What to Do If You Encounter a Wild Animal in Your Neighborhood
Whether it's a black bear or coyote, remain calm and follow this advice from a biologist.
While humans may have developed and displaced their natural habitats, wild animals like black bears, foxes, and bobcats still remain outside of the city limits. But that doesn't mean an animal won't find its way into our neighborhoods—it may be on the hunt for food and find garbage cans, open compost, or bird feeders that are abundant and easy to access. So, what should you do if one ambles into your yard?
"If you bump into wildlife from a distance, quietly go in the other direction," says Marlo Perdicas, a biologist for Ohio's Summit County Metro Parks. "In the rare instance of an attack from [bears, bobcats or coyotes], you would want to put up a fight." But your goal is to avoid getting into a confrontation with one of these animals. Instead, you can often scare them away by waving your arms, swinging sticks, or making lots of noise to deter them from approaching, as she suggests. "With wildlife, it's best to take a preventative approach when possible," explains Perdicas. "Always remember to stay on a designated trail, never feed wildlife, and keep your pet on a leash."
You should also check if animals are considered wards of your state. In Perdicas' state of Ohio, for instance, this means that you can contact the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife if you were to encounter any of the animals we note here. In addition to this expert advice, governmental organizations can offer further advice on how you can keep yourself and your family safe.
Never run away from a black bear—this gives it the cue that you are prey. Bears are known to break into places where they can get food, like grocery stores, and will loiter around in your backyard if there's a source of food readily available. Instead of turning your back on a bear, face it and be as outwardly calm as possible. Try to make yourself look bigger by spreading a coat or your arms very wide. You can also scare off a bear just by showing confidence and making loud noises. In the rare instance that a bear attacks you, fight back (don't play dead). Once the bear leaves, remove that attractants that were in your yard to reduce the risk that the bear will come back.
Lynx, Bobcats, and Cougars
When encountering a wild cat, back away slowly and deliberately from the animal. The more distance between you and the cat, the better. Do not run away as that could trigger the feline's hunting instincts. You can scare it away by spraying water or making noise. Bobcats in particular usually do not attack humans; however, if one does attack you, your best chance of survival is to defend yourself and call for emergency medical care as the animal may have rabies. Call animal control if you spot one prowling in your yard or your neighborhood and stay indoors until the coast is clear.
The good thing is that coyotes are generally fearful of humans, but they may be interested in your dog or any food that you have available in your yard. If your children and pets are outdoors with you when you spot a coyote, usher them inside as soon as possible. You can scare coyotes away by making noise from a distance; it will startle them and usually send them running. Carry a noisemaker with you if you live in an area prone to coyote sightings and always make sure to keep your animals leashed and close to you.
According to the Humane Society, foxes are not much to worry about (unless it is clearly rabid) if you happen to see them in your neighborhood. These sly animals are afraid of humans and will usually steer clear of you. You may need to begin better securing your fruit garden or backyard chicken coop to keep the foxes from scavenging or hunting on your property. Loud noises and water sprays, though, can make a fox leave you alone if one decides to get too close.