Episode 4

July 27, 2023


Coexistence Misperceptions

Hosted by

International Wildlife Coexistence Network Josh Adler
Coexistence Misperceptions
For the Wild Ones
Coexistence Misperceptions

Jul 27 2023 | 00:39:44


Show Notes

Learn the clues to solving barnyard crimes and discover if you're living in Mountain Lion territory.


Featuring Gowan BatistCoexistence and Advocacy Coordinator for the Mountain Lion Foundation and a fifth-generation sheep rancher at Fortunate Farm in Caspar, California. 


More at WildlifeCoexistence.org



The Insider - Time to Move and Motivate 

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Episode Transcript

Host 00:00:03 Welcome to another episode of Four The Wild Ones, brought to you by the International Wildlife Coexistence Network. I'm your host, Josh Adler. I'm very excited to introduce you to our guest this week, Gowan Batiste, who works with the Mountain Lion Foundation to help others coexist with big cats across North America, but is also a fifth generation sheep rancher herself, and has successfully utilized non-lethal methods since 2014. Guest 00:00:36 I'm a big believer in, in kind of coexistence on the ground and I've, I've worked, um, as a rancher and specifically in the, the areas of, um, fire fuel reduction and invasive species mitigation. And, uh, having the experience of working with livestock, because I really love nature, um, is I think coming to this from a slightly different perspective. You know, we were doing grazing fuel breaks to protect nesting golden eagles in a very, very fire pro corridor, um, as well as grazing, um, to maintain habitat for burrowing owls. Um, so I was spending most of my days in the field with my game cameras up watching mountain Lions cruise by, um, following tracks, doing a lot of tracking, um, to kind of understand the, the dynamics of the animals on the landscape and, and really living kind of the, the side by side larger scale coexistence. Guest 00:01:44 And what's shifted for me in, in 2023 is that I am back at our home ranch, which is a, uh, smaller ranch. It's about 40 acres. It's on the coast, and I'm not doing contracts and in an interesting way, kind of narrowing the scope because I'm, I'm pregnant right now, we're expecting a baby. So I'm not planning on camping in the back country for months at a time. I'm going to prenatal appointments, doing less out in the middle of nowhere contracts has actually broadened what I feel like my coexistence reach is in terms of my advocacy work with the Mountain Lion Foundation, because I'm not in the middle of nowhere all day, every day. I actually have the ability to, you know, be connected and, and be online and be in communication with people who are doing this work all over the country. As the Mountain Lion Foundation's coexistence coordinator, I'm helping support ranchers, homesteaders people who are interfacing with wildlife, and also able to connect to peers who are doing similar work all over the world. Host 00:02:46 Well, congratulations on the, the big domestic thing. As a, a new parent myself, it's, it's quite incredible thing that is both mundane and every, everybody, or it's happening around us a lot, but at the same time is completely wild and completely <laugh> shifts whatever experience you've had so far. Guest 00:03:07 Oh, it's completely wild. <laugh>. It, it's, it's a, it's a major paradigm shift as well as, you know, incredibly physically taxing, I mean mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, I at one point, like just my daily round trip hike just to get to the work sites and monitor cameras was, you know, almost 20 miles and steep rocky terrain. And that has nothing on being pregnant. Being pregnant is so much harder than that was <laugh>, which I had no idea. I mean, Host 00:03:41 These are things that, uh, that don't, don't get spoken to a lot. So it's really, yeah, it's good to share. In terms of your work life and that shift of focus you are dealing with kind of these communities, are you hearing success stories? Are you hearing shifts in people's ability to manage conflicts on their landscapes? Guest 00:04:04 Yes. I often feel like one of the things that's hard about this work is that success and discretion tend to go together. So when things are working, you don't tend to hear about it. You tend to hear about things that are going wrong, but that makes it all the more fulfilling when we can actually, you know, reach out to somebody, give them tools and resources, watch them, put them into practice and watch a positive outcome. And it's, it's interesting cuz it's, you know, it's, it's hard to measure a negative, you know, we're measuring not having depredation losses. We're, we're measuring, you know, bad things that don't happen. So I actually, I like to, to shift it a little bit and try to measure positive things that do happen. I love it when people tell me about sightings of, of mountain lions or other apex predators on their landscape when they're not having depredations, because really the, ultimately the, the goal that I have is for these animals to be there. Guest 00:05:02 It's for them to be there in a way that's, that's healthy and in a way