Seeing the Bigger Picture: Wildlife Edition

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Many of us connect with nature. We belong to a community that recognizes the intrinsic value of nature and how it contributes to our own well-being. The interest, passion and education that can come along with cultivating biodiversity, observing nature and experiencing joy from what it has to offer. However, there is something else that often pops into the conversation about animals in our environments. It is the narrative of "nuisance" animals, animals that we don't like observing as much as others, animals that perhaps we fear or perhaps view as an inconvenience, a pest. We stop seeing their wild and start viewing them as other, an agitation or a threat. Quite often, this happens when animals are widespread or common. Think of the squirrels, the raccoons, the skunks, the groundhogs that are woven into our lives, even in urban areas. Think of the grackles, the starlings, birds that even bird lovers cast away as unwanted or unwelcome. 

Humans do have a tendency to value what is rare. These species are common, and perhaps frustrating or invoke fear. This can be referred to as the tragedy of becoming common. This occurs in urbanized areas where wild animals become seen as pests or even pets. I just wanted to take a minute here to remind us all how loveable and important all animals are.

Eastern Cottontail. Photo by Heather Kerrison. 

This spring the owner of Wild Birds Unlimited Barrie and Newmarket, Kristen Martyn, posted an adorable video of a little Eastern Cottontail bunny with this caption:

Why do the things that destroy my garden have to be so darn cute?! We always get baby cottontails in our garden by the house. This year there was a litter of 7. I think the mother uses the same spot every year and our front garden as a nursery. They are so darn cute! However, rabbits are probably the most destructive animals in our gardens. They eat so many of the plants. Probably what drives me the most crazy is when they bite the flowers off my favourite plants and don’t even eat them. Feels like a personal attack 🤣 However, they are apart of our ecosystem and the plants grow back (most of the time). So our garden co-exists with these heartbreakers. In return they support the foxes, coyotes and hawks that we also adore. We saw a hawk grab one last week 😬 and our kiddos saw trophic levels interacting.

I thought this was such an important reflection. You can acknowledge the frustration while noting the bigger picture. Your garden, and this cottontail, are part of something larger. 

We are not without fault in the equation. Numerous human activities cause strife, hardship, and harm to other species including roadways and vehicular collisions, unsecured garbage and recycling that animals become entangled in, the introduction of pesticides and other chemicals to habitats, the clear cutting or destruction of critical habitat - I could go on! Despite how it feels when your garden is under siege - it's not personal. 

My hope is that whenever you find yourself thinking of the inconvenience an animal may cause you, to consider how humans threaten their homes and safety. They are just doing their best to adapt to an ever urbanizing world. 

This doesn't mean we can't take steps to problem solve. We have an entire Problem Solving Page that can help you address issues with Starlings, Raccoons, Hawks, Pigeons, and more. The intention when, for example, taking measures to stop starlings from visiting some or all of your feeders, is not to harm starlings but rather to create an environment where as many birds as possible can have a 'turn'. Starlings can and will ground feed, and can 'bully' other birds from accessing feeders. The same goes for excluding squirrels. It doesn't mean they get nothing, it more means there will be more opportunities for the greatest amount of species. As the intelligent species, we can innovatively accommodate and get around frustrations when it comes to wildlife. 

With respect for all species, 


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