Archive for the ‘urban’ Tag

SciSun: It’s Only Natural. now even Fresher.   Leave a comment

Considering some recent….experiences…we’ve had while hiking, maybe it’s time to re-fresh and re-post a story about something that you, really, don’t want to see when it’s fresh. Yet…

We’ve all been there. Walking along, enjoying a pleasant day, when on the ground right in front of us is a big pile of dog poop. Or you discover a cat has decided your freshly-planted flowerbed is the perfect place to use as his private toilet. So we step over it, or pick it up, or reason that in the long run it’s fertilizer that might even be beneficial to our garden. After all, what harm could come from a few pets pooping in the environment.

Well, a lot of harm. Because the diet of our cats and dogs has changed over the generations they’ve lived with us, they’re not the same animals as the wild wolf or bobcat. As species, dogs and cats have been domesticated – lived with men – for tens of thousands of years, and in all that time their behavior and possibly even physiology – basic physical processes – have changed to they can better live with humans and enjoy the food and shelter we provide. (Some pet cats like to think they’re still wild, but they’re just fooling themselves). So the wild diets these species historically ate have been replaced with canned animal-and-grain-by-products, and crunchy-beef-flavored-kibble-bits. While most many of the ingredients in pet food is good quality (‘rendered-meat-meal-slurry’??), there are lots of other things in there, including chemicals and preservatives and artificial colors and assorted additives and even parasites and diseases carried over from some of the food sources – that cats and dogs have over time become tolerant of, but like all contaminants eventually pass through the body and end up somewhere.

And that somewhere, if it’s on a hiking trail – or edge of the sidewalk (to be washed away! Into our water systems) – or dumped from a litter box onto the ground – can cause a lot of problems for the environment:

> Modern pet food is so extra-rich in nutrients, it can cause algae blooms if it enters a stream, lake, or other water system. Algae plants (generally green or blue-green algae named cyanobacteria), always present in a healthy aquatic ecosystem, thrive on the excess nutrients and grow out of control until they block sun and oxygen from reaching deep into the water. If the thick concentrations of algae continue, all life in the lake could die.

> Dog and cat poop can carry multiple parasites and diseases that might not harm the pet but could be passed on to other animals. Infectious organisms usually need host animals to survive until they are transmitted to their next unsuspecting victim. And most of these diseases and parasites can affect humans, causing anything from flu-like symptoms to temporary changes in the brain to death.

> The Environmental Protection Agency – the US Government Department responsible for tracking and controlling many hazardous materials – has classified dog and cat waste as an dangerous pollutant, joining the list of oil spills, chemical toxins, and other things that require wearing a HAZMAT suit to clean up.

You can imagine what photos would go with this story.  So here's a totally unrelated picture of a Kodiak brown ('grizzly') bear exploring his home.  Of course he'd probably eat any cat or dog he found pooping in his territory.

You can imagine what photos would go with this story. So here’s a totally unrelated picture of a Kodiak brown (‘grizzly’) bear exploring his home. Of course he’d probably eat any cat or dog he found pooping in his territory.

So whenever your dog does ‘his duty’ remember to pick up the poop, and at home bury the waste in approved containers that dissolve the material or seal in bags and place in the trash. It doesn’t help to leave poop to ‘naturally’ decompose on the ground – eventually the organic waste will break down, but leave behind any pathogens and chemical contaminants. Plus it will probably kill your lawn. If you have a cat, train him to go in the litter box; then it’s up to you to remove the poop and place in the trash. Despite how smart your cat might be because he learned to use the toilet all by himself (!), approximately 50% of all Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris) – an Endangered Species – have been found infected with Toxoplasma gondi, a parasite which needs to pass through the intestines of cats to survive. (In humans, this is the same parasite that can cause brain defects). And those cats are not pooping into the ocean by themselves. The only way eggs of this infectious protozoan could have reached the sea is by flushed water flowing through our city sewers and into the rivers that eventually go to the ocean. Taxoplasma eggs can live up to a year, and typical water treatment used in our cities won’t kill these microorganisms.