that's safe for everybody. So yes, I mean, at, at this point personally visited and contacted several dozen producers and we've had good success. You know, I mean, I feel like our initial site visits, often they come in the aftermath of a depredation and it's, we're doing our best to set people up to avoid a repeat incident. But my favorite is when people <laugh> contact me before something bad has happened and we can, we can set them up to avoid it. And a lot of the time it, it seems like people just need some demystification. And so when these animals show up, and often they're doing behaviors that are completely normal and not cause for concern, but there's no way for people to know that. Um, so I feel like a lot of our role is just a mystification, just letting people benefit from, you know, some experts in the field, giving them insights to what's actually happening. Guest 00:06:02 Something that comes to mind is a small farm where they had a mountain lion who was just lounging in one corner of their pasture. They had a really hard time understanding it. What is this lion doing? Is this lion plotting, you know, some kind of move on our animals? It, it hasn't done anything. It hasn't killed any of our livestock, but it's just there for the last several days. And I was able to go out and identify that there was a deer cache in their woods and the mountain lion was hanging out cuz it was eating a deer predicted it would probably be there for a couple more days and then it would move on. And that's what happened. And so a lot of these things are, they're very mundane, you know, they're, they're situations like that where this is a normal wildlife interaction. This is normal behavior. Guest 00:06:44 And, and people just, just need a little reassurance. I think it's really important to meet people where they're at, to validate the experience that they're having. I was a crisis counselor for six years and I find that I use that training all the time. You know, often when people are having an encounter with wildlife or having an encounter with an apex predator, they are operating in a, from a, a place of, you know, heightened, heightened emotional response. And then if there's actually been a depredation, they might have a wide variety of feelings about that. And so, like, my, my role is not to come out and make everybody love mountain lions. Often I spend a lot of time validating that their experiences is real. Like, yeah, this was scary. Yes, this was sad. Yes, I understand that, you know, you feel angry or you feel violated. Guest 00:07:36 You know, your space has been invaded. The space that you felt like was not a wildlife habitat is suddenly revealed to you as being a wildlife habitat. And that's destabilizing for a lot of people. So I would say it really depends on the person, but the first thing is to, is to listen and validate their experience and then go from there. The question of what's next is the important question. My work is kind of split into what I kind of call barnyard csi and then kind of wildlife com <laugh>, you know, communication and management. So in a situation where there's been a depredation, where there's an animal that's dead, um, often I'll ask for as many pictures as possible. I'll come out in person if I can, depending on the situation that might go as far as actually, you know, skinning the animal, taking the, the the hide off so that you can see what's going on with, with bruising under the skin, um, looking for tracks, you know, trying to understand really what happened and identify if possible, you know, which animal was this. Guest 00:08:36 There's some characteristic patterns of large cats, um, that are very different from, you know, for example, canids or from bears or from, from other kinds of animals. And that can be where is this carcass physically located? Was it moved away from where the animals were housed? Has it been cashed? If it's been cashed, is it covered in dirt or is it covered in leaves and sticks? What's going on with the internal organs? Are they missing, are they torn open? All of those things are diagnostic for, you know, what animal actually did this. And I have fairly frequently gotten calls from people who are convinced that they have a mountain lion. And when I come out, what I see is dogs, domestic dogs, domestic dogs have been the number one killer of livestock in my site visits. And then I have to tread really carefully because, you know, people often have a hard time hearing that, you know, they would rather it be wildlife than be potentially their neighbor's dog or their dog or a loose dog. Guest 00:09:40 You know, those are, that's a harder ground for people emotionally in a lot of ways. So navigating that space and, and letting people know, okay, well here's what I see, but let's, let's take all the precautions no matter what across the board. And so that could look like putting up game cameras to do a survey of who's who, who's in the neighborhood, who's moving around and could look like, you know, with at the Mountain Lion Foundation, we've helped people either reinforce barn structures that exist that are not secure, or we've actually built secure burn