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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Our friend Marc Bekoff illustrates the flaw in the average human being as it relates to their tolerance to other lifeforms on the planet---"The representation of nonhuman animals in the media based on bad science or no science and ultimately, is bad for the animals"......."I'm very concerned that incorrect representations of animals in mass media contribute to the situation, in part because of media's broad influence"......... "People don't read about all of the friendly, or non-threatening encounters humans have with animals in their midst, but rather, when there is an attack or some sort of "aggressive" or "assertive" interaction, it makes the headlines"

Carnivores in

 Our Midst: 

Should We Fear 

Them? (Op-Ed)

Marc Bekoff   |   December 13, 2013 10:30pm ET;
Coyote at water tank

A coyote drinks from a BLM water tank in Colorado.
Credit: Bureau of Land Management Colorado

Marc Bekoff, emeritus professor at the University
 of Colorado, Boulder, is one of the world's pioneering 
cognitive ethologists, a Guggenheim Fellow, and 
co-founder with Jane Goodall of Ethologists for the 
Ethical Treatment of Animals. Bekoff's latest book is 
Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed (
New World Library, 2013). This essay is adapted
 from one that appeared in Bekoff's column Animal
 Emotions in Psychology Today. He contributed this 
article to LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed &

The representation of nonhuman animals (animals)
in media based on bad science or no science is bad
 for the animals — and it contributes to an unrelenting
war on wildlife. Scientists need to be clear about what
is known and what isn't about animals and their
relations with people. Nonscientists rely heavily on
mass media for disseminating such information, and
 even if it is not complete or accurate, people use it to
 form opinions about how animals should be treated
 if they become a "nuisance" or if they are perceived
to be dangerous.

People kill "pests" far too frequently
Recently, I wrote an essay wondering if, as some claim,
 people are really killing animals we call "pests" too 
rarely, and I argued that indeed we're killing them far 
too frequently. I'm very concerned that incorrect
 representations of animals in mass media contribute
 to the situation, in part because of media's broad
 influence. People don't read about all of the friendly,
 or non-threatening encounters humans have with
 animals in their midst, but rather, when there is an
 attack or some sort of "aggressive" or "assertive" 
interaction, it makes the headlines.

In November 2012 I was surprised to see an essay
by Jill Reillyin The Daily Mail (UK) titled "Wolves
 and mountain lions 'poised to invade densely
 populated cities in the United States'."
A number of people had written to me about the
topic, so I thought it best to respond, which I did
at the time stating that an "invasion" is simply not
 happening and the word "invade" is incredibly
 misleading and fear-provoking. A recent essay
 in Time magazine claiming people are too lenient
 on "pests," including carnivores who should be
 feared, made me think again about just how
 powerful and misleading media can be.

Reilly's essay on wolves and mountain lions
 began as follows: "Wolves and mountain lions
 could soon be a more common sight in densely
 populated cities in the United States, experts
 fear." Some experts fear would have been more
 correct, and as far as I know, they don't really

 fear the presence of these magnificent animals,
 they worry that if people begin to fear them the
animals will lose. Well-respected coyote expert,
 Stan Gehrt, of Ohio State University, claims in
the Reilly article that, "Thecoyote is the test case
for other animals," including gray wolves and
mountain lions (cougars). By test case, Gehrt is
referring to the fact that predators are supposedly
 a widespread threat to human safety and how
people respond to the presence of coyotes will
influence how they feel about the presence of
other predators who, in fact, are rather different
 from coyotes, and who only very rarely attack

While some people may accept that sweeping claim,
 I believe it is highly questionable because coyotes
 have vastly different predatory habits and life styles
 than either wolves or mountain lions and solid 
science shows this to be the case. For extensive
details on the fascinating lives of wolves please
 see the two excellent books"A New Era for Wolves
 and People: Wolf Recovery, Human Attitudes, and
Policy" (2009, University of Calgary Press) and "The
 World of Wolves: New Perspectives on Ecology,
Behaviour and Management" (2010, University of
Calgary Press) edited by wolf experts Marco Musiani,
 Luigi Boitani and Paul Paquet, and for more
information on mountain lions, check out theCougar

What do available data show? First and most
 importantly, coyotes very rarely attack livestock.
 According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture
report: Less than a quarter of one percent, 0.23
 percent, of the American cattle inventory was lost
to native carnivores and dogs in 2010. Domestic
dog attacks and bites directed toward humans are
 incredibly more common and this is not surprising
 because there are many more dogs than coyotes
 in areas where people live.

Between 1960 and 2006 there were only 142 coyote
 attacks on 159 victims in the United States and
Canada. It's estimated that between three and five
 people are attacked in the United States each year.
 To be sure, this is regrettable, but hardly something
 worth media hysterics.
Compare coyote attacks with attacks by domestic
dogs. According to, in the United
States, about 1,000 people a day are treated in
emergency rooms for dog bites and in 2010 alone
 there were34 fatal dog attacks.

 While these numbers might be difficult to compare
 because of the millions of dogs in close proximity
to humans — in contrast to the comparably few
 coyotes who live around humans — it's clear that
 many more humans suffer from dog attacks than
 coyote attacks.