Dog and cat poop on the sidewalk; trail; lawn; or even flushed down the toilet isn’t just an inconvenience, it’s an ecological hazard that could pollute the water, leave toxins on the ground, and pass on parasites and disease. While picking up poop might not be the most satisfying time you spend with your pet, it’s part of being a responsible pet owner, and is a small way to care for the environment and wildlife. It’s only natural.


Michonne Says:  Who would have thought there was so much to say about poop.  I’d rather think about the flowers and berries and good things that go in, and not think of anything that comes out.  

Posted August 28, 2016 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

Tagged with , ,

SciSun: Good Mom Bad Mom   Leave a comment

Mothers have quite the responsibility. Wildlife mothers, in particular (mothers of animals that are wildlife. Not necessarily mothers of children that act wild) have to make decisions and choices based upon the safety, protection, health and well-being of their children, while constantly aware of dangers from field and sky: From predators looking for an easy meal; to other members of the group who may not want babies around; to, now more than ever, pressures of a human world where cars, poisons, unsafe discarded food, backyard dogs and cats, and even other children (of the human type) are constant concerns that to wildlife are just more threats in a world already threatening. And animal mothers have to deal with all of it, without the help of a minivan, take out dinners, synched schedules, self-help books or even a convenient coffee bistro on every corner.

On our hikes, nature walks or even in own back yard we might come across young animals such as baby birds; rabbits; even deer who look so small and lonely and vulnerable and abandoned, we just want to help. What kind of mother would leave her babies alone, anyway? These modern wildlife mothers just have no idea how to care for a family. But temporarily leaving their young alone is not only the best way for many wild animals to care for their offspring; it’s the way generations of these species have lived and succeeded in a world that was dangerous long before they had to contend with human development and urban and suburban environments and people who want to help ‘abandoned’ babies yet are doing more harm, than good.

Although clearly told by her mother to 'Not move from where I left you', Fionna the Fawn couldn't help sneaking into the neighbors' pool.

Although clearly told by her mother to ‘Not move from where I left you’, Fionna the Fawn couldn’t help sneaking into the neighbors’ pool.


While by our standards mothers who leave their children might be considered as poor role models (“Do what I say, not what I do!”), this ‘bad’ mothering is a wildlife adaptation that helps hide young animals from predators and draw attention away from the newly-born and toward the adult parents who are better equipped to evade, outrun, or outfox a fox or other predator. Wildlife mothers can leave their babies, safely hidden in tall grass, among shrubbery, or in other thick vegetation for hours or even a day, but always return to feed, care for, and check on the children. Young that seem abandoned and lonely are actually sitting quietly waiting for mothers’ (and sometimes fathers’) return, acting upon thousands of years of evolution and possibly doing just what mother tells them to. (Why human children don’t naturally sit quietly and do what their parents tell them to do, we don’t know.). Many wildlife young even have specialized camouflaged fur and feather patterns, make only soft sounds, and lack any strong odor which helps them hide. Again, just the opposite of human children.

So while any ‘abandoned’ wild baby is cause for our notice; it’s not necessarily cause for our attention. An animal that has been left for more than a day may require assistance from a qualified wildlife rehabilitator; and a baby bird, fallen from its nest, would need a helping hand to place it back in its home (the baby won’t be neglected because a human has touched it. That’s an old wives tale, probably told by an old wife who wasn’t a mother). Generally, the best way to help wildlife young is to leave them alone; keep a respective watch for return of the parents; and enjoy the sight of wild nature overcoming the challenges of living a wild life in a human-centered world. Because while a good wildlife mother might seem to ignore her children; only a bad human mother will interfere with the wildness that surrounds us all.,4669,7-192-71992_71993-378915–,00.html


Michonne Says: My mother always watched us to be certain we didn’t get in trouble and If we went too far way she’d call us back and then we’d never hear the end of it. When I was a baby I didn’t think the world was all that dangerous but now that I am older I see you have to be very careful and always watch for trouble, no matter where adventure takes you.