structures or night pens for people. That's usually on the smaller scale. But in California where I am, about 70 to 80% of depredation calls are for small scale. They're for 10 or fewer animals. On the larger scale, we might do things like electric net fence, fox lights. I consult with people on livestock guardian dog training and really help them, help them get into a place where they're gonna have success. Guest 00:10:37 They're not gonna lose animals. It's, the thing about proactive coexistence is that, you know, we're, we're stopping the loss from happening, right? Like lethal methods are all reactive, you know, you still lose your livestock, right? We wanna prevent that from happening in the first place. And then we want to create a mountain lion that's out there in the community that is an educated, good citizen, mountain lion that knows better than to mess around in, in people's barnards, you know, so that's the sort of mountain lion education part of it. I had, I had one experience with a pretty large scale poultry producer who was doing pastured eggs. So several hundred chickens in a mobile coop on pasture that was shifting every couple of days. And they had a mountain lion who was just cruising up every day and snagging a chicken and walking off, essentially when this farmer and I were brainstorming about what to do about this, and I was like, okay, look like he's just treating your place like a drive through and we wanna get the worst Yelp review possible from this mountain lion. So we're just gonna make this drive through really inconvenient for him. We're gonna make him have a bad customer service experience. So we set up motion activated sprinklers, so the next time he came to get a chicken, he got shot in the face with a water hose. Host 00:11:54 Love it. Guest 00:11:55 He didn't like that <laugh>, you know, so, you know, there's Host 00:11:59 No, there's a lot of different directions you can take that bad user experience, uh, right. Yeah. There's lots of bad tastes and smells and all kinds of, that's, that's a whole realm of non-lethal tools that, uh, is there to be Guest 00:12:11 Explored. And you can be really creative with mountain lions, especially because they're so neophobic. They do not like novelty. They do not like new things. They do not like change. It's pretty easy to convince them to change their ways. But in this case, you know, I want this mountain lion not to just cruise over to the next chicken farm. I want them to decide that chickens aren't worth it altogether. Host 00:12:33 So you've cast yourself as this kind of wildlife, like user experience Guest 00:12:38 <laugh> Host 00:12:39 Manager, and I see how you're, you're educating the individual animals too. How do you, how do you convince the producer that this is, this is the right strategy to, to kind of let you go in there and try these things out, which may be perhaps a waste of time for them if they don't work or may force them out of their comfort zone in terms of their, uh, operational procedures may add risk where yeah, they don't need more burden because they're already losing animals. Guest 00:13:11 Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I think that the biggest thing, you know, I've, I've grown up in an ag community, and one of the things that's important to kind of remember is that farmers and ranchers as a population get pitched to constantly. They've got the farm bureau, the county ag extension, they've got whatever their university is, they've got people who are writing thesises, they've got the water board, they, they've got, everybody is up in their business all the time. And generally speaking, they're pretty resistant to that <laugh>. Um, what I've found is that farmers tend to follow their peers much more than outside experts. So if you can get a, a champion, if you can get someone in a community that's doing this and it's working, that's the most valuable thing because they, they're gonna talk to each other more than they're gonna talk to an extension program or an NGO or, or anything else. Guest 00:14:05 I think the other thing is that make it easy to try it, take as much of the burden off of them as possible. A common complaint that producers have about, um, non-lethal is that it, it takes a lot more management time. And that's true. That's totally true. And I've, I've even heard some people say, well, you know, if I have a percentage of losses up to a certain point, that's still less of a financial burden than managing all of these do hickeys all the time. So until it gets worse than whatever their personal tolerance is, they would rather accept that than, than do this stuff. So I think from, from our perspective, it's like, make the, make the right decision as easy as possible and be willing to, to, to be in it with them. You know, sharing your own experience, being willing to like go out and do the setup. Guest 00:14:53 I think that, that, that's important. And also understanding that nothing is perfect so far. Like our tools have been very effective, but nothing's a hundred percent effective. And so, you know, not, not promising people, a not promising people a complete fix that you're not gonna be