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The unique relationship between humans and wildlife in urban Los Angeles

Wildlife in the Los Angeles River
Wildlife in the Los Angeles River

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Residents of Los Angeles are blessed with a topographical treasure found in no other city on the planet — ours is traversed by a mountain range.

In addition to the Santa Monica mountains, we are also in constant contact with a host of other natural elements, from the Angeles Forest to the Pacific Ocean, and Angelenos often find themselves living in dense urban communities while minutes away from mountains, rivers and beaches.  

The close proximity to nature can be both beautiful and exciting, and it also means a healthy dose of interaction with animals, from the most ubiquitous crows to rarer species like mountain lions and black bears.  These interactions can range from being funny and disorienting to downright frightening.

Think of the recent story of a coyote that sneaked up on a family at an Orange County cemetery and dragged away a 2-year-old with its teeth before the baby’s mother wrestled her back away.  Or how about Meatball, the Glendale bear who for months in 2012 came out to rummage for food on trash days.

These incidences are often amusing, even if a little more than frightening, but how are we supposed to react?  What are the proper ways to deal with animals that “trespass” in human environments?  Are there trends that humans are responsible for that endanger animals or might cause them to roam from their habitats?  Are there ways to prevent these interactions, or are they just a part of life in LA?  Are there misconceptions about the threat of animals in human habitats?  How does the public safety concern compare with the concern of environmentalists and preservationists?

Beth Pratt, California Director of the National Wildlife Federation

This topic will be the focus of an upcoming panel discussion at Zocalo Public Square, titled “Does LA appreciate its wild animals?”, on Friday, August 9th.