Posted May 8, 2016 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

Tagged with , ,

SciSun: Ya talkin’ to meese?   Leave a comment

A mouse, is a mouse, is a mouse. (Actually there are over 1000 different types of ‘Myomorpha’, or ‘mouse like rodents’). But the popular image of a mouse is one that hides under your house and comes into the kitchen at night to eat cheese. Why someone would leave cheese out at night we don’t know. But while this ‘standard’ House mouse (Mus musculus) might be the most familiar rodent among all mice, the real story of ‘city mouse or country mouse’ is found among Peromyscus leucopus, the White Footed Mouse, a native species that has lived among humans for thousands of years. And today scientists are finding there are significant differences within this one species not due to centuries of evolution nor changing climate nor even geologic isolation of small populations – but from living in the city.

New York City is the most densely populated city in the United States, with over 8,500,000 people within 305 square miles. (As a comparison the Los Angeles metropolitan area is approximately 500 square miles with a population under 4 million). Also in New York you will find countless numbers of urban wildlife including coyotes; raccoons; possums; bats; millions of birds; and millions more rats and mice. Just as many New York humans are most comfortable staying within one borough – an area within the City large enough to be cities themselves – New York White Footed mice are content to live within one neighborhood. Or city park. Or vacant lot. And each of these areas – tiny mice boroughs in themselves – is showing that not only do mice (and humans) take on unique characteristics of their chosen neighborhood, but among White Footed mice is resulting in genetic differences that distinguish individual mouse populations from their cousins, still of the same species, but living in different areas of the City. Just like a resident of Brooklyn would never, ever be confused with someone from the Bronx.

“Yea, so some guy sez ta' me he sez  'How do I get to Carnigie Hall?  I tell'm practice, lots a practice'. What's you lookin' at?”

“Yea, so some guy sez ta’ me he sez ‘How do I get to Carnigie Hall? I tell’m practice, lots a practice’. What’s you lookin’ at?”

Historically White Footed mice have not lived in close contact with humans, but on the edges of human development, favoring the border and edge areas of forests, fields, and meadows. These White Footed meeses (the plural of ‘mice’. We think.) prefer to remain within a small territory, seldom venturing more than a few hundred feet and when among humans hesitant to venture too far into ‘civilization’ but remaining in vacant lots, parks, and among roadside greenspaces. Scientists have long observed differences in behavior between these city-edge mice and their country-side counterparts; however only recently has the extent of these differences been uncovered. Looking at the DNA of almost 200 mice from 23 different city locations, it’s been found that the White Footed population has undergone two distinct evolutionary landmarks that forever changed, at the most basic level, the species: About 12,000 years ago at the end of the most recent ice age, receding glaciers shaped the geography of much of what is now the Eastern US, creating unique evolutionary distinctions among those species that survived the climatic changes. As the ice ages were an Earth-wide event, similar genetic changes are found in other species. But the second genetic change occurred only 400 years ago, just a moment in evolutionary time, when the area that is now New York City was shaped not by climate but by the arrival of Europeans and the resulting changes from meadows and forested land into agricultural fields, housing, roads and other development. The city mice have developed stronger, more resistant immune systems; differences in intestinal bacteria which helps the mice digest (and survive) less-than-wholesome foods; tend to be more acrobatic than the forest-and-field mice, bounding over vacant lot trash and sprinting among weedy tangles; and within each borough have become so genetically distinct from mice of other boroughs it’s possible to tell exactly in what area each mouse lives. All without checking their transit card.

These mice-sized discoveries are generating a mighty amount of work, as scientists around the world are investigating whether other urban wildlife species have developed not only behavioral changes, but evolved genetically. In this new field of urban evolutionary genomics, researchers are looking into the lives (and DNA) of urban coyotes; pigeons; rats; and other species; it’s already been noted that a certain type of Australian urban spider has evolved a larger body and greater reproductive abilities; and in the Netherlands urban birds sing louder and at a higher pitch to be heard among city sounds. Just as humans have shaped the cites we live in, it seems we’ve also shaped the wildlife that share those cities. And the louder and busier and more complex our lives become, urban wildlife are right there among us, evolving to fit into the city as they remain wild and untamed. Which, according to some opinions, is the perfect and only way to survive in the big city.