able to deliver on. And, and in general, like when I'm thinking about mountain lions and, and this comes from low stress, animal handling in general, which applies to people, applies to wildlife, applies to everything is make the right choice easy. When you're wanting to move a group of sheep through a landscape and you wanna do that in a low stress way, you wanna make the easiest option for them and the least stress option for them to go the way that you want them to go. So you set everything up that way. And I think that the, the same thing happens with, um, when we're thinking about how wildlife move through a space, right? Guest 00:15:44 So sometimes with ranchers, one of the things that I'll suggest, a shift that's less labor is like, look like maybe don't put your fence line directly across this riparian game trail. This is where deer are, this is where deer are walking along this water source. So this is where mountain lions are gonna be walking, following them. And if you're gonna put your flock right there, you're basically funneling a mountain lion right into your field, <laugh>. So thinking, thinking about it that way, where as much as possible, you, you can help people make decisions that are gonna minimize the amount of work that they have to do, that's really important. Doing your best to think of it from their perspective too, which I think I'm in a little bit of a unique position because I've been on both sides of it. Yeah. I grew up on, I grew up on the coast here and I've been around livestock and In California. Guest 00:16:34 In California, yeah. Yeah. And I, I've been around livestock and agriculture my whole career losing lambs every spring is a normal part of lambing. That's something that I was used to. And when I first started, you know, managing my own flock and I lost around up to 10% of lambs every season, mostly from coyotes. I just kind of took that as a given. And finally when I, when I started doing contract work and using solar powered electric netting, we stopped having coyote deprivate depredations at all. You know, we went from coyotes being a kind of constant management fact of life to no coyotes <laugh> with this one change, you know, which was this, this solar powered electric fence. And I remember what a revelation that was. I remember talking to my grandfather about it and being like, like, you know, get this, this is this plastic fence. Guest 00:17:23 I can roll it up, I can carry it in one hand. It's powered by the sun with a battery, and we have no coyote losses. And it just, it blew his mind. So that was my first coexistence tool, and that was my first experience with that, that intersection and, and how well that, that can actually work. So the idea that, okay, you put your animals in this field and you don't really do anything to protect them, and then as soon as an apex predator starts taking advantage of that, will you come in and kill that animal? Didn't really make sense to me and experimenting with, with ways of preventing it was working. And so that seemed very straightforward to me. That seemed really non-controversial to me. Like I didn't really understand why there would be resistance to that emotionally, but what I found is that there's immense resistance to that emotionally. Guest 00:18:13 There's a, there's a huge culture in the western states of wiping the slate clean of anything that threatens this sort of domestic pastoral entitlement to the space. We, we had a discussion in our county about whether to continue a county funded trapping program, a lethal trapping program. I gave my opinion that I didn't really thought, think that we needed it and shared, well, hey, you know, we used to have losses every year, and now we do these couple really simple things and we don't have losses anymore, and our county's rural and underfunded and we have a hard time keeping ambulances on the road. And maybe this a hundred odd thousand dollars could go towards that. Instead, I, I felt this, like, this was very straightforward. And what actually happened is like, I got hate mail, I got threats, <laugh>, it was this like immense backlash from the ranching community and from the employed trappers. Guest 00:19:10 And that really taught me that there was this huge, huge gulf. I'm kind of, I'm fascinated by that. I, I wanted to like lean into that. I also, you know, growing up in California on the, on the Mendocino coast, I feel like there's this, this big gulf between what I was seeing as these progressive young land managers, people who were using, um, prescribed fire people who were using grazing as a, as a tool. And then this like older generation of conservationists who were very much hands-off conservation that no human interaction with wildlife could ever be good. And I was, you know, seeing this like kind of middle space developing between this idea of conservation as like, hands off, all ranching is bad, all human interaction with the landscape is inherently net negative. And then this other branch that was like, why should I listen to anything someone living in a city has to say about wildlife? Guest 00:20:02 They don't interact with wildlife, they have nothing to do with