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for people who care about the West

Living with the wild

  When houses, driveways and garages colonize once-remote locales, the critters already living there might become muted, but they don’t go away. In The Raccoon Next Door: Getting Along With Urban Wildlife, Gary Bogue, former curator of the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, Calif., tells how to co-exist with the wild animals, birds and insects that show up in our backyards and attics.

A wildlife rehabilitator who has treated some 40,000 injured or orphaned patients, Bogue writes about the opossum snoozing the day away in the garage, the bees boring holes in a wooden fence, and the feral pigs rooting up neatly mowed green lawns.

Bogue focuses on Northern California, but imparts advice that’s helpful elsewhere, offering tips on how to keep neighboring wildlife healthy and independent, without letting your own home become unlivable.

Some of his suggestions will disappoint those who give handouts to their furry neighbors in hopes of viewing a backyard menagerie from the breakfast table. Don’t feed the raccoons, the deer or the coyotes. Geese and ducks can be given grapes, produce and chicken scratch, but no stale bread: a big piece might mix with water and harden in the bird’s gullet.

And if you think your pet cat will be unfulfilled without hunting mice, rats, songbirds and treefrogs, don’t come crying to Bogue when your Siamese discovers her place in the food chain in the beak of a golden eagle or the jaws of a coyote.

As the human population grows and spreads, Bogue reminds us in dozens of small ways that what’s left of the wildlife will only survive if we humans are better schooled.

The Raccoon Next Door: Getting Along with Urban Wildlife
by Gary Bogue, illustrations by Chuck Todd
144 pages, paperback: $16.95.
Heyday Books, 2003.