Big scary animals — to us or to our pets — are retreating into the backcountry, where there is less interaction with noisy humans who make weird smells. It is that time of year, and we can all appreciate the temporary distancing.
A combination of natural factors drive this exodus, providing certain elements are in place such as rain. Sure, we’d all like more rain to fill our water systems, and if the forecasts of a major El Niño event for next winter come true, we may have plenty and perhaps too much water. Meanwhile, we have received sufficient rain to sprout new growth and to put some water back into backcountry watering holes.
The whole land-based food chain is primed to produce, with sufficient drinking water and sufficient moisture to support the plant life that small critters need. Those critters have babies in the springtime, and carnivores depend upon that.
With sufficient water, new-growth plant life and lots of young animals to feed on, the bigger critters — the ones we don’t want to face down, nor lose our pets to — are leaving locales where they have close proximity to humans and the easy meals we have available. They are moving back to their natural haunts where the natural order prevails and relies upon ancient balances of life and death.
So until the water sources dry up and the small forage critters thin out, we may encounter fewer bears, mountain lions, bobcats and coyotes. I suspect that raccoons, skunks, possums and other midsize critters that have learned to live in our creek beds and forage in our neighborhood yards will remain. But for now, the risk of loss of pets and the risk of encounters with large scary predators is temporarily diminished.
Keep your guard up, though, because not all big critters will leave. Some have grown accustomed to us and the relatively easy means we represent. Just imagine the delight felt by a predator sitting on your backyard fence, looking down at your fluffy pet and knowing that it would take only a few seconds to pounce and then carry it away, hanging from its powerful jaws, over the fence and into a nearby creek bed.
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.