it. You know, this is my business. I'm already squeezed on all sides. I already have razor thin margins and you know, I'm gonna do what I need to do to protect it. And I kind of saw this, this need. So initially I was, I was just a volunteer and the Mountain Lion Foundation reached out to me and offered me a job that didn't exist yet. You know, they, they weren't hiring for it <laugh>. They just, they reached out to me and were like, Hey, could you, could you do, could you do what you've been doing on a broader scale through our, through our network and with some, with our resources? And it's been really fantastic. I mean, it hasn't always been easy. There's times where there's a lot of tension in that work, but I feel really, really privileged to have the support of like an organization with such a, a long track record of success in the Western states and the support to actually really get to do what, what I'm most passionate about, which is just like helping people and helping wildlife share the same space without harm to either of them. Guest 00:21:06 That's really the, that's really the goal. And it's, it's completely possible. Um, it's happening all the time, you know, it, that is, it is what the norm is. We just, you know, we don't, we don't hear the success stories. Host 00:21:18 Why is it that people focus on the conflict and not the success stories? Guest 00:21:23 For a lot of people, a lot of the time, especially with a, an animal like a mountain lion, success is invisible because the mountain lion is invisible. They a avoid being seen by us. It's now getting more common to see them on ring cameras. And there's this narrative about invasion and there's mountain lions invading our backyards. And the reality is the mountain lions have always been there. We just have ring cameras now. So we're seeing them, you know, we're not seeing them with our naked eye because they're doing everything in their power to avoid that. So like for instance, um, I responded to a depredation at a rural high school where for 20 years they had a farm program that had goats completely unprotected and an open pen right next to a major wildlife corridor alongside a creek. And never had anything bad happen. Never, never had an animal killed. Guest 00:22:12 And then eventually they did have an animal killed, you know, it was coming off of a drought year and a mountain lion jumped the fence and ate a goat. Then this was this outrage, this threat to the children, this violation of space, this, this emergency. You know, the reality is they've been getting away with not doing anything to protect their animals for decades. And so, like, that's, that's the thing. You don't get credit for the years that nothing happened. You, you have an emergency because like finally something did. So as much as possible, and especially when there's like, there's youth involved and there's youth programs involved, you know, I think the the point should be to understand that even though we're not seeing these animals all the time, we're in community with them. We're in relationship with them all the time, you know, and every day that goes by that there isn't a negative interaction, is a success <laugh>. Guest 00:23:06 That, that we are doing coexistence always. We're either, we're either doing it well or we're doing it badly. We're not paying attention to the fact that we're doing it, but it's happening all the time. We're never not in an ecosystem anywhere. You know, downtown San Francisco, an ecosystem, also mountain lion habitat. I'm not saying there are any mountain lions in downtown San Francisco, but that is traditional and historical habitat, right? There's nowhere that we are ever where we're not in this dialogue with nature and the fact that, that we can kind of go through our lives ignoring that fact makes it really, really hard to have an accurate assessment of, of a threat. Because, you know, if like every, for the average producer, like every day of your life, you're going around and not being threatened by a mountain lion, and then you maybe have, you know, one scary run in that to you seems like 100% of your experience with mountain lions, but you were in mountain lion territory, all those 99 other days too. Host 00:24:07 How do you tell the narrative of the benefits of the full ecosystem, including its risk factors like predators? Guest 00:24:16 There's, there's an opportunity and there's risk, risk in the new accessibility of, of wildlife cameras and of home security cameras because we're seeing things that were always there, but that we weren't seeing before. And how people choose to react to that could be with empathy, could be with curiosity, could be with fear, could be with hysteria, could be with alarm. Just seeing a native animal in its natural habitat is not an emergency. Just seeing a mountain lion is not an emergency. You don't have to immediately get on the horn and call someone. You don't. It's okay that they're supposed to be there. The best asset you could have on your ranch is a really happy, healthy, well-fed mountain lion. And I really genuinely believe that that's true. If you have a secure, healthy, stable, territorial cat that has