Yet another urban wildlife encounter ends in death. Yesterday, Wednesday March 29, 2011, a mountain lion was spotted in Redwood City and killed versus tranquilized and relocated. This time I was able to be on site with in minutes of the sad conclusion to this urban wildlife encounter to capture a few photographs.
The last time I wrote on an urban wildlife killing, Two Coyotes Killed In Golden Gate Park, San Francisco – Why Care? there was a huge uproar. At the time residents of San Francisco took a heightened interest in Golden Gate Park’s new residents, but before anything could be done to help the animals a rash decision was made to have the coyotes killed. Since that time the San Francisco bay area has seen a baby deer shot by Oakland police (Outrage over deer shot by Oakland officer) among numerous other sightings of various predators that creep back into urban areas from time to time. (more below)
Invariably safety or liability are the justification for eradicating wildlife in urban settings that are ever encroaching on shrinking natural habitat. While I am fully understanding of safety concerns, consistently the equation in managing wildlife in with an eye on liability is short sighted. The lack of natural predators in urban environments has created a population explosion in fauna including including possum, skunks, rats, raccoons, etc. It is a natural response by larger predators to seek out food sources where they are plentiful and this is increasingly the case in neighborhoods with in short distance of open areas (such as this Redwood City neighborhood). It would seem the vast majority of people fail to remember that predators roam wide areas (urban and rural) and can cover long distances (5-40 miles) in short order.
Sadly the part of the equation seldom evaluated or taken serious by authorities is the benefit these animals provide as it relates to Ecosystem Services. Cost is seen in terms of man hours and liability, but authorities seem to be ever blind to economic benefit of natural ecosystems. Predators, given the chance, would fill a much needed role in “Regulating Services – pest and disease control”. With out factoring in the cost benefit of Ecosystem Services, cost is skewed and used as regular justification for the killing of wildlife. (more below)
As noted in my earlier writing those living in urban neighborhoods seldom are aware of natural fauna that make up the areas they live. Education is a huge problem, as our day to day routines drive us to focus on anything and everything but the natural resources right under our nose. Travel to a pristine location such as Yosemite or Yellowstone and cars will stop on the highway creating small traffic jams so people can catch a glimpse of wildlife, yet wildlife in our neighborhoods are seen as pests in need of eradication. As a naturalist its painful to see this dichotomy of public perception and no doubt how our news is reported (or unreported as such encounters become more common) is of great influence in how the public reacts to wildlife encounters. You can see the fear exploitation in yesterdays local news segment on the mountain lion killing below to see how the general population is primed to be fearful of natural fauna rather than become educated to their behavior, precautions to take and environmental pressures they’re under.
Revisiting my experience when I first arrived to the scene…
When I asked a neighbor if the mountain lion situation had been concluded with the animal being killed her quick response was, “I certainly hope so”. While I empathize with her safety concerns I can’t help but see a sad day when such attitudes drive remaining natural species to extinction.
[tags]wildlife, mountain lion, Redwood City, ecosystem services[/tags]