Photo by Robert Bunch

Our neighborhood is passionate about and proud of its relationship with nature. From our lake and creeks to wildlife, we always want to know more about our environment. East Dallas especially loves to lose its mind over coyotes and bobcats. As pictures and stories are posted online, reactions range between fear, hatred, love and pity.

Dallas’ Urban Biologist Brett Johnson focuses urban wildlife like coyotes, bobcats and feral hogs, and has some tips and reassurance for neighbors. East Dallas, because of its green space within the White Rock Creek corridor that runs from North Dallas down to the Trinity River, is a popular habitat for these predators.

Johnson has been a biologist in the area for 13 years, and says there hasn’t been an uptick in coyote or bobcat populations in his time here, but that the hysteria surrounding social media posts makes it seem that way.

As summer moves into fall, the animals will need more energy to stay warm, so they will be more active, but attacks on humans extremely rare.

“Unless you are trying to hand some kibble to a coyote, you should be fine,” Johnson says.

Neighbors should raise their voice and shout if they see a coyote, but not back away, or the canines will be encouraged to continue their approach. Johnson recommends cutting off the food chain for these predators as well.

“If you are feeding outdoor cats, you are feeding more that just cats,” he says. The food may not be going directly to coyotes or bobcats, but it is feeding rodents and smaller mammals that are their prey.

Johnson also works on the Blackland Prairie restoration throughout our neighborhood, including 160 acres near White Rock Lake. He manages the mowing schedule to preserve the prairie and not interfere with all who enjoy the land, including monarch butterflies.

For two to three weeks in October, Dallas will be a stop on the southward monarch migration, and the prairies around White Rock Lake are an essential habitat for the butterflies. The city has built a series of prairies and pollinator gardens running through East Dallas towards the Trinity to provide habitats for monarchs and Texas’ hundreds of bee species (don’t worry, most of the bees are solitary and non-aggressive).

These pollinators are essential to local ecosystems as well as our agriculture, which requires pollinators to help create fruit and vegetables. Johnson says neighbors can help pollinators by avoiding pesticides and planting pollinator-friendly gardens.

“If it is really green, it means there is a lot of chemicals they are putting down,” he says. He recommends phlox, Indian Paintbrushes, autumn sage and Texas Lantana as plants that are both aesthetically and ecologically beneficial.

Learn more about sharing the city with coyotes here, and see how to build a pollinator garden here.

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