claimed your ranch as its home, you have got it made because they're going to be your bouncer. Guest 00:25:16 They're going to keep the younger transient cats that are more likely to get into trouble, that are more likely to be hungry and more likely to take a chance on, on a sheep away. They're gonna control that land. And if you have a good relationship with them, that's it. You're set, you know, and they can live a long time. You know, you can, you can have like a whole nice mellow era where, you know, you and this animal are sharing space and you've understand each other's needs. And we are safest when ev when when they're safest. It's when things get hard for them that they start to come into conflict with us. And we see that over and over again. A real source of conflict can be orphaned, starving juveniles don't orphan them, you know, rodenticide poisoned cats can become starving and desperate because they're sick. Guest 00:26:09 It's harder for them to hunt. They're natural prey. So they might come into a barnyard and try to try to eat something that's easier for them to catch. Great. Don't poison them with rodenticides, you know, when things are better for them, they are better for us. Like that, that's basic common sense. I think that the, the other thing is like, the reality is that there are some people who would just really prefer for them not to exist at all. And that's their perspective. You know, they, they find them scary and destabilizing and don't see positives to them inherent. You know, I could tell them all day about the mountain lion's interaction with other species and their beneficial interactions and they, they might or might not care about that. They would really rather not deal with mountain lions. What I would <laugh> usually say to them is like, well, we tried that, you know, there was a bounty system in many of these Western states for a very long time where the, the goal was extermination of these cats. Guest 00:27:07 They were successfully extricated from most of the eastern United States. So despite, you know, a government support and a bounty where you could turn in a set of years and get money from the government, they're still here. So what's left other than coexistence, because at this point, you know, the government's not gonna pay you to go kill all the mountain lions. They're here, they're going to be here. Coexistence is the only option. I think that some of the people that would be the most effective to hear from are some of the hardest to reach, which are just the people who've been kind of quietly doing this for decades. And there are many of them. I talk to them fairly regularly, who are out on the landscape doing their work and coexisting. They need to be talking to their peers, who are the people who are going out with traps and poison and guns and dogs. Guest 00:28:00 It's, it's, it's reaching them and elevating them. That I think is, is the hard part. If, if I could say anything to the, the majority of folks who don't live and work on these kind of larger landscapes, these, you know, these sort of habitat areas, you know, people who are more urban is to consider. But I actually feel like they're overemphasized that, that, um, have you heard about the, the, um, the returning plane question in World War ii? No. Um, there's this famous image of a plane with scattershot of bullet holes on it. And the question is, where do we put armor on the plane? These are all the planes that came back. These are all the places that got shot. So where do we put the armor on the plane? You put the armor on the places that don't have bullet holes because you're looking at the planes that came back, which means the planes that didn't come back got shot in those places, right? Guest 00:28:57 Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And we're having conflicts with cougars on ranches, on homesteads, on the urban rural fringe, on, you know, rangeland landscapes. We're not having them other places. And that doesn't mean that those other places are peaceful or that there aren't coexistence issues there. It's, it's quite the opposite. I I think that there's an overemphasis on, on ranchers as being this, this, this huge, you know, threat to wildlife when the reality is they're interacting with wildlife because that's where the wildlife is. A a soybean field is not mountain lion habitat. A lot of my career in my earlier life was organic farming on crop farms. Most of those farms have depredation permits for deer, for raccoons, for turkeys, for all kinds of smaller animals. Ides, rodenticides, ava side meaning birds, you know, to the tune of millions of birds sometimes in, in certain crops. So you don't have cover, you don't have prey, you don't have a habitat. Guest 00:30:05 And that doesn't mean that those landscapes are, are harmless. They're not, they're quite harmful. So when you come in and you take away intact habitat, you also fragment remove access. You know, it is, most, most of the time mountain lions are not gonna cross a wild, you know, wide open, unprotected stretch of space so you can isolate populations. So I think that one thing that's, that's really, really important to me and