Three things kids should know if they see animals on their walk to school

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Kids are hitting the sidewalks, pushing the pedals, and waiting for busses for the first time in a few months this week – and for local animals, it may be an entirely new experience.

Whether it’s young raccoons looking for dens, squirrels hiding away treats they’ll eventually forget, or a dog who got off her leash, all the people outdoors relatively early can be a bit surprising and unique. Fortunately, by following a few simple tips, families of all ages can keep local animals, and themselves, happy and safe this back to school season:

  1. Give them space and don’t interact. Whether it’s a little chipmunk, a raccoon, or a coyote, giving animals you don’t know space is always wise. Wild species often don’t want to be too close to people, and making sure they can go about their business without interference will keep them safe from fleeing into dangerous situations, reacting to danger in a conflict-based manner, or getting too comfortable around people (who could be scared or cause other issues). Giving out food to animals can also cause them to become comfortable getting close to people and dangerous places like roadways). Dogs and cats without people shouldn’t be approached by children, and when leashed or with a person, asking for their owners’ permission to say hi is always a good idea.
  2. Act big and make loud noises. If you are uncomfortable because of the proximity of a wild animal, or you think they shouldn’t be so close, acting big and making loud noises can show them that you’re not friendly and cause them to keep their distance or just leave the area. Running away from animals, particularly coyotes or domestic dogs, will encourage them to chase (it’s an instinct).
  3. Share your stories! Whether it’s an adorable Chihuahua walking near your school, a squirrel peering down from a tree as you walk underneath, or a coyote hanging out in the distance, sharing experiences with friends and family is a wonderful way to spread humane education, compassion, and learn more about the animals with whom we share our communities! If it was a negative experience, it’s also important to make sure parents and appropriate local authorities are aware of the incident.

Remember that significant changes in our lifestyles or schedules can have a real impact on the non-human animals in the world around us, and making sure everyone is safe is our responsibility.

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