Michonne Says: Marmots try to stay away from human places but if any marmots did want to live there (and I don’t know why they would), they would probably change and be different, too. There’s that groundhoggy that the men look at for a shadow or no shadow and I think he lives near humans and they never leave him aloneThat’s enough to change anybody.

Posted April 24, 2016 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

Tagged with , ,

SunSpecial: Give and Take   Leave a comment

The Endangered Species Act, enacted in 1973 to preserve and protect plant and wildlife species threatened by habitat loss; pollution; pesticides and poisons; environmental change; and other challenges, has succeeded in saving dozens of species from extinction – plants and animals that would be gone today if not for protection the Act provides. Yet the law is neither a sharp-edged sword, nor an impregnable shield. For the action to be passed by Congress, considerations and concerns had to be addressed (just as they are with any law as it’s virtually impossible for Congress to agree on anything). One concession written into the law is, unfortunately, the acceptance of a certain number of individuals allowed as ‘take’; which is a less shocking way of saying ‘harm’ or ‘kill’. ‘Take’ has been defined as any actions that: “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect” endangered, threatened, or otherwise protected species. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has also determined that “harm” includes “significant habitat modification or degradation.” Therefore, any actions that could harm an environment that is home to a protected species is itself, protected, and this has been put into action at times when entire ecosystems have been set aside for the benefit of individual species.

But just last month, this aspect of the law was applied not to a developer wanting to fill in wetlands for construction; nor a logging company planning to clear-cut a forest; nor in response to re-routing streams and the distribution of water; but to, of all organizations, a zoo for mistreatment of animals. Today’s modern zoos and animal parks, by definition, are committed to the care, management, protection, and sustainability of wildlife and wild places, and to public education of the species in their care. Any officially recognized zoo (and we’re talking both large and small organizations) has to achieve significant and often very difficult standards of animal care; management and leadership; development and planning; educational programming; community service; health and safety for animals, staff, and guests; and be financially stable to achieve these standards. The zoological accreditation agency – the AZA – applies continuous checks and balances to help zoos reach and maintain these goals and if the zoo should fail at any obligation, its accreditation could be withdrawn and support lost.

A wolf confined to a small cement and wire cage while some random person sticks his fingers through the wire. Who's in more danger, the wolf or the person?

A wolf confined to a small cement and wire cage while some random person sticks his fingers through the wire. Who’s in more danger, the wolf or the person?

Not any place who calls themselves a ‘Zoo’ holds, or even attempts to reach, these high standards. Many roadside attractions that advertise ‘pet the bear’ or ‘feed the tiger’ or ‘play with the ostriches’ (which, themselves, are all activities expressively prohibited by the AZA as being potentially dangerous to both animals and guests) are not ‘zoos’ but just animal collections. In these ‘mom and pop’ animal sideshows, care is often poor; health not addressed; living conditions a minimum; and it’s not unusual for animals to suffer and die with no one knowing (or particularly caring). The animals, themselves, are usually pets someone thought would be fun to have as babies, but soon grow into large, hungry, powerful adult animals that are always wild (there’s no such thing as a ‘tame’ wild animal). In some situations, animals were purposely bought and sold for use in roadside zoos, never knowing freedom – or taken from the wild to live a life being poked and prodded while confined within in a small plywood and cement enclosure. So on February 11 when the United States District Court ruled the Cricket Hollow Zoo of Iowa had violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to provide adequate sanitation, veterinary care, and appropriate environmental conditions to tigers and lemurs, it was a significant step forward toward upholding the Act not only as a rule for species in the wild; but for all threatened wild species. By lack of care, the Court determined the animals had suffered harassment within the regulations of the Endangered Species Act and this decision was supported through experts in animal care and zoological management including veterinarians and Department of Agriculture inspectors. The final decision stated that the endangered species held at Cricket Hollow must be transferred to a licensed facility with the ability to properly care for the animals and the zoo could no longer hold nor display endangered species.

