurred the event, which she hopes will remind people how to be safe and responsible members of their ecosystems. She said she wants people to know why apex predators like bears and mountain lions, though dangerous in some cases, are critical parts of the food chain.

Jasper said a lot of incident prevention comes down to common sense – don’t feed wild animals, stay away from their young and don’t let pets roam free in known predator territory.

“You don’t leave garbage out, or in an area that’s going to attract a bear. That’s a dead bear,” she said. “If you want to live with them, obviously you move into those areas where they are, but then you don’t get them killed by having them be declared a nuisance. Some people are freaked out by a bear. Others know how to scare them off.”

Holm, who handles animal nuisance calls for Placer and Nevada counties, said Jasper asked her to speak at the event because of two recent mountain lion attacks and the presence of a collared wolf in the area.

Holm will give two presentations. The first will be an explanation of the area’s three apex predators (mountain lions, black bears and coyotes) and what to do if you encounter them, how to keep your home unfriendly to them and why spring is a particularly active season for them, as many species are giving birth. The second will be about depredation, or loss of property due to an animal, and associated permits.

Holm said she doesn’t keep statistical records of calls, but her busiest month last year was September, when she spent about 34 hours handling nuisance calls.

“I get a lot of calls about bears, because obviously the county goes from the foothills to north Lake Tahoe,” she said. “It’s usually chicken-related, or just sightings or garbage, and up in Tahoe they’re breaking into homes … As far as depredation goes, beavers and wild pigs are pretty common. I don’t get a ton of (mountain) lions.”

Holm said the first step for someone with a wildlife issue is to call her and discuss the situation. From there, she will work with a property owner to determine a culprit, take measures to prevent the damage from happening again, and if all else fails, verify the damage and preventative measures to qualify the person for a depredation permit to kill the animal. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife does not do animal control, so a property owner would have to handle disposal himself or work with the county’s Wildlife Services program.

Deputy Agriculture Commissioner Ed King said the county’s Wildlife Services program does actually handle and dispatch animals as needed, but much of its efforts involve speaking with property owners and giving guidance on how to avoid pest problems. He said different species become nuisances in different seasons; coyotes are a hazard for species giving birth in the spring, and skunks are breeding this time of year as well.

“(Pest control) involves simple things like not leaving cat food out at night, making sure attic spaces or crawl spaces are sealed up correctly, keeping your pets in at night, stuff like that,” he said.

If Wildlife Services cannot solve a problem with repellant, habitat modification or other means, officials euthanize the animal instead of relocating it, in accordance with state fish and game codes.