BEWARE OF THE WILD BEAST—THE BIG GUYS (Musings on Dogs and Wildlife, Part 1)

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Tessi rarely barks; yet, when something suddenly appears in her field of vision, she’ll go on a barking spree. It’s so intense, I struggle in persuading her to stop. Sometimes, it’s a piece of garbage she catches sight of blowing across the neighbour’s yard that launches her verbal abuse; at other times, it’s, unnervingly, a sizable animal she’s never seen before. The first mysterious creature she came across was a horse. While we were at a friend’s farm she spotted it in the paddock. She immediately ran over, stood firm before it while bombarding it with her voice. The horse was used to canines, as my friend had owned them in the past; nevertheless, I imagined those powerful hooves crushing my girl. This one just stared with a seemingly bemused expression at Tessi while she carried on. That didn’t ease my concern though. I yelled every cease-type command she knew that I could think of. I figured I was screaming loud enough to be heard several farms over by the time she finally backed off. We’ve experienced a couple of similar episodes with goats. Tessi has matured considerably since those early incidents; she listens and settles much faster, if she even bothers with any fervor at all. Knowing she has exhibited this tendency is one of the reasons I keep her leashed in bear country—that and her inclination to chase. For our travels, I’ve made a point of finding out what predators and other wild animals are typically capable of (keeping in mind that like any living being, each individual is going to have its own distinctive personality). Bears

The backside of a bear after he strolled through our campsite.

Bears generally dislike barking dogs and will leave. Before a bear is ever likely to be seen, though, a dog is capable of sensing its presence in the area and will probably issue a warning, encouraging the bear to stay away. The problem comes when a loose dog decides to chase a bear, as canines tend to do. Your daring pal then grows frightened and returns to you—usually bringing the now riled bear back with him. We can’t depend on our dogs to protect themselves or us; they aren’t strong enough. More about bears: Cougars Cougars mainly inhabit the western region of Canada. They’ve been spotted in other sections of our country, too. Here in southern Ontario, we supposedly don’t have them, but there have been unverified reported sightings. Cougars are unpredictable, though predominately they avoid people. Our smaller furry pals may be more vulnerable if unleashed or on their own—cougars prefer small, easy-looking targets. I find the fact unsettling that the felines are sneaky and depend on surprise to catch their prey. More about cougars: Coyotes I’ve read much variation on the subject of coyotes. They are reportedly shy and reclusive, but with human intrusion they’re becoming braver and more aggressive, making them unpredictable. Typically, they’re more of a threat to our canine buddies, especially the smaller breeds. Coyotes don’t usually bother with larger dogs, but might if they feel threatened. They can be territorial and breeding season is a potential volatile time. Coyotes inhabit many regions around farms and small settlements across Canada, including ours. Discover Southern Ontario offers assorted stories from readers on their coyote sightings. My research has also revealed varied accounts on how coyotes react around our dogs and our dogs to them, leaving me to wonder if Tessi would bark at a coyote or want to greet it as a possible friend. Either situation could potentially end in disaster. Not finding a definitive answer has led me to decide it’s best to leash her when I suspect the presence of coyotes. More about coyotes: Moose I worry more about the danger of moose to my car and us in it, than to us while hiking, especially after seeing six from the road at different times during our last journey through northern Ontario. Of those six, I had just enough time to slow down as one clopped its way across the highway in front of us. Of the other five, one was seriously contemplating crossing as its eyes followed the traffic. It decided against it and disappeared back into the forest. What if we happen to see a moose while on foot? I’d likely have Tessi leashed anyway, since they tend to inhabit the same countryside as bears—of the places we’ve travelled through, anyway. Though usually docile, moose can be dangerous if they feel threatened—they value their personal space. Make sure they have an escape route and give them plenty of elbow room, especially if you have a dog at your side. They intensely dislike dogs. A moose may go out of its way to attack one, even if he’s tethered beside you. I get the feeling this is one creature Tessi shouldn’t bark at. More about moose: In General These tips will help keep our dogs and us safe:
  • We should all know by now: Never Feed Wildlife. Like my dog, if they know they’re going to be fed, they’ll keep returning. This includes keeping the garbage, a potential food source, locked up. Some food may only attract deer and other prey species, but could end up enticing the predators to follow.
  • Many beasts are crepuscular (active at dusk and dawn), with some additionally staying active throughout the night. It’s advisable to limit your outings at these times.
  • Keep in mind, any animal will prove more dangerous when they’re protecting a recent kill or if they have their offspring nearby to safeguard; additionally, mating or breeding times can bring out their aggression.
  • Don’t leave a dog chained outside by himself if you need to go inside a building he isn’t allowed into. Dogs are vulnerable to attacks when left alone.
  • While exploring the outdoors, keep your dog leashed. It keeps him from chasing these animals and annoying them or becoming their next meal.
Attacks and problems from any of these beasts are rare. Know what the ones in the area you’re travelling in are capable of and how best to handle yourself and your dog just in case of an issue. Being prepared is your best bet on keeping you both safe. For More Info

 (c) Cheryl Smyth, 2014

Part 2 - The Little Guys 

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