Burrito buffet: Coyotes have more
 opportunities to attack than they take
I have no doubt that coyotes have the opportunity
 to do significantly more harm than they do, but
 they choose not to do so. In areas where they
 are known to live — at least transiently — attacks
have not been reported more often than in areas
where they are only seen occasionally. In and
around my hometown of Boulder, Colorado, the
 extremely rare confrontations between coyotes
and humans have occurred where coyotes were
known to be fed, either intentionally or
unintentionally. One area was nicknamed the
"burrito buffet" because these Mexican delicacies
 were found scattered all about. It's not surprising
 that animals are attracted to food and coyotes,
like many other animals, are opportunists and
have a very broad diet.

My own experience with coyotes and other urban
 animals is that they have a healthy respect for
people and actually try to avoid humans most of
 the time. When I've asked colleagues about this
 impression, they all agreed. And, in some areas
where coyotes are known to live fairly regularly,
there have never been any reported confrontations.

When Canadian folksinger Taylor Mitchell was 
tragically killed by coyotes in October 2009, this
was the first known fatal attack by coyotes on a
human, and it still isn't clear what exactly happened.
 In a documentary about this horrific incident called
"Killed by coyotes?," Gehrt claimed that the coyotes
 were motivated to kill and eat Mitchell. However,
when I talked with other coyote experts along with
my own take on this horrific incident, this simply
 cannot be known based on the reconstruction of
 the scene that was made public, and it would be
very difficult to know if this were so even if someone
 saw what actually happened. Reconstructions of
such incidents can be fraught with error. (Following
 the incident, Taylor's mother wrote a note of thanks
 for the support her family received and her remarks
 about how Taylor would not have wanted the
coyotes to be killed.)

Who's afraid of the big bad coyote?
Gehrt has also claimed that "People living in urban
 areas are going to have to get used to predators
 on their doorstep." I frankly don't see how anyone
 can feel comfortable making this claim. Yes,
predators eat other nonhuman animals, but
because attacks on humans are incredibly rare,
 such a statement is far too sensational based on
what we actually know about the behavior of these
animals and the rarity of their encounters, serious
 and otherwise, with humans. Because he is a
spokesperson for, and an expert on, urban
coyotes whose research and writings I often
 consult, Gehrt needs to be clear about what
 is speculation and what is based on science.
Speculation just adds fuel tothe unrelenting war
on wildlife — and the fable about never crying
wolf comes to mind.

In fact, what researchers do know — and some
 of this is based on Gehrt's own laudable work
 — is that coyotes largely avoid people even in
 densely populated areas. They are not at our
 "doorstep" just waiting to attack or harass us.
For example, studies discussed in Coyotes in 
Our Midst show they have shifted to a more
nocturnal life in cities to avoid people. And,
wolves and mountain lions don't live near
enough to many "densely populated cities"
to cause much concern and attacks. I don't
know of any attack on a human by either a
 wild wolf or a wild mountain lion in an urban
 setting. Mountain lion attacks are incredibly
rare, as noted by Marc Lallanilla in a previous
 essay for LiveScience, and there have only
 been two recorded fatal attacks on humans
by wild wolves in North America and around
 two dozen nonfatal attacks in approximately
the last 100 years.

Scientists also know that coyotes play an important role in helping to control rodents — among other free ecological services. As
Camilla Fox of Project Coyote points out in her co-authored book "Coyotes in Our Midst," coyotes are smart, adaptable, resilient and deserving of respect and appreciation for the many ecological
 benefits they provide in both urban and rural
 areas (you can download a free copy of her
 book here). Let's appreciate America's song
 dogs for who they really are.

There's always a choice about where to live
There's always a choice about where to live (for
people, not wildlife who are continually being
 displaced by humans) and how to coexist with
other animals. Claims about how dangerous
predators are and how people should fear
them feeds into the hands of people who want
 to harm or kill the urban and other animals into
 whose homes people have moved.

Having had many close encounters with the 
black bears and mountain lions living around 
my mountain home, who are very wary and try
 to avoid me and my few neighbors and keep
a healthy distance between us unless someone
 leaves food around, I have a healthy respect
 for them. I've had to change my lifestyle, and
 that of my companion dogs, because of them,
 and I would never want them removed or
harmed because of their presence on their
 home turf. If I don't like that they're around,
 I should have never moved into their living
rooms, and I can always leave when I decide
 they've become "pests" or "too dangerous."
 It's clear that killing these animals doesn't work
 because others come in and fill the niche where
 they lived — I feel much more comfortable living
 with resident bears and cougars who know my
 and my neighbors' habits.

Media and scientists need to be clear about
what we know and don't know, and we need
 to strive for peaceful coexistence with all the
 animals with whom we share our homes and
 into whose homes we have moved and
redecorated. Humane education programs
that focus on peaceful coexistence are on
 the rise across the United States, and both
nonhumans and humans will benefit from
these efforts.

Bekoff's most recent Op-Ed was "Have 
People Really Killed Pests Too Rarely?"
 This article was adapted from "Urban 
Carnivores: Are They As'Bad'As Some 
Make Them Seem?" in Psychology Today.
 The views expressed are those of the
 author and do not necessarily reflect
 the views of the publisher. This version
 of the article was originally published 
on LiveScience

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