Accredited, well-managed, and responsible zoos are somewhat of a contradiction; their entire purpose is to protect, preserve, and educate us, the public, about wildlife and wild places while at the same time holding animals that may never again return to those wild places (Most experts believe that within the next 50 years the only surviving polar bears will be in zoos, the entire wild population extinct due to climate change; and in only 20 years rhinoceros may be gone from the wild with only a small population living in zoos). The last individual Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius), only 200 years ago widespread in the millions across much of North America, survived a natural lifespan only because it was protected in a zoo. But there are success stories too, such as the California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus), once down to only 22 individuals but through the help of zoos and research institutions now established within portions of its historic environment. No one wants a wild, free animal held in a space only a fraction of its normal territory. But the world these species knew for generations is gone, forever changed by man. And for some animals to survive – and for humans to learn and understand these wild-life; our decisions, and our actions, and our management today might be their, and our, last hope.


Michonne Says: I’ve never seen one of those ‘zoos’, but it doesn’t sound like anyplace I’d like to live, even if you do get all you want to eat and no one’s going to eat you. The zooses sound crowded and noisy and hot and without very much adventure. Sometimes men say they live in places like that too. Are those zoos for men?

Posted March 20, 2016 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SunSpecial

Tagged with , , ,

Behind the Mask: Pumpkin Stuffing   Leave a comment

As many of us are finishing up those Thanksgiving feast leftovers (last to go: Turkey casserole); and looking forward to the upcoming Christmas feast (first to go: Gravy. People never get enough gravy), what was once fresh and inviting too often sits at the back of the refrigerator, largely overlooked, until one day discovered and cleared out to make room for the next well-intentioned-for-lunch but possibly forgotten foil-wrapped package or plastic container. And while each year the average household throws away the equivalent of two dozen meals, it’s not just family and friends who are enjoying the seasonal bounty; in what we consider ‘trash’ is a waiting banquet for wildlife seen and unseen; who may be looking forward to our scraps even more than we’re savoring that second helping of mashed potatoes. And gravy.

Wildlife, all with natural histories and families going back hundreds of generations and thousands of years before man, never expected to live in today’s world. While some have been forced into ever-decreasing territories and others are now extinct, a few have become synanthropic species that have become quite successful in our human world. The American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) – a dirunal, or active in the daytime animal; and Raccoon (Procyon lotor), more of a nocturnal, nightime explorer; work round the clock navigating our urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods, not only living but thriving in a world built for humans, but suiting some animals rather well.

Christmas raccoon

“…OH, you mean that spunkpin pie? I’m keeping it safe…IN MY TUMMY!”


While the two can scarcely be considered partners (in fact, crows don’t trust raccoons and raccoons only accept crows because they raid crow nests and eat crow eggs – which is probably why they have earned crow disrespect), both species, furred and avian alike, have evolved similar – or modified existing – behaviors to exploit our unique human-environments: Both are omnivorous, seeking and eating anything that can be eaten from insects to seeds to convenience store pizza (which really takes a, let’s say, talent to eat); both find, and make homes, in any area that’s deemed protected and dry, not being too choosy between trees (nests in branches for crows; holes in trunks for raccoons), to eves and under the overhangs of buildings to, for our masked friends, any old abandoned log on the ground or hole in the wall. (Literally. In many cities, particularly where the climate is harsh, raccoons find their ways into attics, basements, or even inside walls). But one behavior shared by both, obvious yet often disturbing to some people, is the animals’ fondness for what we would rather not think of : Roadkill and human trash.

While disgusting to some, the fact is something has to happen to everything, and putting trash on the curb for pickup – or putting the unfortunate victims of roadkill out of our minds (the animals too slow, too trusting, or too engaged in just going about their business who fall victims to our cars; or rather, the drivers of those cars) doesn’t just mean these things go away; but rather, they re-enter the food chain by becoming food for someone else. While we may not intend our trash to become some animals dinner (and if they are going to tear open those garbage bags, just don’t make such a mess of it), it’s not a presumption of wildlife taking advantage of a convenient and free meal, but rather it’s us, as humans, who have created a human-centric world in which these animals have learned to survive. And as we dispose the remainders from our next feast – from a Holiday, or celebration, or for many of us a typical dinner – remember that leftover stuffing (and gravy!), might be going directly into stuffing someone else.


