Getting in touch
with nature

by Genevieve Mariani

My name is Genevieve Gabor Mariani, I am an illustrator, motorcyclist, and animal welfare advocate. I hail from Minnesota where I grew up lonely and wild, relating to animals more than humans. At an early age, I was also inclined to paint, draw and explore the woods around my home.

Here's my column!

This article is edited by Ayswarya Rajeevan and checked by SK

Humans always live alongside wildlife, even in a city. Here in Los Angeles, that is certainly the case. We are surrounded by the vast wildlands, to which numerous species call home. Mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, and racoons reside here - just to name a few!

Photo by Dru Bloomfield

Most people see racoons in their trash cans, and the skunks scuttling down their streets are a nuisance. However, each species plays an important role in our fragile and threatened ecosystem. This is called trophic cascade, which is a powerful indirect interaction between flora and fauna that affects an entire ecosystem. For example, apex predators (wolves, bears, mountain lions) prey upon deer, the population of deer is kept in check which helps rejuvenate tree health. Trees keep rivers healthy and flowing, thus creating an abundant home for salmon and beavers, who also directly affect the health of the river.

Human encroachment has taken a toll on the natural flow of the ecosystem. With ever increasing populations, humans are sprawling out beyond the borders of major cities and suburbs. We use rodenticides, and wild animals eat poisoned rodents, thus their immune systems become compromised. This makes it impossible for them to fight off diseases such as mange (which shouldn't be fatal to a healthy animal). The disease can easily spread - and in Los Angeles we frequently see animals with mange.

Mountain lions have a large territory, one male per 10-370 square miles - so the more of their space that we occupy, the harder it is for them to survive. They are the apex predator responsible for the health of the ecosystem of that entire area. We've even seen cougars trapped by freeways here in Los Angeles.