Cheryl Kimball's Nature Talks: We need to cherish wildlifeBy CHERYL KIMBALL April 13. 2018 10:18PM
I reached my hand into the cheese drawer the other day and almost got snapped by a trap. Same thing when I opened a drawer to get new placemats for the table — snap! A small end of my finger was taken off by a very strong spring trap. Heading out to the garage, I almost stepped in a very big hole — there was water at the bottom and floating bits of Oreo cookies. Had I fallen in, the Oreos would have been delicious but the hole would have been impossible to get out of and the water was deep enough that I would have drowned trying.
When I walked out into the field the other day to head out on the woods trail, shots rang past my ear. Geez, I was just trying to go for a walk on property we have lived on for a quarter of a decade. I dodged the bullets and kept going but made a note of where to avoid next time.
I started noticing things that were out to get me everywhere — giant pieces of cardboard smothered with industrial-strength glue. Had I not smelled the glue and avoided the piece of cardboard, I would have been stuck and slowly starved to death.
Someone sprayed something in my face but I managed to avoid inhaling too much. When I walked through the front door of my house one day, white powder dusted all over my clothes and hair; if I hadn’t jumped into the shower and washed everything off I might have died and everyone in the house would have, too.
It all reminded me of when we first moved into the house almost 25 years ago and had to suffer through two weeks of blasting acid rock music and bright lights 24 hours a day and the smell of rags soaked in alcohol and moth balls and I forget what else. We almost moved out, but suddenly it all ended and we are here still.
Of course none of this happened to me. But it is what people do to wildlife all around us all the time. Glue traps (which should be illegal) and snap traps and drowning buckets laced with tempting sunflower seeds to rid our lives of rodents. A coyote or a fox or a porcupine or a skunk sighting anywhere near a home sends out the call for the ammunition.
Most of these animals have lived for years, generations of their kin for decades, in the same area. Suddenly a human builds a house in their territory and the animals displaced by the house are nuisances. But wild animals have no ability to conceptualize a human’s house and they just keep on keeping on like they have before, not realizing they are encroaching. Just because our dogs might get quilled by a porcupine does not mean we should kill every porcupine we see. They are not rushing out to get our dogs, they do not even “throw” their quills — better yet is to observe their habits and keep our dogs under our control when the porky is out and about (usually dusk and dawn). And on the sad occasion of our dog getting quilled, consider it good citizenship to keep our local veterinarian in business.
Granted there are times when enough is enough — when there are so many mice in the house you turn your back while enjoying some appetizers and they snatch the cheese off your cracker. Or when you find a four-foot milk snake lounging along the baseboard next to your bed (yes, I did kill it and have regretted it ever since). But when we start trapping animals in Hav-a-Hart traps to then drown or shoot or asphyxiate them — well, just what part of “have a heart” are we not getting?
When we first moved to our property and did all those things mentioned earlier (bright lights, loud music, alcohol-soaked rags) to drive the bats out of the barn — we weren’t so much opposed to the bats themselves but the massive amount of guano the large colony was depositing all over the barn. But the crazy tactics didn’t work and I learned to not only enjoy the (probably big brown) bats and their little June babies that make a tick-tick-ticking sound announcing their presence but to appreciate that we probably had fewer mosquitoes because of them.
And bats are what sparked this column — a recent press release from N.H. Fish and Game reported that “Bats have suffered from extremely high mortality rates since White Nose Syndrome (WNS) was first documented in New Hampshire in 2009. Little brown bats, previously the most numerous bats in the Northeast, are sustaining the largest number of deaths. Counts of little brown bats dropped from 3,135 bats in 2008 to just one (thus far) in 2018.”
As far as we know, humans weren’t the cause of this purge. But the cautionary tale should make us protect wildlife with all the fervor that we protect personal human rights. The little brown bat shows that there are lots of things out there waiting to decimate a population — humans do not need to be one of them.
Cheryl Kimball is a freelance writer who lives north of Rochester. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.