Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wildlife pays the price when humans wipe away natural habitats

Inside a tree on my property this image appeared. It reminded me of a baby in the womb, human juxtaposed with nature.

I set out to buy a piece of rural property with a vision of building a home in the wilderness. But there was a stumbling block to my peace of mind and steadfast mission.

When county officials came out to check the state of the soil, they used augers to burrow round holes deep into the ground, three to four feet down, to determine what type of septic system was most suited to the land’s particular drainage capability.

Now, instead of planning and dreaming about my future home, I worried about a deer running free and graceful across my pristine piece of property, unwittingly heading into danger. In my mind’s eye, I watched slow motion as a willowy doe in flight was cut down by progress, stumbling and catching her foot in the hole, breaking her leg and being left to die an agonizing death.

I chastised myself for my silliness. Here I was, finally able to own my own little corner of paradise, the first real home I had ever had, and I was obsessing over an unrealized catastrophe.

A few days and several empty-handed runs to the property later, I was still worrying about the holes. Again I went back to check on them. One at a time, I peered into the dark round holes in anxious anticipation followed by a wave of relief. To my shock, when I looked into the last hole, there were two tiny brown bunnies at the bottom. They peered up at me, trapped and terrified.

Aware of the dangers of interfering with wildlife in their natural state, I raced off to a gas station to buy garden gloves. I didn’t want to taint them with my human scent in case they weren’t weaned from their mother. Sensing human danger, she might reject them.

I gently lifted the first rabbit out of the hole and set him on safe ground. He was so tiny he fit into the palm of my hand. He ran a few feet, but turned to wait while I retrieved his buddy. When I pulled out the second rabbit, he ran straight over to join his mate. The two did a bunny-hop of joy and freedom, and tore off together.

I covered the holes with trash can lids as a temporary safety solution, and promptly filled the holes up with dirt after the county officials were finished with them.

Throughout our communities, wildlife is being crowded out in favor of urban development. Displaced deer and coyotes run into traffic. Raccoons and bears annoy homeowners by digging through trash bins. Bats and mice take cover in the safety of warm houses, not realizing the upset caused by their innocent presence.

As human beings, we find it thrilling to finally own a corner of the planet. We clear the land, put up a house, and call the setting our own. But we need to remember that we weren’t the first inhabitants. While animals don’t carry a mortgage on the place, it’s their home just the same. Finding a way to co-exist with them serves us by teaching us the beauty of balance with nature.

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