Coyotes and foxes and bears, oh my!

Coyote at the Kitchen Door: living with wildlife in suburbia by Stephen DeStefano.  Published by Harvard University Press, 2010.

Darwin‘s Fox and My Coyote by Holly Menino.  Published by University of Virginia Press, 2008.

On the Malibu campus we see wildlife on a regular basis: raccoons, roadrunners, hawks, deer, herons, coyotes.   Many people in Southern California don’t realize that coyotes live among us, and not only in the brush-covered hills.  Wanting to learn more about them, I turned to the two books above, which are in the Payson Library collection.

Stephen DeStefano (Coyote at the Kitchen Door) is a biologist and researcher.  In this book he attempts to describe the relationships between people in and near cities and the wildlife that inevitably lives in those places also.

Near our homes we are all accustomed to seeing birds and small mammals such as squirrels, but when something larger appears (a bear, a moose, a coyote) we tend to be thrilled and/or to be fearful.  What should be done, if anything?  Should we try to remove the animals?  Call the authorities?  Bring our small pets indoors and ignore them?  DeStefano sees these appearances as inevitable and predictable.  Some wildlife thrives in cities and suburbia whether we want it nearby or not.  Some wild animals don’t want to be near us, but have run out of space elsewhere.  DeStefano warns that we need to think more rationally in our dealings with these species.  For instance, we have moved into coyotes’ territory, but we don’t want them in our yards.  We tend to fear too many coyotes near us and yet we provide a great deal of food for them, especially in the form of our garbage.  Wildlife researchers like DeStefano see a need to continue to study these animals and to observe the way we live – and to see the relationships between the two.

Holly Menino (Darwin’s Fox and My Coyote) is a journalist who became fascinated with the lives of carnivores, including North American coyotes, the Channel Island fox, and the small South American animal known as Darwin’s fox.  Over time she accompanied several wildlife researchers, some of them graduate students, during part of their months-long or years-long field studies.  It is slow and difficult work.  Menino observes that “you must bring in solid, analyzable data. You must do ‘good science,’ whether or not you do good for the cause of conservation” (p. 90).  This book is of interest to anyone who wants to learn about mammals in the wild, especially carnivores, but it is of special interest to any biology major who may be thinking about intensive field study of a particular species.

Coyotes and foxes and bears, oh my!
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