Residents Encouraged to be Wild Aware
Sep 29, 2016 02:13PM
● By Kelly Cannon
Wild Aware is a collaborative effort of the Hogle Zoo, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and Utah State University Cooperative Extension. (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)
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By Kelly Cannon | [email protected]
Wild Aware is hoping to help residents to become not only more aware of wildlife but also more aware of what is normal behavior for animals before calling authorities. Founded in 2009, Wild Aware is a Hogle Zoo, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and Utah State University Cooperative Extension.
The collaborative effort was created by zookeeper Stephanie Jochum-Natt after attending several conferences about humans and predators.
“I started to notice that the problem is not going away. It’s getting bigger and bigger because the wildlife is all across the US and Canada. More and more states and Canada are starting to come up with these living with wildlife programs,” Jochum-Natt said. “We were doing an event here at the zoo called ‘Predator Awareness’ and making connections with the Division of Wildlife Resources. And we realized we just didn’t have that in Utah.”
The creation of Wildlife Aware was also spurred by the death of Samuel Ives, an 11-year-old boy who was killed by a black bear in 2007 near the Timpooneke Campground in American Fork Canyon.
“I knew it was time to start bringing everyone together,” Jochum-Natt said. “Luckily everyone who got involved was very interested in making this happen.”
According to Jochum-Natt, the purpose of Wild Aware is to serve as an education program to try and help people coexist, preserve the wildlife by keeping them wild and reduce the nuisance animal calls.
“Ninety to 99 percent of times when animals become a nuisance, it’s usually due to human behavior, not wildlife behavior. The only thing they’re trying to do is find what they need: shelter, water and food,” Jochum-Natt said. “If someone is putting out sticky buns or corn for the deer in the backyard because they think it’s really cute, why would the deer leave? Why would they find wild food?”
Jochum-Natt said if the deer were able to travel on their migratory routes, which will happen in the fall, they could walk through neighborhoods and backyards and everyone could watch at a distance.
“They put their trash away. They don’t leave fallen food on the ground. They keep their pets inside,” Jochum-Natt said. “Then these animals could stay wild and continue their move. It’s when they find something in those neighborhoods, why would they leave?”
The big issue when people call in nuisance animals is the animal is either moved or destroyed.
The Wild Aware program conserves wildlife, protects people’s safety and helps reduce the nuisance problems, the human to wildlife conflicts.
“Instead of calling it a conservation program, it’s more of a human safety program,” Jochum-Natt said.
The Wild Aware website, wildawareutah.org, lists several local animals and provides information on how to prevent them from becoming a nuisance. There is also a wild life emergency link for situations that are an immediate danger. Jochum-Natt described an example of an immediate danger as a cougar lying on a front porch for more than an hour or a buck that is running loose in the neighborhood and everyone is leaving for work.
“It constitutes something that is an immediate injury or death to you and/or the animal,” Jochum-Natt said. “It’s potential danger for someone’s safety or even the wildlife’s safety.”
Jochum-Natt also advises not all animal situations pose an immediate danger.
“If a moose in a backyard eating a bush or trees and then it gets up and walks away, (it’s a) great experience,” Jochum-Natt said.
Wild Aware also brings its message to the public through different programs. There is a program specifically designed for schools based on the fourth grade curriculum.
“The zoo’s education department, we travel to schools throughout the state and give this program that emphasizes being wild aware, not taking things home, not trying to pet them, not trying to feed them. Just the basics,” Jochum-Natt said. “We also do programs for Scouts, for church groups, neighborhoods, HOAs.”
To learn more about Wild Aware and its efforts, visit wildawareutahorg.