Information key to coexistence with wild critters |

Information key to coexistence with wild critters

Our hearts go out to Richard and Debbie Jelinek, whose beloved 7-month-old Labradoodle, Ginger, was killed as a result of a coyote attack during a hike up Smuggler Mountain Road two weeks ago. Similarly, we sympathize with anyone who has experienced the sudden loss of any type of pet because of the actions of a wild animal, or even through the intervention of a vehicle, an illness or some other cause of death.

To many people, the love of a domestic animal is akin to what a parent feels for a child. This is certainly true in Aspen, where dogs accompany their owners on trips to the bank or grocery store, or spend the day in their guardian’s workplace, or hang out next to a restaurant table during lunch or dinner dates. We’ve even seen pets at Aspen City Hall, lying quietly on the soft carpet as their owners speak out during public hearings. Pets are often important and meaningful extensions of ourselves.

The tragedy involving Ginger seems to have stirred the longtime controversy over whether wild animals should be held responsible for such violent actions. Letters to The Aspen Times mostly reflect compassion for the Jelineks while also pointing out that Aspen lies on the edge of a vast wilderness. The coyotes were here first, many writers have stated, and we are the ones intruding upon their natural way of life. We agree with this sentiment, and believe a measure of common sense is needed when taking pets out on the town or into the wilderness for a stroll.

Some areas, such as Smuggler Mountain, don’t require that pets be held on a leash; but in most cases, leash requirement or not, it makes sense to keep a pet within safe proximity. It’s always fun to unhook the harness and let a dog roam freely – until an accident occurs. Cats also are a concern, often allowed to perch upon a sundeck or carouse in the early morning hours near an apartment complex. Unfortunately, they too have fallen victim to the local wild-animal population.

It’s also important to recognize the needs and habits of the wild animals, which are plentiful in the mountains outside of Aspen and throughout the Roaring Fork Valley. In the wake of Ginger’s death, Pitkin County officials have decided to hold a meeting on June 14 to discuss “coyote management” with state wildlife experts. Information-gathering sessions that deal with the issue of coexistence among humans, pets and wild critters are key to finding common ground and solutions to any prevailing problems.

We applaud the county’s efforts to look into the issue, with an eye toward protecting the rights of wild animals and pet owners alike. We also laud the posting of a link to the county Open Space and Trails Board website that offers tips on “Living with Coyotes.”

Understanding, not eradication, is the sober and responsible course of action.

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