When my cousins Geoff and Helaine moved to Irvine last year from Connecticut, they were a bit unnerved when they realized that coyotes were frequent visitors to their neighborhood in Portola Springs. Actually, “visitors” is the wrong word. Wild animals – such as coyotes, as well as mountain lions, bobcats, raccoons, opossums, skunks and rattlesnakes – are native to this part of the world. Long before the City of Irvine was founded, the Irvine Valley was their home. Many migrating birds also have long made Irvine a prime stop on their journeys. We are the newcomers here, not them.
We urban humans are the ones who have encroached on these animals’ natural habitat, and we need to learn to live with the wildlife in our environment.
That’s the idea behind the new iWild program developed by the Irvine Police Department.
Introduced this past March, iWild is an innovative, year-round program designed to increase community awareness and understanding of wildlife in Irvine.
The ultimate goal of the program is to decrease human-wildlife conflict.
Based on a Neighborhood Watch model, the iWild program works with community members to form teams to monitor and report on wildlife activity in their neighborhoods. The teams are trained by Irvine Animal Control Officers, under the leadership of Animal Services Supervisor Kimberly Cherney.
- Calls about wildlife activity are common in the city.
- There are some misconceptions about wildlife activity that can be dispelled through education.
- No one knows your neighborhood, and what goes on there, better than you do.
- Wildlife conflicts can be traumatic and emotional for those who have lost pets.
- Working cooperatively, neighborhoods and Animal Services can reduce wildlife conflicts in our communities.
- Equipped with the right information and tools, we can prevent and resolve most wildlife conflicts.
Irvine’s terrain and wildlife habitat vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. By forming neighborhood-specific teams, the iWild program encourages team members to address the specific wildlife issues they are facing in their neighborhoods.
While Animal Control Officers will remain available to respond to truly dangerous or unusual wildlife activity, they will be less likely to be summoned to deal with the normal activities of Irvine’s wildlife.
It is hoped that working together and armed with the right information, iWild teams and Irvine Animal Control can reduce human-wildlife conflicts in our communities so that both humans and wildlife benefit.
To learn more about the iWild program, or to get involved with an iWild team in your neighborhood, contact Animal Services Supervisor Kimberly Cherney at 949-724-7091 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other excellent resources for living with wildlife in Orange County are: