FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Whether cute and fuzzy, slimy and slippery, or big and furry, Fort Leonard Wood is teeming with wildlife. As summer approaches, human encounters with animals are increasingly likely.
“Anyone who spends a beautiful summer day outdoors in Fort Leonard Wood has undoubtedly encountered their fair share of mosquitoes, ticks, songbirds and squirrels,” said Eric Magoon, a police sergeant of the Conservation Law Enforcement Section of the Emergency Services Branch. “There are a myriad of wildlife that inhabit Fort Leonard Wood, as well as a wide variety of reptiles and amphibians.”
Wildlife protection is not just a matter of hunting or recycling rules and regulations; knowing how to live alongside wildlife is also important.
Sick or injured wild animals
While the first instinct of seeing an injured or sick animal may be to help, Magoon said such cases are best left to the experts. Any injured wildlife should be reported to the Provost Marshal’s Office at 573.596.6141.
Trying to help could have consequences for both human and animal, Magoon said.
“It’s important that people don’t try to manipulate or provide assistance to wildlife,” he said. “While someone’s intentions may be pure concern, wildlife does not understand this, and there is a high probability that wildlife will try to defend themselves in addition to the risk of transmitting a (disease that can be transmitted to humans by animals).”
Seeing a young animal alone can also seem concerning to the well-meaning human, but there’s usually no need to act, Magoon said.
“If the animal impedes traffic or affects military activities, the PMO must be notified,” he said. “If it is determined that the animal may need to be moved, the PMO will dispatch the game warden to move the wildlife. Otherwise, the best thing to do is to leave it alone and give it plenty of space.
Consequences of interference
It’s important to remember that all wildlife is protected or managed, according to Magoon.
“Harassment of wildlife is a violation of the Missouri Wildlife Code and may result in the issuance of a citation,” he said.
This includes native snakes, which are protected, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation. The Missouri Wildlife Code treats snakes, lizards, and most turtles as non-game animals, which means there is no open season – killing or harassing snakes is illegal.
Feed the wildlife
Feeding wildlife is also dangerous for animals and humans. This can teach them to associate humans with food, Magoon said, which increases the likelihood of an attack or bite and the spread of disease.
Bear on Fort Leonard Wood
According to the MDC, the black bear is the only bear found in Missouri and one of the largest and heaviest mammals in the state. Most of them live south of Interstate 44, including Pulaski County, but can be found further north occasionally. Bear sightings are not unprecedented at Fort Leonard Wood.
For those who encounter a black bear on the facility, Magoon had some tips.
“If you’re on foot, it’s important not to run,” he said. “Make yourself look as tall as possible by stretching out your arms and making lots of loud noises.”
Black bear encounter risks can be reduced by securing any food or trash that needs to be stored outdoors, Magoon said, and making lots of noise while recreating outdoors.
The MDC has requested that all black bear sightings be reported on its website.
The first step in wildlife protection and conservation is education, and Magoon recommended taking some of the free courses and webinars offered by the MDC.
Magoon said the United States has the most unique and successful conservation program in the world, and we are fortunate to live in a place where wildlife and wild places are recognized as the public resources they are – it takes effort from all sides to keep wild places enjoyable for generations to come.
“Without continued effort and public support, this valuable resource will be exploited and eventually cease to be,” Magoon said. “We have a duty to ensure that our wildlife and wild places are conserved, so that they can continue to be used.”
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