Humans can coexist with predators

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Who doesn’t love to watch birds around a feeder as you drink your coffee on a snowy winter morning?  
After getting through the long dry winter of last year and the fires of summertime, I did.
I waited to put our birdfeeder out until I was sure the bears were away.  
The Las Conchas Fire destroyed habitat for the large predators in the county.
If you watch black bears and mountain lions closely, you can tell when they are in flux. After the fire, these animals were forced to find new ranges.
Survival isn’t easy. By the time the snow came though, I hadn’t seen a bear in a long time and the mountain lions did not seem to be hovering close to North Mesa like they did last spring when the extreme drought brought them searching for water.
It seemed alright to feed the birds. Sometimes our birdfeeder attracts raccoons but it was cold enough that there weren’t many around — just one female raccoon with a couple of older cubs I noticed a couple of times playing in our old withering jack-o-lanterns.  
A few days before Christmas though, my children found part of a young raccoon in the canyon behind our house.
It had obviously been killed by a mountain lion. A few days later I read  about the Camino Redondo incident involving a mountain lion attack on a dog.
I was sad for the family who lost their pet and for the lion, too. Usually these predators are lured to town out of desperation. Drought and the destruction of habitat because of the fire produced this desperation.
Big predators are an essential part of the ecosystem of the American West. We need them. We can coexist but we need to keep a close eye on our children and pets.  
Cats began to go missing in Los Alamos late in the fall. I saw a sign for a little lost dog a week or so before Christmas. The numbers were small, however, so I thought maybe it was just some coyotes.
Anyhow, after the lion was destroyed on Christmas Eve, I assumed the drama had passed. A few nights after Christmas though something happened. I was watching an old movie a bit after midnight when all hell broke loose in the tree above our deck —- the deck where our birdfeeder hangs.  
A mountain lion and raccoon were fighting. The raccoon got away.  We still have a lion roaming North Mesa though.  
The lion doesn’t need to suffer the fate of the lion on Camino Redondo.
Our birdfeeder is going.  
Please Los Alamos — keep your cats inside and your dogs leashed. When your dog barks, take the time to see why.
Let’s hope this winter’s snows bode well for the future but for now the big predators are really suffering. We can coexist.

Lynn Hanrahan
Los Alamos