The Park Record editorial, May 25-27, 2011 | ParkRecord.com

The Park Record editorial, May 25-27, 2011

Urban-wildlife interface is getting too close for comfort

At the risk of being a buzz kill, we admit to being deeply troubled by the increase in sightings of mountain lions, moose and baby sandhill cranes. While seeing these wild and beautiful creatures takes our breath away, the growing frequency of encounters doesn’t bode well for their survival in the future.

This winter there were multiple reports of mountain lion encounters in Round Valley, and While catching a glimpse one of these majestic cats is a rare treat, it is also a signal that their habitat is shrinking.

This spring there were also repeated giddy moose reports, most notably on Main Street and Swede Alley. But, to be honest, the sight of a bewildered moose hemmed in by cars and concrete and surrounded by flashing cameras made us sad. Yes, it was a quintessential mountain-town photo opp, but the scene reveals a growing conflict between urban development and wildlife conservation. As condominium complexes, hotel sites and ski runs subdivide their territory, the Wasatch Mountains’ trademark species are being crowded out.

This week, wildlife enthusiasts were all aflutter about the birth of a baby crane in the marshlands near a busy thoroughfare. The site quickly drew a bank of onlookers.

Shortly afterwards, though, their excitement was dampened by reports that a child had unwittingly captured a baby sandhill crane at another location and taken it home. Wildlife officials were called to retrieve the bird and try to relocate it to another nest.

We hope the adoption is successful, but it is clear that this wild family’s life took a traumatic turn thanks to the proximity of well-meaning but incompatible human neighbors.

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The juxtaposition of people and wildlife is problematic. This week there were three auto/deer collisions in Park City. In past months pets have been found mauled, presumably by wildlife and animal-control officers are regularly called out on complaints of domestic animals harassing wildlife.

While conflicts are inevitable, they can be reduced by responsible behavior. Don’t let children or pets near wildlife; respect natural habitat areas; especially during the spring when mothers are tending new offspring, and when traveling in the backcountry, give all wildlife a wide berth.

Finally, if you do stumble across a secret wildlife hideout, keep it under wraps, even though it is tempting to share with friends and neighbors.