that i, I wish was discussed more and that I would, would like to see discussed more is wildlife travel and corridors through vegetable crop land and through developed land. Just because that's not where we're focusing on interaction issues doesn't mean that those places are better for mountain lions. It's the opposite. They're not there at all. And one of the, the big issues that we kind of face with, with mountain lions is fragmentation, where these small genetic populations get isolated. Guest 00:31:01 That can, that can put a whole <laugh>, a whole community of mountain lions and risk really quickly if they, they can't reach each other to reproduce. So I, I feel like taking the coexistence question and taking the wildlife question broader and talking about, you know, just as a society, how are we interacting with wildlife and thinking about all spaces as ecosystem spaces is, is really important. There's great programs like the, the National Resources Conservation Service who will pay farmers to install shelter belts of native plants on their land with some coordination and some thoughtfulness. Those could connect, you know, those could create wildlife movement possibilities, wildlife corridors across these, these more managed landscapes. And those could be, you know, there's existing programs that pay for that. You know, we have the question of, okay, well then how do I keep the deer out of my field if I'm gonna create a, a, you know, a corridor? Guest 00:31:53 And I'm like, I have so many ways to annoy deer. Let's talk about that. And if you can keep, if you can keep deer out of your yard, then you can keep a mountain lion out of your yard because the mountain lion's gonna go where the deer is. There's a reason why drought years are usually really hard years for coexistence. I issues with mountain lions and it's because in drought years, their prey goes where there's irrigation and there's irrigation. So there's foliage, there's, there's food for them closer to humans. So people are more likely to see them because they're going where the ungulates are going, which is closer to us cuz we have the sprinklers. Focusing on keeping deer out of your yard is gonna go a really long way towards keeping mountain lions out of your yard. Look, looking at it that way, you know, managing prey behavior to reduce conflicts. Anyway, that got really, really big picture. But Host 00:32:40 Yeah, no, i, i, I really appreciate the big picture as well as the way that your particular field experience as well as research understanding, provides a window into a very contemporary way to quote unquote listen to nature within understanding different populations, understanding trends, migration patterns, resource availability. And I wonder if you can kind of deliver <laugh> the, that broader sense of coexistence that you're speaking to, that you'd love to bring to crop farmers or urban citizens. Can you deliver a sense of what that means to you in terms of living in right relationship with nature? Guest 00:33:24 Oh, Host 00:33:27 You didn't expect me to go even bigger picture. I can tell, I Guest 00:33:29 Know that's, that's even bigger picture. I think that one of the important things to kind of start with is, is awareness of the shifting baseline syndrome. You know, when I think about like, what, what does right relationship mean to me? One of the things that I think about is grandfather who was growing up on this landscape during the Great Depression and the stories that he told me about, there was a complete collapse. You know, this was a timber and fishing community and then suddenly nobody had any money to buy anything. He told me about this landscape being completely stripped. There was not a deer for anybody to find anywhere. Everybody was in the woods with guns. Everybody was taking everything that they could out of the landscape to survive. And when he was maybe eight years old, his mom would send him out with a shotgun to shoot songbirds, small little birds, and she would boil them and then pour the broth through a strainer to take the little bones out. Guest 00:34:26 And that was their food. You know, that was how hungry they were. They had a, they had a racket where they trapped skunks for their pelts and sent the skunk pelts to San Francisco where they, they would get dyed uniform black and sold as counterfeit mink. Cause in the winter, skunk fur is actually pretty similar to mink. So, so this is how desperate this was. And this is the land I'm living on now. So within living generational memory, this land went from incredibly exploited. You know, we're talking about, you know, roughly 200 years since like the worst phase of colonization, genocide of indigenous people, timber harvest of all the biggest trees. A lot of the town that I'm living in was topsoil scraped to build logging roads. So even the topsoil dragged off of the main areas, railroad building and then an economic collapse. So the people who were here, this boom town eating anything that they could. Guest 00:35:26 So the fact that we have a resurgence, I sometimes hear people in my community say, well, there never used to be this many bears. There never used to be this