The Wildland Urban Interface is not just the Wildfire boundary, it’s also the line between People and Wild Animals.

WUI, Wildland Urban Interface, the term used to describe the areas most threatened by wildfires. This is where the forest and other isolated places meet homes, businesses, and cities. The national program was established to assist those in high-risk areas to learn how to prepare their homes and businesses enabling them to escape or limit the damage caused by the blazes. The interface is not just useful in dealing with the fires, there is a different but related aspect as well.

The boundary is useful for addressing the meeting between humans and wildlife. Two dynamics are at work:

First is we live in close proximity to the wild areas with hiking trails and other attractions we urban dwellers are drawn to the great outdoors. Loading a day pack we set off into the woods down a well-worn path under the illusion the excursion is as safe as a walk in any park, most of the time it is.

Second, some of the wild animals are increasing their population, effectively expanding their habitat which often crosses into ours. With the ballooning populations, the wild is reclaiming their ancient environments. Let’s take a look at both situations starting with us entering their environment.

Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash

Paying attention to a recent case when a poacher was killed in Kenya after an Elephant trampled him to death as if that wasn’t enough Lions devoured him leaving little left for identity purposes. Many people are of the opinion he received his just deserves for killing one of the largest land-dwelling mammals. (He was actually hunting protected Rhinoceroses) He walked into a game preserve, an activity the Government warns not to do as we can imagine the Jungle is a dangerous place to be on foot alone, let alone among angry Elephants. This is an extreme example, there are however events that are more common. That man was clearly in the animals’ domain thinking he was in control.

During a conversation with a friend yesterday he related a story that happened to him and his friend in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. They went to the park and were sitting on a bench feeding the friendly squirrels. As in other inner-city parks, the wildlife is accustomed to interacting with people, one squirrel, in particular, was uncommonly friendly approaching his friend closely. The animal continued to approach him, so closely the man grabbed it by the nape of its neck. Turning its head rapidly he bit the man on the web between his thumb and forefinger on the left hand. The squirrel would not let go, drawing blood he was slung around wildly finally releasing the hand and running off into a tree. The man went to the emergency room and got a tetanus shot. Being close to a densely populated urban area they thought the squirrel was somehow tame.

I know two men that have lost one finger on their right hand the culprit was a rattlesnake. Both of them on separate occasions reached down to pick the viper up. Reacting naturally the snake struck rapidly sinking its fangs into the finger and injecting the venom. Both of the men were born and raised in the Western United States and accustomed to looking out for the poisonous snakes. Rushed to the hospital the injury site swelled rapidly, turning colors it was extremely painful. In the end, amputation was the only recourse or the poison would travel throughout their bodies. They were in the snakes’ habitat and thought they could make the rules.

One Autumn weekend my kids and I were up in the Sierra’s camping at a remote campground, Vermillion on Lake Edison at the end of Kaiser Pass. We had been there for two days when light snow began to fall, notifying us it was time to leave the backcountry. As we began to pack up our gear an extremely large and old Bear came into the site. No one else was there beside us and the Bear. He was slow moving and deliberate, my youngest daughter was 6 years old at the time, I lifted her up onto a stump and told her to look big. I was next to her, my son and middle daughter froze in their tracks. The Bear looked at us and having no interest kept moving, the closest he was to me and the daughter on the stump was about 30 feet (9.14 meters). He passed through without incident, but it is a memory that has never left any one of us. We were in his habitat and at his mercy.

Backpacking many years ago, my kids were too young to accompany me, I was on a trail in a different section of the mountains. Hiking at a brisk pace up a slight rise I was confronted by a Mountain Lion on the trail just over the rise. All I was able to see of him was his head as he looked at me, looking at him. I made myself a big as I could as we were both stopped mid-stride, I surprised him as much as he did I. Seeming like 15 minutes it was actually much less than that, maybe 1 at the most he took a leap and bounded into the trees and down a steep hill. I did keep looking behind me to see if he was tracking me, which he was not. Again I was on the wild side of the WUI.

Animals are becoming more common in our neighborhoods and city parks.

The encounters in our living spaces are becoming more common every year, expanding their habitats the wild ones are frequent visitors. Every country in the world is experiencing them becoming urbanized, Wild Hogs in Berlin, Penguins in Cape Town and Mountain Lions in Los Angelos are just a few.

Deer have been urbanized for decades, they have adapted to housing developments encroaching further into wildlands. When they munch on our roses and vegetable gardens they are labeled a pest. But often they are accompanied, or rather stalked into our backyards.

Mountain Lions have been caught on security cameras chasing Deer over backyard fences and into our habitats. February 7, 2019, a video of a Deer in Glendale California seeking safety from a Lion by jumping into a backyard swimming pool.

Photo by Riley Bartel on Unsplash

Hordes of Wild Hogs are now common tearing up yards in trendy San Jose neighborhoods. The Diablo Mountain Range is prime habitat for the destructive animals, but all they are doing is looking for food. They are among the most dangerous as well as destructive wild animals in the United States. 3 to 6 million of the beast are running roughshod over at least 39 states with 1/2 of the population of Hogs residing in Texas, creating a major problem for City dwellers and farmers alike.

Many of us dream of building a home in an isolated place high in the mountains or deep in the woods. Placing ourselves on the edge of the Wildland Urban Interface mingling our lives with the Wild Animals that have lived in that habitat for tens of thousands of years. They adapt better to us than we do to them in many cases, their solution is to come out at night to stalk our neighborhoods while we sleep. Each one of us have most likely seen a critter which was wildly out of place living in the interface conditions humans as well.

I live in one of those places, the longtime residents have become accustomed to wild Turkeys, Racoons, and Skunks moving across our gardens, decks, and lawns. Commonly vacationers visit our Island, liking the atmosphere they return and some decide to move here from the bustling cities. They are tired of the rush of life, seeking a slower pace our community appears to be a refuge. As with other people moving into the WUI they do not quite get the grasp of living with the wild animals and fail to realize they have purchased a lifestyle, not merely a home.

I was asked by a lady one day while I was zipping down the road on my scooter how I handled my Racoon problem. I asked her “I have a Racoon problem?” To me they aren’t a problem, they just live here, most of us accept it.

Venturing into the wild spaces introduces ourselves to their habitat, they may see us as every bit destructive as we see them. Unfortunately, our solution is often as the wild ones react, much like the Poacher mentioned earlier discovered. People picking up poisonous snakes and attempting to load baby species into their cars to “save” them is commonplace. Lawsuits filed against States and the Federal Government when someone suffers an injury from a wild animal have been filed over the years. We must remember that when we encounter an animal whether in the forest or our garden, they are wild and will resort to their instincts of which the single most important sense to them is survival.

Jacques Lebec Natural Self Reliance

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