SciSun: Right-of-Way   Leave a comment

Most animals are outstanding in their field. This doesn’t mean they’re necessarily the best at what they choose to do; it means they are, literally, out standing in a field. Or running or walking or resting. The majority of animals, wildlife and ‘range’ livestock alike, prefer to be left alone and not bothered by people. Which is strange because most people like to be around animals; but do the animals like to be around us?

Cattle to deer; raccoons to rabbits; and geese to mice – generally, all herbivores as well as those animals that supplement their diet with the occasional insect, egg or fish – seem to prefer a quiet, laid-back life over the more stressful predatory existence. Of course there are always trouble-makers (we’re looking at you, bears), but that type can be found most anywhere. In fact for many of these creatures, particularly those men have ‘tamed’ and pacified and domesticated such as cows, sheep and goats it’s something of a one-way relationship, considering all they provide for us yet how we ultimately treat them; though generally, and for the past thousand years or so, these usually cautious plant-eaters give while we take. But now, reports are coming in of contentious sheep; cows finally fed up; grumpy goats; irritated elk and others seeming to reach the end of their patience and possibly not taking this anymore. Are we seeing the rise of aggressive livestock? A mass organization of omnivores? A sign of the coming cow-maggedon?

Earlier this year, a hiker on public lands accidentally walked between a cow and her newborn calf; the cow ran over, knocked the hiker down and held him to the ground, preventing him from getting back up. Deer, accustomed to being fed by people (although it’s never a good idea to feed wildlife), sometimes claim as their territory the entire ‘food distribution’ area, aggressively keeping people from leaving their homes. (Or putting out deer food. But the deer haven’t understood this counter-productive connection, yet). In suburban parks and open spaces squirrels, raccoons, birds and even rabbits have stood their ground and aggressively defended their space, their families or even concepts important to wildlife that we don’t know or understand. Off-road bicyclists have reported being chased by herds of sheep, which to someone not accustomed to sheep could be somewhat alarming (although it’s not certain if the sheep were actually chasing, or just saw movement and decided to tag along. Sheep are more followers, than leaders).

And while this could be the start of an animal revolution, it’s probably not an example of wildlife insurrection; but of man interfering in the ever-decreasing natural environment that is the animals world. As human development continues to grow further and further from urban areas into transitional zones that have historically separated our human, built environment and the surrounding natural world, what’s been designated open space or wilderness edge or grazing land has now become hiking and camping and recreational space. And while there is generally space for all; that doesn’t mean all can occupy the same space at the same time. Just like most people don’t like others ‘getting into our face’, or acting aggressively or threatening when we’re just trying to get through our day, animals also have their own personal space; and when that space is intruded upon, it’s not surprising at all, really, that our four-legged (or two legs and a pair of wings) kins-creatures take offense. Actually it’s more surprising they put up with as much as they do. The truth is most wildlife and livestock we could encounter in our neighborhood, along the trail, or on public land has more to fear from us, than we do from them. Just leave them alone, give them their space, and enjoy the opportunity of being up close (but not too close) and personal with something you might not see every day. Of course there’s always the possibility to come across a truly dangerous or predatory animal but those cases are rare and often due to humans inattention or foolishness.

After years of patience, Erwin the Elk finally reached his breaking point when one more tourist asked to take a photo standing next to 'Rudolph'.

After years of patience, Erwin the Elk finally reached his breaking point when one more tourist asked to take a photo standing next to ‘Rudolph’.


When given their space and treated with the respect they deserve (remember most any animal is bigger, or has sharper teeth, or can run faster, or is better adapted than we are), we might actually see more in common, than differences, between them and us.


Michonne Says: Marmots are not what you’d call an angry type. We’re actually known for our laid-backiness. But if we get really upset, you’ll be sorry. I once knew a marmot that didn’t like it that men were in his flower-field so when the men were asleep he ate all their treats. That showed them.

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