Coyotes and bears and deer, oh my!
Sometimes these wild creatures show up in our neighborhoods, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has created a new program to help.
Scott Bardenwerper, regional game management supervisor in Gainesville, said the 16 counties his region serves get about 2,000 nuisance calls each year. With the new Urban Wildlife Program, his department won’t be the only one responsible.
The Urban Wildlife Program will have a staff of six people to cover 10 counties, including Hall, to lighten the load of the Wildlife Management Areas staff who have routinely been answering calls about wildlife in cities.
“We get a lot of calls about injured deer in the metro area, whether they get hung up on a fence or they get tangled in something,” said Kaitlin Goode, Urban Wildlife Program manager. “So that would be a situation where we would go help.”
If that’s the case, she said they’d simply help set the animal free.
But they’d also be able to go out when there’s a bear that’s getting into someone’s yard and help educate homeowners on how to prevent it — remove food sources and trash cans from the outdoors — or in a worst case scenario, euthanize if it’s any danger.
They’ll also be there to do the same things for coyotes, foxes and racoons that may become an issue in neighborhoods.
They could also respond to Injured animals like birds of prey and send an animal off to a wildlife rehabilitator.
Goode said urban wildlife is any that can live in that environment. Some animals are more specific about their habitats.
The Urban Wildlife Program has been in the works for a few years as development has increased, but Goode said the DNR finally had all the resources to make it happen and get the program up and running.
Oftentimes, in more rural areas like the outskirts of Hall County, homeowners can take wildlife management into their own hands during hunting season. But it’s in the areas where wildlife can’t be hunted that the new program will be useful.
“It’s in these areas where they’re so populated and the houses are so close that they can’t do any of those things,” Bardenwerper said. “That’s when we sometimes have to help them with management issues.”
And with more developments popping up in the area, more resources to help with that wildlife was needed.
“The more expansion of the population, the more conflict there is with wildlife, and that’s predominantly why we had to come up with a new program,” Bardenwerper said.
Social media has also played a factor. With photos and videos of animals in city neighborhoods popping up online, Ted Will said a dedicated staff was needed to handle those animals.
“Social media certainly has probably heightened that,” said Will, chief of game management for the DNR.” I think the volume of responses and questions we get because of that has increased, so we are kind of adapting to that in those areas so we can help the best we know how.”
Will said it’s not the animal’s fault, though. Those animals aren’t necessarily coming into urban areas as much as humans are going into wildlife areas.
“The wildlife has always been there, so as the population grows and we expand, we’re just having more," Will said. “We develop a new subdivision, you move in and it’s a beautiful area and it’s a beautiful subdivision, so you’re likely going to have wildlife in that area because you‘re really moving into their environment.”
Will said “wildlife is around us,” so it’s important for communities to know how to deal with it and handle it. That’s his hope for the new Urban Wildlife Program.
Goode agreed and said it all begins with education.
“We’re trying to educate people so they know what to do and sort of teach ourselves out of a job,” Goode said, laughing. “But really encourage people to take some proactive steps.”