Michonne Says: Raccoons and kraw-crows might not be the most friendly, but they aren’t anything for marmots to be afraid of. I’ve seen kraw-crows scare off hawks so that’s good for everyone, except maybe the hawk. I don’t know what raccoons do, they always seem to be up to something and that something usually causes trouble so it’s best to just keep away before that trouble finds you, too.

Posted December 13, 2015 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in ECOVIA Central

Tagged with , ,

SciSun: Yule Haul   Leave a comment

Santa’s coat never had a chance of making it through the winter. Intended as Christmas decorations for front porches and neighborhood parks, fur-wrapped Santas – as well as scarf-wearing plastic snowmen, plush stuffed reindeer and even the occasional fuzzy abominable snowman – have been found slowly plucked of their warm wrappings. As nights grow longer, temperatures become colder and snow begins to fall, throughout much of the southwestern US; areas normally with little vegetation and during winter, even less; holiday trimmings are not falling victim to an unknown case of Yuletide mange, but the work of small rodents – such as the Antelope Ground Squirrel (Ammospermophilus leucurus), who are collecting fur, string, yarn, and other scraps of soft, warm, and plush material to line their nests for the winter. And possibly add some season decoration inside their homes. There’s no place to hang a front door wreath, on a burrow.

While not related to the deer- like Antelope (which, isn’t a deer, either), the Antelope Squirrel; along with the other more than three dozen types of ground squirrels native to North America; are among the most widely-distributed, variously colored and patterned, and found in the most diverse environments of any other rodent genus. Ranging from just a few inches to over two feet long (Marmots!), various species of ground squirrel can be found living among rocks; in open fields; digging burrows in soft soil or packed dirt; in vacant lots or mountain meadows; and just about any place there’s enough space to fit into. Ranging from dusty brown to tan and gold to deep chocolate with black and white highlights (all natural – that’s the way it grows in!); the squirrels can also sport solid colors or stripes. Many of the smaller species, between six to eight inches long, are often confused with the Chipmunk (Tamias spp.). While somewhat difficult to tell apart, particularly as all rodents usually move quickly and always seem to have somewhere to go or something to do, chipmunks are often seen in trees while ground squirrels seldom leave the ground. A more reliable measure is to observe the dark and white stripes on both sides of their bodies; while found on both squirrels and chips, the stripes continue onto the head only on the chip, while the squirrels head is a solid color with fading color variations and usually a very lightly-colored ring, or eyespot, around each eye. Also, chipmunks are often chased by an angry duck.

Ground squirrel in snow

“It’s like, really cold out here. Are my teeth chattering?”

True omnivores, relying mostly on grass, seeds and other plant material, most ground squirrel species will happily eat insects, lizards, and for some, even gnaw on dead animals. Always ready to accept human left-overs (don’t feed the wildlife), ground squirrels can carry fleas which, themselves, could transmit the Bubonic Plague (Yersinia pestis), the same disease that killed 25 million Europeans in the mid 1300’s, the time known as the Black Death. While this can’t be blamed on ground squirrels (the fleas were probably spread by rats and humans themselves, who weren’t as clean then as most of us try to be now), there are still cases of the disease reported today. So while having a family of ground squirrels digging burrows under your house or taking food from your hand might be cute, there’s over 25 million reasons not to do that.

But the squirrels have to live somewhere, usually just, literally, a hole in the ground, and in the desert there’s very little soft grass or cushioning moss or comfortable left-over hair from other animals to make a home really feel like a home (Best: Bison fur. Worst: Cat hair-balls). Ground squirrels – or most all squirrels, for that matter – don’t truly hibernate (shelter underground for the entire winter, not eating nor drinking; the heart rate and other body functions slow to the point the animal could appear dead), most squirrels do take long naps to conserve their energy and avoid the harshest winter weather. When you’re only a few inches long with short hair, and the humans are nice enough to put out all those fuzzy and furry and fleecy things, just sitting there, at exactly the right time of the year when most squirrel thoughts turn not to holiday parties and gifts but to preparing a safe, comfortable burrow, it’s hard for a squirrel to resist helping herself to some free home improvement materials. And if in the process that makes our front-yard santas and reindeer and plush animals look a little threadbare, maybe that’s a way we, who have a lot, can give to those, who have a little.


