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Editor's Note: Learn to live with wildlife

Published: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

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OK, so a couple of weeks ago there was a bear roaming around DeKalb County, and people went completely bananas.

Two members of my extended family called me to make sure my children were not playing outside. Last week, when the young black bear was treed in Ogle County, people turned up in droves to look at it.

This was probably not the best thing for the bear.

The fact is, we share our section of the planet with more wildlife than birds and squirrels, and if we don’t figure out how to do it well, someone is going to get hurt.

Whether that’s a person, an animal, or both, it won’t be a happy outcome for anybody.

Early in June, lawmakers passed a measure adding bears, mountain lions and gray wolves to the list of protected species in Illinois. These top-of-the-food-chain predators once called northern Illinois home, before being largely driven from the area by hunters in the 19th century.

From time to time, those of you who read Looking Back have seen mention of the county paying bounties for the hides of wolves and foxes. The predators were undesirable, and driving them out seemed like a good idea at the time.

We now know eliminating predators – or any species, for that matter – creates a chain reaction that is almost never good for the ecosystem as a whole.

That’s not to say we want our pets to become bear and wolf fodder, however. In order to protect both people and wildlife, it is important to make populated areas unattractive to the animals, and educate people about what to do when they encounter them.

Learning about what behaviors are normal and ways to keep wildlife from feeling too comfortable in our neighborhoods is a good place to start. I received an email last week from Kathy Stelford of Oaken Acres Wildlife Center in rural Sycamore, asking the MidWeek to share some information about seeing wild animals in the daytime.

In the summer, Stelford said, the center receives many calls from worried people reporting a fox, raccoon or other animal that they assume must be sick because they’ve spotted it during daylight hours. There are a lot of reasons an animal people associate with nighttime might be active during the day, and not all involve danger to humans, she said.

Fox and coyote pups born in the late spring have matured past living on mother’s milk, and both parents must now hunt to bring home enough food for the litter, she said. Animals may also make an unexpected appearance after a summer storm, if flooding or fallen trees have forced them from their dens or burrows. If you see a raccoon that seems to be pacing from a fallen tree to another spot, it’s likely a mother who was raising her babies inside the tree and now has to move them to a new spot, Stelford said.

If you see a wild animal behaving oddly, or in a place you don’t think it should be, your best bet is to call an expert for advice. Don’t try to approach it. Oaken Acres can be reached at 815-895-9666.

Enjoy your MidWeek.

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