Experts Address Challenges Faced by Wildlife & Humans Living Together

Over 60 community members attended the SLNC Silver Lake Reservoir Committee Meeting on June 8 to hear wildlife experts share their knowledge about the challenges humans and wild animals and birds face living together in an urban setting and best practices for helping them survive in and around the reservoirs.  The meeting was held at the Silver Lake Recreation Center where attendees heard presentations from Cathy Schoonmaker, Urban-Wildland Conservation Specialist with the National Park Service; Dana Stangel: Founder and Executive Director of Teranga Ranch; and Eric Strauss, Ph.D., President’s Professor of Biology at Loyola Marymount University and Executive Director of the Center for Urban Resilience (CURes).

The Reservoir Committee is co-chaired by SLNC Region 7 Representatives Terry Jackson and Stacey Boucher.

Stangel kicked off the meeting with an informative and entertaining presentation on how to co-exist with wild animals that live in fragmented habitats in neighborhoods like Silver Lake, especially coyotes.

In addition to sharing in-depth knowledge about the realities wild animals face in urban settings, Schoonmaker pointed out the extreme danger caused by rodent poisons in bait stations that enter the food chain and can kill wild animals, birds and pets, noting that 90 percent of bobcats studied tested positive for poisons.

Strauss gave well-received examples of programs that help people live with wildlife and challenged the community to work together to make decisions about their community– and how to balance the needs of people and wild animals and birds. He noted that, “If people love where they live, there are solutions that will work.”

The presentations were followed by a spirited question and answer period.

Schoonmaker, an urban-wildland conservation specialist, has a degree in Environmental Biology and over 10 years of experience working with native Southern California wildlife, such as coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions. She currently works on the Nature Neighbor Program, sponsored by the National Park Service, providing outreach and education to local communities about our wildlife’s success and struggles living adjacent to urban areas and how residents can coexist with these animals.

Stangel founded the Teranga Ranch wildlife education organization in 2006 to educate people about their local wildlife and teach them how to coexist. The organization visits schools and holds community meetings and classes when there are wildlife issues like coyotes, presenting humane alternatives to poison, traps and guns.

Strauss, the Executive Director of Loyola Marymount’s Center for Urban Resilience (CURes), has collaborative research specialties in animal behavior, endangered species management, urban ecosystems and science education. His work also includes investigating the role of green space and urban forests in supporting of healthy neighborhoods and how those features can be used to improve science education and restorative justice. CURes provides educational, research and restoration programs to underserved neighborhoods and their residents.