, Derry, New Hampshire

September 27, 2012

The balance of nature

Derry News

---- — When wildlife and residential life collide, the results can be unsettling — or worse.

Such was the case last weekend when a coyote ran into the yard of Pamela and Ron Crawford, then attacked their two miniature pinschers, out for their evening romp.

Spanky, 10, died as a result of the attack. Spike, 13, will survive.

Pamela Crawford said she thinks a dog should be safe in its own yard.

But as humans demand more elbow room, shopping plazas and highways, wild animals are forced to adapt. That often means bears, deer, moose and, yes, coyotes, are turning up in places they might not have been seen a decade or more ago.

Derry Animal Control Officer Marlene Bishop points to the widening of Route 28 and the associated retail development as factors in the increase in wildlife sightings in back yards in heavily populated areas.

Many animals, particularly coyotes, skunks and possums, are opportunistic feeders; they will eat whatever’s easily accessible. More often than before, those easy meals may be someone’s pet.

There are some easy ways to protect the family cat or dog. Cats should be kept indoors; ask any local feline rescue or animal shelter. They are easy targets for marauding wildlife.

Dogs should be kept on a leash or secured in a fenced-in area, with a watchful human nearby.

The Crawfords did what they could to protect their six dogs, installing an electric fence designed to keep their canines in their yard. That worked, but it didn’t keep the coyote out. They now plan to add a chain-link fence.

Coyotes do some good, too, feasting on rats and other rodents that can destroy a farmer’s crop. State Fish and Game officials say they pose little danger to humans.

Last week, the Londonderry Town Council applauded a plan to develop a sanctuary within the Musquash Conservation Area for the endangered New England cottontail. New Hampshire has less cottontail habitat than any other New England state.

The rabbits have fallen prey to human development, foxes — and coyotes. The proposed cottontail habitat would take 15 years to develop and would involve cutting lots of trees. Timber sales will help fund the project and may benefit the town, too.

The balance of nature is tricky business. Human intervention is not always a bad thing, but maintaining predator/prey relationships can result in individual distress or heartbreak.

That’s small consolation to the Crawfords, mourning the loss of their Spanky.

But the cycle continues, sometimes with humans bearing the cost of their encroachment, sometimes with humans working to repair the damage they have wrought.