Won’t You Be My (Wild) Neighbor? - As Published in Piedmont Post December 4th Issue

Amy Gotliffe, Vice President of Oakland Zoo
December 5, 2019

What a joy to live in one of the most biodiverse states in the country:  California, where nature is all around us. We can see migrating birds right at Lake Merritt, or adventure to Big Sur to see the California condor.  We can see newts glisten in the rain, and catch a glimpse of a glimmering whale tale. Whether our home is in an urban setting, or at the human-wildlife intersect, living with wildlife can be both a treasure and a challenge at times. With many of our homes and commutes within wildlife habitats and corridors, our actions can have a crucial impact on our wonderful wild neighbors.

California Newt at Arroyo Viejo Creek

From butterflies to bobcats, many of the animals you might see in your yard are actually the most considerate of neighbors. Those shy snakes are keeping your rodent populations naturally in control, that adorably intimidating skunk eats snails and slugs for the betterment of your garden and that harmless opossum waddling under your deck is keeping ticks off of your family and dog. Even that spider spinning webs in your doorway is ensuring no mosquito shall pass. What a wonderful community of critters!

On the grounds of Oakland Zoo, we aim to be a positive member of the beautiful habitat we share. We can all be good neighbors to wildlife with some simple everyday actions.

1. Secure garbage and compost bins, ensuring the food our resident animals eat is natural and healthy.

2. Prune trees in autumn, ensuring no baby birds are left without a nest.

3. Pass on rodenticide and pesticide, keeping poisons out of the fragile web of life.

4. Keep our watershed clean by not letting paints or other toxins go down the drain into the creeks, bay and ocean.

5. Dispose of cat and dog waste in the garbage and do not flush down toilet, preventing disease in sea otters.

6. Drive slowly home, ensuring our furry friends make it safely across the road.

7. Bring any outdoor animal foods in at night, as to not habituate wildlife or lure unwanted animal guests onto our properties.

8. Plant for pollinators and include sunning rocks and water and leave some leaves for bees, check out: https://www.oaklandzoo.org/programs-and-events/plant-for-wildlife

9. Choose to feed birds with consistency, cleanliness, caution and research.

10. Be an educated First Responder, and ensure found animals get the right kind of assistance.

11. Out and about on the trail in the mountains or by the bay? Pick up fishing line and hooks, plastics or garbage and especially the shiny micro trash.

12. Join Oakland Zoo’s monthly creek clean-up of Arroyo Viejo Creek: https://www.oaklandzoo.org/programs-and-events/arroyo-viejo-creek-clean-up

What if you find a baby bird or squirrel, or even see a coyote in the area? Luckily, our neighborhood also includes some incredible nature resources and wildlife organizations that are there to help. Check out our Oakland Zoo extensive resource page for more: https://www.oaklandzoo.org/living-with-california-wildlife#living-with-local-wildlife

So grab your binoculars, a bird book, a sketch pad and a camera, and let’s make the most of this beautiful day. Won’t you be a kind wild neighbor?