WILD ANIMALS: My sister lives on Knoxville’s eastern fringe, almost in Sevier County. She says that just in the past year the number of coyotes, wild turkeys, and deer has exploded. People are also reporting bears.

That seems to be a trend. This article from the Wall Street Journal reports:

Nationwide, however, the real things — wild animals and birds of many species, including such people-shy critters as bears, coyotes, moose, elk, cougars and turkeys — are multiplying, spreading and learning to live near people. Conflicts are on the rise.

The cause, many people think, is sprawl encroaching into wild habitat. That’s true only in part, say wildlife biologists. While sprawl is moving out, the forests in which many species once flourished is moving in, covering over millions of acres of abandoned farmland that once served as a buffer. Also, much modern sprawl is built, unconsciously, to be wildlife-friendly — what wildlife biologists call “enhanced habitat,” with more food, shelter, water, hiding places and protection from predators than exist in the wild.

People, meanwhile, make sprawl even more inviting, wittingly and unwittingly. They’re increasingly ignorant of how wild nature works — what author Richard Louv calls “nature-deficit disorder.” Just as they treat pets as children, so to do many treat wild animals as pets, leaving out birdseed and pet food, tossing a cookie to a backyard bear.

We have a problem with bears leaving the Big South Fork and showing up at people’s homes, too. I’ve written about this stuff before, (also here) and I highly recommend David Baron’s The Beast in the Garden: The True Story of a Predator’s Deadly Return to Suburban America, which reads like a thriller novel even though it’s nonfiction.

Plus, there’s this essay from Kirsten Mortenson, which defends animal rights. Specifically, the right of animals to be thought of as animals.

UPDATE: Related thoughts from John Hinderaker.

And Tom Spaulding certainly encountered plenty of wildlife.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More here, from not far from the setting for Baron’s book. My advice: Buy a gun, make a rug. (Via ChicagoBoyz).