A series of close encounters with cougars, black bears and other species of wildlife in the Wood River Valley this summer has the Idaho Department of Fish and Game thinking about safety.
Though they don't wish to alarm valley residents, wildlife officials want people to take proper precautions to avoid unpleasant encounters with the wild critters that roam local hills.
Situated as they are between the hills and river—places wildlife use throughout the year—residential areas are often in the middle of important wildlife travel routes, said Regan Berkley, regional wildlife biologist with the Fish and Game's Magic Valley Region.
"When mountain lions and other reclusive wildlife feel the need to move through an area dominated by humans, they usually do so as quickly and secretly as possible, and often during the night," Regan said.
When homes are near wild areas, wildlife are more likely to explore nearby yards or sneak through neighborhoods to reach another undeveloped area, Regan said. To discourage wild animals from moving through your property, Fish and Game urges homeowners to follow these precautions:
· Do not feed wildlife. The presence of deer can attract prey animals.
· Remove landscaping or vegetation that could provide hiding places for animals. Remove enough so that wildlife can't enter your yard unseen.
· Bring pets in at night or put them into a roofed kennel. Roaming pets are easy prey.
· Don't leave pet food outside as this may attract bears, mountain lions or other animals like raccoons and skunks. Bird feeders can also attract bears.
· Put trash out in the morning rather than the evening to ensure that bears looking for food in town will not be rewarded for their efforts.
· Install outdoor lighting to keep the house perimeter well lit at night, especially along walkways, to keep approaching wildlife visible.
· If practical, keep livestock inside sheds or barns at night.
· Closely supervise children whenever they play outdoors, particularly in the early morning and evening. Talk with children about wildlife and teach them what do if they meet a wild animal.
· Try to walk, run, or take hikes during the daytime. Most wildlife are most active during the early morning and evening. Whenever possible, take a friend along.