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Monique Keiran: Expect wildlife in your face in the wildland interface

Remnants of forest and the area’s network of creeks and winding shorelines provide refuge to wildlife whose natural habitats are squeezed into ever-smaller areas by development.
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Owls and raccoons are critters we can expect to share our patches with here on the south Island, writes Monique Keiran. PAXSON WOELBER VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Another of the neighbourhood cast of cats bit it last night. It’s not the first time this has happened. Last year, I reported on the likely demise of a local pussycat at the talons of a resident owl.

This time, however, Mrs. Raccoon did it, with teeth and claws, at the bottom of the garden.

The main clue was the long conversation she and her kits had had outside our window just minutes before the caterwauling began. It placed her near the scene of the crime at the time of the crime.

The resident raccoon family often shares a chuckle and a laugh in our yard at night. They’re probably plotting their next break-in or debriefing about their latest vandalism campaign.

Last night, Puss in Boots made the mistake of ­wandering by at the wrong time.

Owls and raccoons are critters we can expect to share our patches with here on the south Island. Remnants of forest and the area’s network of creeks and winding shorelines provide refuge to wildlife whose natural habitats are squeezed into ever-smaller areas by development. These wildland elements also provide the critters with avenues of access deep into neighbourhoods.

Add to that, bounties on animals like wolves and cougars ended in the region in the 1950s. Increased development has also meant fewer farms — and fewer farmers shooting wild predators to protect livestock.

We move to this region in part because of the area’s parks and green space, and having wildlife in our midst is the price of living surrounded by these wildland interfaces. We shouldn’t be surprised that encounters with critters happen.

In April, a coastal sea wolf was photographed on Royal Roads University lands. Wolf sightings are certainly not new occurrences on the campus. The sighting followed earlier reports in February. With the woods in and around the campus, and the abundance of deer, rabbits, Canadian geese, and domestic dogs and cats, there’s plenty of good eating for the predators.

The pickings are somewhat sparser in James Bay, and yet two years ago, a wolf was seen trotting down a street near Fisherman’s Wharf. Perhaps it was out looking for three little piglets so it could bring home some bacon.

In November, a women reported being followed by a cougar while she was out for a run in Langford’s Latoria Creek Park. In September, a pedicab driver reported seeing a cougar run into the woods in Beacon Hill Park in the early evening. Ringing his pedicab bell and blasting the Beach Boys on its stereo helped to keep the cougar away.

Another September sighting, in the Fairfield area, was made by a woman out for a morning walk with her dog on Thurlow Street. The cougar disappeared into a bushy area bordering Fairfield Road.

No cougar was located by conservation officers in any of those instances.

But none of those sightings beat the case of the mama bear and cubs turning the table on the ­Goldilocks tale in Nanaimo. The black bear mom and her two cubs broke into the rural Nanaimo-area home in early December. There, they helped themselves not to porridge, but to a bowl of fruit, some granola, pet food, cocoa powder and salted caramel syrup.

As reported in these pages, the three bears entered the home through a pet door. The cubs, being small, had no problem entering, but mom kept getting caught, Pooh Bear-like, halfway in and halfway out.

Some gnawing and remodelling of the pet door’s edges yielded the extra inches she needed to squeeze her mama-bear-sized butt through.

The smallest cub was in the house for about an hour, and the mother and other cub enjoyed the kitchen goodies for only about 35 minutes before ­making their escape.

The bears later broke into several vehicles in the same neighbourhood.

It just goes to show that when you live in or near the wildland interface, you should expect on occasion to have wildlife in your face.

keiran_monique@rocketmail.com

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