Imagine walking out your front door only to discover that all paths have vanished.
You still have a car and a willingness to walk, but there’s no road, no sidewalk, no clear route to follow. Trees are growing where you were cursing chuckholes the day before.
Creeks are chuckling along, gleefully replacing bridges and culverts. Bogs and rocks and fallen trees have taken the place of mowed parks and groomed yards.
Through determination, you find your way to a grocery store, but a big gate blocks the door. When you figure out how to pass the gate, individuals start shooting at you.
The world you and your family have known is gone.
This isn’t fantasy for wildlife.
Humans develop homes by destroying the environment. They mow down homes and food sources of wildlife. They replace wild places with groomed yards full of hazards: domestic animals, poisons, dead ends at gates and fences.
Desperate to protect their non-native bushes, trees and pets, people propose lethal measures to eliminate hungry and homeless wildlife.
Animals’ routes from one food or water source to another, are turned into deadly mazes of highways, fences and bare landscapes where they and their young are vulnerable to death and injury.
Such situations aren’t inevitable. Each person can do something about living harmoniously with wildlife.
At the same time, we’ll improve a healthy environment for ourselves.
Here are some ideas:
1. Support the idea of intelligent planning on the part of your town, neighborhood, county, and state.
Make sure your area includes wildlife-friendly corridors for wildlife: imagine every park connected to every other park with a path through native trees and bushes.
These are areas where humans don’t have wide, clear paths but where snags provide food and home for birds and small mammals; where brush provides shelter with berries and insect homes for food; where animals, both prey and predator, can hide.
In addition, if these wooded areas approach roads only at certain points, animals will be more inclined to use those places to cross.
Enlightened planners create overpasses or tunnels, so animals can cross roads safely (for both people and animals). If corridors don’t exist where you live, you can help plan them.
Check out the project for wildlife corridors along I-90 for major developments www.forterra.org/subpage/i-90-wildlife-corridor
2. Put food out and they will come. Your neighborhood or town can pass regulations against putting out food that encourages deer, raccoons, squirrels, rats and even predators who feed on smaller animals.
At the same time, keep your own pets in protected yards or indoors, both cats and dogs. If you allow your pets to roam, they become part of the hunter/prey environment.
Meanwhile, put out minerals or other lures where you want wildlife to go (i.e., corridors).
3. Plan yards that fit with the environment. If you must plant exotic plants or if you want to raise vegetables, you have no choice: fence them securely.
4. Killing animals you want don’t want around is a last-ditch option. Hunting means guns blasting away in your environment.
Hunting isn’t a selective method of thinning the population, except by gender, so effectiveness varies. In addition, all shooters aren’t equal: be prepared to deal with wounded and crippled animals.
Ultimately, animal populations are more stable if predators aren’t eliminated. In wilderness, animal populations don’t need humans to “control” them because humans haven’t thrown the natural balance off.
Other options exist, but, thinking ahead and planning to live in harmony with the environment rather than in a constant battle with it can benefit all life.