With summer coming and most of us spending more time outdoors, it’s a prime time to observe Santa Monica’s varied wildlife. Many kinds of birds live here as well as four-legged critters like possums, raccoons, squirrels, and yes, coyotes. However, the enjoyment of spotting wildlife in one’s backyard can be tampered by the fear of animal attacks and lack of knowledge about animal habits.The Mirror spoke with Stan Hernacki of the Santa Monica Animal Shelter, about what local residents should know when it comes to living amongst our animal neighbors.Possums are often seen during the summer, especially in the late afternoons and evenings, as they are nocturnal animals. “Possums and raccoons are not aggressive,” says Hernacki. “They’re defensive animals. If they’re cornered, usually by the family pet, they will defend themselves. But they pretty much usually stay to themselves.“What attracts them to this area is people leaving pet food out or leaving garbage cans open-any available type of food source.”Hernacki advises residents to feed pets indoors or keep them to a feeding schedule outdoors so that there won’t be food left over at night. Trash containers should be kept closed and all refuse cleaned up. With no food available, possums and raccoons will move on.If an animal should enter your house or apartment, Hernacki advices that Animal Control be called. After hours, the Santa Monica Police are also available 24 hours a day. “Officers have been trained to handle wildlife as well. If there is anything beyond their capability, they will call us.” Hernacki warns that the average person should not attempt to handle wildlife.Likewise, despite the desire to help an animal in distress, Hernacki emphasizes that residents should seek professional help with wounded animals. “For injured animals, there’s a wildlife center and rehabilitation centers that will take in injured animals. Depending on the injury, they may need to be euthanized. If they can be rehabilitated, they can be released into the wild.”Coyotes are always on the minds of residents who live in the hills or canyons north of Santa Monica. Hernacki notes that coyotes, like other wild creatures, come into the city to forage for food and thus have less fear of being near humans. But as they do attack smaller animals, pets need to be protected from them and should be kept indoors.Snakes are occasionally seen. “If someone’s not sure [what kind of snake it is], if somebody can keep an observation on it, call Animal Control and we will come out and identify it and do whatever is necessary. If it’s a rattlesnake, it will be removed. If it’s a gopher or garden snake, they are not a problem.” So enjoy the fauna that go with the flora here in Santa Monica, but take Stan Hernacki’s advice and “Keep your pets updated in innoculations and keep your dogs on a leash.”For more information go to smpd.org.
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