SciSun: Double-Crossed   Leave a comment

Why did the turtle cross the road?

To get to the other side, because there’s probably a good reason why (that we may not understand) she needs to be on the other side.

Every day, thousands of wildlife endeavor the hazardous journey of crossing roads; traversing parking lots; flying among weather vanes, windmills and other threats to flight; or even remaining quietly in place hoping no one will bother them. But the world animals evolved to live in is far different than the world man has constructed for his lifestyle – wildlife can often find themselves strangers in a strange land – and behaviors that have taken millennia to develop can be reversed in a moment by a (human) well-wisher or do-gooder.

Of course, if you’re going to do anything, doing good is better than the alternative; however where nature meets civilization, wildlife can find their paths crossed when people ‘rescue’ young animals found hidden in tall grasses; or ‘help’ a turtle off the road by moving her a few feet back from the direction she came; or feeding animals that look helpless and hungry – they always seem happy to get the food!

And while, by definition, all these good-deeds are done with good-intentions, unfortunately the actions may cause more harm, than good:

While young wildlife may appear abandoned, many animal parents purposely leave the area where they’ve hidden their offspring for hours – or possibly a day or more – at a time, to mislead predators away from the young. By ‘rescuing’ or even drawing attention to these hiding places, humans could be exposing the young to danger.

Wildlife that may seem ‘out of place’, like turtles far away from water, raccoons, squirrels and possums trying to cross highways, and birds laying quietly on the grass, are probably not sick or lost, but moving from territory to territory. Pond turtles, for example, can travel hundreds of yards away from water in normal conditions, and during a drought have been recorded traveling through fields, over roads, and even past human developments while seeking out places to estivate (summer dormancy – similar to hibernate). Of course, if an animal is near dangerous traffic, she could be gently helped across – in the direction she was heading.

After being told by his mother to stay in this exact spot until she returns, Buckson the fawn would have counted the passing minutes.   If he only knew how to count.

After being told by his mother to stay in this exact spot until she returns, Buckson the fawn would have counted the passing minutes. If he only knew how to count.

It’s never a good idea to feed wildlife – except birds, which research has shown seem less likely to depend upon one source of food but continue to seek out alternatives, no matter how much expensive food we put in our feeders. Once most wild animals identify a source of food – if that source is a field with berry-producing plants; neighborhood garbage cans; pet food left outside; or handfuls of corn thrown on the ground – the animals continue to return and expect the food, often suffering if our human-handouts disappear. Or, in the case of larger animals (elk); stronger (bear); or smarter (raccoon), who can cause damage or become dangerous in their search for the food source.

Both by Federal and state laws, in most areas it’s illegal to capture, collect, intentionally kill or injure, possess, purchase, propagate, sell, transport, import or export any native animal without authorization. Reptiles, amphibians, and migratory birds are particularly sensitive and under even greater protection. It’s also illegal – and unwise – to return any captive animal to the wild. Despite how lost or lonely or helpless wild animals may appear – particularly those young, small, or cute – the best rule to follow is ‘If you care leave them there’. While in the larger picture wildlife, their ecosystems, and the natural world can benefit by smart choices and positive actions we can all make; individually, unless they are injured or threatened most wildlife can do just fine on their own, thank you very much. They’ve been specialists at their work far longer than humans have built cites or developed technology or even ‘discovered’ fire, and might have more we can learn from them, than anything we can create ourselves. From time to time, all of us need to cross to the other side of the road.


Michonne Says: The best place to be left alone is underground. And it’s a lot cooler. No one will bother you unless they already know where to look (or they’re dangerous trouble-makers which is why you always need more than one tunnel out). But there’s no flowers or grass so you have to bring your own. I think there should be flowers that grow underground so we could stay there as long as we’d like.

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