By Diane Dragotto Williams
Bears are ravenous; woodpeckers and chipmunks are storing acorns; female deer are eating for two; even bats are on the move! Everyone is hungry, storing up for winter. Animal from birds, to squirrels, to mice to raccoons, to foxes, to black bears are looking for supplies to bank up, store up, and add fat to their bodies!
Fall is the time of year for animals to prepare for the next difficult season, sometimes with meager food ahead, and with severe temperature changes. And some even are preparing for a long winter’s sleep. So what should we, as humans, be diligent about, or take special precautions to help with their transition?
First of all, they are all looking for a place to stay in winter. So make sure your home, or boat is in good repair, so that wild animals don’t take up residence in your build-up, garage, attic or water vehicle. It’s extremely difficult to remove them after they move in, and horror stories have been told about bears and other mammals being trapped, and killed, inhumanely, while denning.
Deer eat acorns and brown oak leaves to strengthen their process of keeping their body temperatures warmer than normal. They sleep on piles of leaves, and shed their summer fur, and develop fall fur, preparing for winter. So caring for your oak trees in your yard can be a true food and shelter source for these animals. Deer are beautiful, but this time of year, because of rutting, when male deer lose their antlers, they can be dangerous, so stay away from them.
Coyotes will be hungry, living in packs and raising their young. Keep small pets inside, and don’t even feed your dogs and cats outside. Coyotes can climb trees, and jump fences easily. Do not leave domestic birds, or other small animals outside in a cage, with no escape, as they may be dinner for a hungry hawk, or a raccoon that can get into anything with their clever hands.
Birds instinctively begin to migrate to warmer climates, so leaving your hummingbird feeder out too long in the fall, can end up compromising their lives, even keeping them from moving to a warmer climate. Many animals nibble and nap, preparing for winter. They begin training their bodies to lower their heart rates, and drop their body temperatures, finding warm places to live. So only cut down trees if they are dead to the roots, otherwise their hollow cavities will provide good homes for many forest animals.
Our Southern California Black bears are not true hibernators, but go into winter lethargy, or denning. Factors like their reproductive status, food availability, the amount of daylight and temperature changes can thrust them into aggressively searching for food sources. So do not leave your trash cans out with tempting leftovers, or containers smelling of your last pizza, or ice cream party. If they become dumpster divers, they become nuisance bears, and their lives can be taken by trappers, or those people who acquire a depredation permit to kill a bear, just because it frequents their home or pond. Most of all, don’t give any animal an attractive reason to become a problem in your neighborhood. It goes without saying, that it is illegal to feed wild animals.
Let’s live in harmony with our forest friends. We would have a sad world without them. Preserving wildlife does heal the human spirit!
By Diane Dragotto Williams