Michonne Says: Marmots are the worlds largest squirrels! Sometimes I see the little squirrels and I think they must feel bad being so small and all, but they don’t seem to mind. Some of them have pretty stripes that might be nice to have, and it’s easier for them to hide when hawks come around. But that’s one good reason to be a squirrel, we come in all shapes and sizes. Just some of us are more naturally rounded than others.

Posted November 29, 2015 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in ECOVIA Central

Tagged with , ,

SciSun: Ill-Eagle   Leave a comment

In most of our human environments – whether we know it or not – we are surrounded by wildlife. (Or maybe it’s our lives that are intruding into their environments). From crows to robins to deer to possum to unknown numbers of insects to dozens of species of grey and brown sparrows that even birdwatchers have trouble identifying – the un-official watcher designation is ‘LBB’ for ‘little brown bird’ – humans and wildlife share the same space. And, for many of us, we like to think we help the animals by rescuing ‘abandoned’ babies; chasing away hawks and other natural predators; and putting out food because those animals just look so hungry!

While feeding wildlife is not encouraged, for the health and well-being of the animals in many areas it’s actually against the law to attract, detract, disturb, harass, relocate, or otherwise effect the natural behavior of wildlife unless they are a health risk or threat – and then, any actions usually require someone trained in wildlife care. While some animals such as rats, cockroaches, flies, and feral cats aren’t considered wildlife, known for breeding and spreading disease dangerous to both humans and other animals; familiar animals like squirrels; deer; raccoons; varieties of wild mice; and other species truly are wild creatures (although some are non-native, introduced species which is a whole topic in itself). Unfortunately, often through artificial feeding or habitat construction, these wildlife congregate into large, un-naturally encouraged groups where intra-species diseases – illnesses that effect only that one species; and inter-specific diseases, that can spread between various species including humans – can readily be transmitted within and among populations, leading to suffering and death for the same animals we wanted to help by feeding them – and for other animals we may never see, but affected by transmitted diseases.

Feeding a couple of ducks is all fun and games until the crowd arrives and there are more beaks, than treats.

Feeding a couple of ducks is all fun and games until the crowd arrives and there are more beaks, than treats.

(Feeding backyard birds, however, is usually allowed as long as the feed doesn’t attract unwanted wildlife. Or the birds aren’t endangered or otherwise protected, such as eagles and other threatened species . Of course migratory birds, like robins and the majority of other birds, are protected, but they can usually still be fed. Feeding geese, ducks and other waterfowl is harmful as it could change their migration patterns and crowding could lead to water-born disease. And don’t overfeed any birds, or make them dependent upon human-provided food, which could result in weak and sick birds. Bird feeding rules are generally more like guidelines.)

So, really, just leave wildlife alone and it will be better for all; primarily for the animals, who were doing just fine without our interference; and for the humans who, no matter how much you want to hand-feed that squirrel (have bandages handy) or set our corn for the deer (two deer one day will miraculously become ten deer tomorrow), or hug that baby bear (NEVER a good idea), just remember what your mother told you and look, but don’t touch. There’s a video going around of a kayaker gently ‘poking’ a resting sea otter in the stomach to wake him up, because…, well, just because he could. (Bet the boater wouldn’t have done that to a sleeping elephant seal). Not only is this wrong on many levels – the Pacific Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris) is protected both as an Endangered Species and under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, anyone disturbing an otter can be fined or even put in jail; but bothering any resting animal, particularly one that thinks it’s safe, is very unkind. If you’ve ever woken your dog from a nap, remember the mean look you got.


Michonne Says: Flowers and berries are the best to eat. Sometimes if you’re really hungry grass or leaves or even little twigs are fine if that’s all there is, but never, ever eat man food. That’s just for men even if it looks OK. That poppy-corn I found tasted good, but later I didn’t feel so well.


Posted November 8, 2015 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

Tagged with , , , ,