The discovery of dead bats in Laguna Niguel Regional Park last week is a reminder that we share our suburban world with wildlife.
Dr. Hildy Meyers, Orange County epidemiologist, reports that four dead bats have been found at the park during the past three weeks.
As to the health risk they pose, Meyers said that “among the general population of bats, the rate of rabies is relatively low, but these bats that are found dead or on the ground have a far higher chance of being infected.”
She advises residents to “never touch a wild animal” and to “avoid attractors,” such as open windows and food left outdoors.
Donald Benno, a local resident, had an alarming encounter with wildlife recently while walking his dog, Rocky, on Salt Creek Trail.
When he saw something under a tree move, his first thought was that "it might be a bobcat, but as I got closer, I concluded it was a tree trunk. But when I approached and was about 30 feet near, I panicked when I realized it was a bobcat!”
Concerned for Rocky, Benno said, he "panicked and ran to grab Rocky, screaming loudly," as the cat approached.
When Rocky was safe, “I turned around to see if the cat had run away, and to my surprise, he had hopped into the tree and was calmly looking at me from 15 feet away. He seemed very calm, unlike me.”
Not long after his encounter, Benno ran into a fellow dog-walker and "warned her to beware of the bobcat in the tree. She calmly said, 'That cat is here all the time'" but said "he always left the dogs alone."
It's unusual for a bobcat to be so used to humans, and bobcats, though not unheard of, are only occasionally spotted in the city, say Laguna Niguel Regional Park rangers, who say their last sighting was more than a year ago.
Included in Laguna Niguel’s initial master plan were stipulations that one-third of the land be dedicated to open space. The 34 parks, according to the department of Parks and Recreation, preserve the habitats of many native species. With open space comes an abundance of wildlife that is prevalent just off the paved path.
Authorities say that when you are near a wild animal, remember that no matter how friendly it seems, it is still wild. Many animals carry rabies, and no animal should be fed or approached.
For more information about wild animals that make their home in Orange County, visit ocsd.org/ocgov/Info%20OC/Departments%20&%20Agencies/OC%20Animal%20Care/General%20Information/Wildlife%20Information