Stephen DeStefano has worked as a wildlife biologist in nearly a dozen states and seen nuisance wildlife problems of every kind.

And his conclusion, in short: “This is not Disneyland.”

After 30 years as a biologist, DeStefano has found people’s views of living with wildlife and getting along with wildlife, even trying to help wildlife, are out of kilter with reality.

DeStefano, a University of Massachusetts-Amherst professor and the leader of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Massachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, will be speaking on this subject in Maine on two occasions in two weeks.

With urban sprawl and development seemingly unending, DeStefano thinks the public should recognize we are encroaching on wildlife habitat and that is why we find, as his recent book suggests, the “Coyote at the Kitchen Door.”

DeStefano doesn’t see these close quarters so much a problem as a call for awareness as we find more critters in our neighborhoods, yards or even our homes. It’s not an easy message for everyone.

Brad Thompson in Freeport has just this problem with a pack of coyotes that killed one of his cows. Thompson thinks the coyotes should be “extirpated.”

“My thoughts with coyotes, once they start taking down a 1,200-pound animal, we have a serious problem,” said Thompson, 50, who has lived in Maine for 49 years.

Thompson said 80 years ago when his grandfather settled his 60-acre Freeport farm, there were no coyotes in the area.

“Just from what everybody is saying, all the hunters and farmers hearing these coyotes, I think we have way too many,” Thompson said. “I’ve talked to people in Portland who have seen them.”

This is the thinking DeStefano wants to address and change by sharing stories from his work as a biologist.

“Part of it was getting people to think about these things and to stop for a minute and think about where we’re heading,” DeStefano said. “How do we develop the landscape and how do we build our communities? Do we continue to build trophy houses on two to three acres? Do we really need more roads?”

With a penchant for development here in America, DeStefano’s book suggests that we as a generation need to recognize we share the planet with other species, and they have needs of their own — many different from our own.

This is the kind of thinking DeStefano hopes to spread as he discusses his new book, which is both a memoir and a collection of professional essays.

“Even the title, I use that almost symbolically to show we’re building communities further into wildlife habitat. We are taking over more land. Certainly, it’s affecting some species negatively,” DeStefano said.

“That’s the image I want to put out there, that there are coyotes at the kitchen door, but they are not so much the big, bad predator who’s come to raid the chicken coop.”

DeStefano said there are ways we can minimize conflicts with wildlife.

And by the same token, he said, people need to step back from wildlife. There are many who have an unrealistic view of living with wildlife as pets, he said.

Some people want to feed coyotes, bears and deer when the world these animals exist in is very different from that of a domestic dog or cat.

“People look at wildlife and obviously relate strongly to wildlife. But these are wild animals, not pets. We’ve had a situation here in Massachusetts where we’ve had moose move back into the state over (recent) years. “They’re pretty dangerous. And yet people still want to go up to them and pet them,” DeStefano said.

“That’s not a particularly good idea.”

It is exactly this fascination with wild animals that DeStefano views as the key to helping us all find better ways to live with wild critters.

“Wildlife is important to me. I know it is for millions of people. It is a very personal thing,” DeStefano said.

“I’m working from that foundation, that most people really care about this stuff.”

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

[email protected]