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I consider it a blessing to have these beautiful animals living here.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

If you live here in Cumberland County in East Tennessee, you already know that we live in one of the most beautiful places in the country. It is easy to sometimes take for granted what folks in other parts of the U.S. can only dream about.

Many people wish they had the beautiful mountains, abundant trees, good water, low cost of living, safe and friendly neighborhoods, waterfalls, moderate year-round weather, hiking trails and the great variety of wildlife that we enjoy — especially the wildlife.

We have probably as great a variety of wildlife here as just about anywhere in the country. The few animals that we don’t have are mountain lions, wolves, grizzly bears, moose, alligators and a few others. We have black bears, coyotes, gray and red foxes, bobcats, otters, beavers, osprey, bald eagles, visiting sandhill cranes and as many bluebirds as anywhere in the country. The animals that we don’t have you probably didn’t want anyhow.

I follow some of the local Facebook groups such as Fairfield Glade Watchable Wildlife, Tennessee Naturalist and Tennessee Snake Identification. These are great online sites that stay up to date with wildlife sightings, questions and information. I learn new information about wildlife every day at these online sites and also learn as much about people posting on the sites.

One thing I learned is that some folks love our local wildlife and some folks fear and fight wildlife on a daily basis. Skunks are a topic that has come up a lot lately. People ask how do you get rid of skunks. I ask, “Why would you want to?”

Those little shallow holes in your yard are from skunks digging out grubs. I consider it non-chemical grub control with free aeration. You usually won’t even know that a skunk was around unless one was attacked by a dog.  

Skunks normally have no reason to spray and won’t unless they are threatened. I have walked within 20 feet of a skunk a number of times with mutual respect and no incidents. There is no need to trap or remove skunks. Relax, live with them and enjoy nature.

Possums scare some people and others love them. They are not the cutest animal, but they rarely cause problems. They eat just about anything, including carrion, and they reduce tick numbers with their meticulous grooming. There is no need to do anything about possums. 

Do you have a beaver in your lake? Just put some “chicken wire” around your trees, and sit back and enjoy the beaver.

It is not uncommon to see bobcats, either at night or on a game camera, or hear coyotes around here. Many people would pay money to experience those animals, but we have them here for free. Is a coyote or bobcat going to jump you or your dog? Probably not. A free roaming house cat might be a little more vulnerable, but humans don’t need to be afraid. I consider it a blessing to have these beautiful animals living here.  

Worried about snakes and bears? Don’t. I just watch where I reach, carry a flashlight at night and feel fortunate when I see one of these native animals. It is dogs and cats that you need to be afraid of. In the U.S., on average, dogs kill over 30 people each year, and horses and cows each kill about 20 people. Snakes account for only about six deaths a year, and bears about one or two, and, those don’t usually happen around here.   

Actually, you are very safe here in the mountains, forests and fields of East Tennessee. It is not the lions and tigers and bears out there that are going to get you. It is the dogs, horses, cows, cars, tripping over the rug and bacon burgers that are much more dangerous. You are living in paradise. Enjoy nature; don’t fight it.

Comments, questions or suggestions for future nature articles are welcome at don.hazel@gmail.com.