At first it didn’t make sense. It took a little sleuthing for us to figure out what had changed. For the last few months, camera #2 spied on deer, rabbits, possums and an occasional coyote. It was predictable—I pretty much knew what critters would make regular appearances at night. Something changed a few weeks ago.
On four consecutive nights there was a flurry of predator activity. The local bobcats and coyotes were very busy—hunting, grooming, pooping, marking and just chilling out. What happened that encouraged these guys to find camera #2 a great place to visit? And why did they hang out there for only a few days? As suddenly as they appeared, they disappeared. After they left, the deer, rabbits, possums and coyotes moved back in.
The consequences of urbanization
It’s not news that we make an enormous impact on wildlife in the bay area. Daily, we see the repercussions of urbanization—how roads, highways, construction and poisons take a heavy toll. These are obvious. But we also unintentionally impact the wild animals around us. Some of the consequences are tragic, but others, such as what camera #2 recorded can be beneficial.
I’m not sure why or how the large red shipping container was transplanted into the clearing. It was there when we scouted the area for camera locations in January. Although an eye sore, it was handy for navigation—a landmark that helped me find camera #2 in the overgrowth. My guess is that it was owned by PG&E and used for storage. Whoever planted it there did not think about how occupying the middle of a wildlife trail would have repercussions on the local animals. It wasn’t something I thought of until the shipping container wasn’t there anymore.
It disappeared last week. The only indication that something large had lived there was a rectangular outline in the weeds that was filled with mice and rat poop. Generations of rodents had called the tight space between the ground and the bottom of the container home. It was perfect—warm, dry and safe from predators. While it lasted, the temporary housing had been the ideal place to raise mice pinkies and rat pups.
Nature and urbanization at work
Hundreds of rodents lost their home on a rainy day in March. Word got out to the local predators that there was an easy feast ready for the picking. Maybe the enticing scent of mice and rats along with the appealing sound of scurrying and squeaks caught their attention.
The bobcats dined on rodents for four consecutive nights and they weren’t the only predators who took advantage of the situation. Coyotes enjoyed the repast as well. One local coyote left his mark on a nearby post as well as on my camera.
It can be hard to predict the impact we have on the wildlife. One small act has consequences—sometimes harmful and other times beneficial. It’s up to us to think through how our activities can influence the environment we live in. Something as small as placing a large container on a wildlife trail subtly changed the ecosystem, providing shelter for hundreds of rodents and gourmet meals for predators.