Kenai Peninsula residents have had plenty of reminders in the past few months that they don't live in Kansas: a black bear wandering by Sears Elementary School, the mauling of a Kasilof teenager by a bear, officials seeking the cooperation of a neighborhood to become a bear-safe model and, most recently, the fatal stomping of a Soldotna woman's pet poodle by a moose.
It's a fact of life here: Humans share their surroundings with wildlife. That's a big attraction to living on the peninsula, but it's also one that can't be taken too lightly. To help preserve the delicate balance between protecting wildlife and humans, it's important that humans always are aware of their surroundings. The peninsula is bear and moose country, and encounters are possible even when walking across a store's paved parking lot.
Humans should not assume a close encounter with a wild creature will never happen to them, and live accordingly.
Even when humans do everything right, however, there is a chance for unhappy endings. The poodle that was killed earlier this week, for example, was minding its own business in its fenced yard. It's possible, however, that free-roaming dogs may have harassed the moose and calf earlier, prompting the moose to see the dog in the enclosure as a threat.
Since humans can never be too cautious, here are some reminders designed to keep wildlife and humans and their pets safe:
Keep your distance. Enjoy close-up views of the peninsula's wildlife with binoculars or a spotting scope.
Don't let your dogs roam free. They harass and kill wildlife reducing the state's wildlife, a public resource, to nothing more than a dish of dog food.
Don't feed wildlife. This includes leaving garbage and pet food accessible to wild animals that otherwise might just be passing through a neighborhood. It lures the animals into dangerous situations and almost always leads to a death sentence for the animals.
Report wounded or abandoned animals, but do not attempt to help them yourself.
Don't harass wildlife. Not only is such harassment illegal, but it could frighten the animal. The behavior of scared animals is unpredictable and can create dangerous situations for humans and animals alike. Harassment includes crowding an animal to get a better glimpse.
One of the unique things about living in Alaska is that humans share their space with wild creatures. In order to ensure places like the peninsula remain attractive for humans and wildlife, people must take the lead and make sure they have no bad habits that endanger their wild neighbors.
As the experts at the Department of Fish and Game say: It's far easier for humans to modify their behavior than it is to modify the animals' behavior.
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