many mountain lions. And oftentimes these people are 50, 60 years old. And I wanna, sometimes I like, I wanna shake them and be like, well that's because your parents, you know, all of my grandparents, all of our, you know, that gen, older generation killed every single one of them. And they're returning is not the same as them invading the, our perception of what's normal, of how many of these animals should be here, of what this ecosystem should look like is impossibly skewed. It has to be impossibly skewed because we are only one or two generations out from wholesale resource extraction, genocide, full scale destruction. So one of the things that I try to remember about being in right relationship is that I don't really know what a thriving healthy dynamic, dynamic dynamic community of species on this landscape would look like. Guest 00:36:28 Cuz I've never lived it and neither did my parents and neither did my grandparents. So being open to receiving new information, being open to being surprised by what these interactions and outcomes are, is really, really essential. And then also locating ourselves appropriately, understanding that that, that this is where we are, you know, and understanding that indigenous management, especially a fire in California, made this one of the most productive and beautiful places in the entire world. The mightiest migratory bird flyway on the planet, incredibly productive oak granaries teaming salmon streams, you know, the, this incredibly abundant landscape that has crashed in the last 200 years. One of the most important things that we can be doing is returning indigenous management as, as fast as we can and as holistically as we can both on the, the public and on the private level. So I really like see myself as a, as a, a generational student of this, this landscape because this is what I know, but also understanding that like my perspective is inherently limited and that I have to be willing to, to shift that and sh and to be, to be responsive to that new information. Guest 00:37:44 And, you know, I being a conduit or am I positioning myself? Am I positioning myself as as an expert or am I positioning myself as curious? And anytime I, I feel like I'm, you know, I'm positioning myself as an authority that that means I need to get out of, I need to get outta my way and I need to, I need to check myself because none of us are, we can't be, and I, I do feel like people's practical day-to-day concerns matter and are important even in the, the, even in this like huge context of like all of these big moving pictures and we can address them. But I think like, it, it's important to keep in mind this, this place that we live is just barely, barely beginning to recover from an almost inconceivable catastrophe. And it should be our, our role to, to help that and not hinder that as much as we, as much as we can see our way to do that. Guest 00:38:37 As much as we can understand enough about it to do that, the way that people can participate is, is just really practice thinking of themselves as a member of a community. And when, if you are anywhere in North America on this continent and you're going about your daily life, keep in mind, you know, the awareness that you're in Mountain lion habitat and see what comes up for you. You know, does, does it change how you move in the world? Does it change your feeling of safety? If it changes your feeling of safety, what do you do about that? Remind yourself of that as you go about your day. Like I'm in mountain lion territory right now. And, and then yeah, reach out to us. I love hearing from people and I really do like helping people solve these coexistence mysteries and conundrums. You don't have to be a, you know, a manager on thousands of acres running cattle to, to talk to me. I work with a lot of ranchers. I also work with a lot of just regular folks. The support that I have from the Mountain Lion Foundation to be able to spend my days asking these questions, researching these solutions, it's a huge privilege. I really, really appreciate it. And the people who support the Mountain Lion Foundation really do directly give me the opportunity to do that. And I feel a lot of gratitude for that. Host 00:39:47 I'm, I'm sure the people that you work with and the people at the foundation have a huge feeling of gratitude towards you as well. And, uh, I shared that feeling of gratitude for all that you've shared with us. And, uh, I just wish you a lot of luck, annoying as many wildlife species as you can. Um, Guest 00:40:09 <laugh> Host 00:40:11 <laugh>. Guest 00:40:13 Yeah, totally. Thank you so much too. We have, we have the opportunity for things to get better. You know, in some, in some places they are getting better. Host 00:40:26 You've been listening to four of the wild ones brought to you by the International Wildlife Coexistence Network. We hope you've enjoyed this discussion. We've got lots more stories of coexistence, successes as well as challenges. So stay tuned for our upcoming episodes. And if you wanna find out how to do your part for the wild ones, go to our site, wildlife coexistence.org.

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