Connecting with wildlife


People need to rethink their attitudes and actions concerning wildlife.

Our human connection with the wilderness and its occupants has had its consequences, especially how it concerns deer and songbirds.

Nova Scotians have been busy for more than two centuries achieving a level of prosperity while destroying more and more of its wilderness. The deer population faced overhunting, coyotes and other predators and starvation from heavy snow over long winters. But we have inflicted the most exacting punishment — loss of habitat.

Urban encroachment deeper into that habitat has not helped. How better to explain the incidences of human contact with deer, bears and other animals and their growing interest in garden and landscape plantings?

Feeding deer is not only a fetish. It is a commercial industry. There are at least four reasons why feeding deer is wrong. It has increased human contact with deer or any wild animals that should be an absolute minimum. We have already referred to the destruction of crops and landscape. People risk being attacked by deer. Also, deer carry ticks that may spread vectors associated with Lyme disease. Kindness can kill, so we and the deer will be better off if the feeding stops.

Feeding songbirds has surfaced as another example of human contact with wildlife gone awry.

Officials have asked people to stop feeding the birds, remove their feeders and clean them. It’s seen as the only way to ultimately save the birds, particularly finches, from a highly contagious infection called avian parasite trichomoniasis, which causes an infection in the throats of birds, making them unable to swallow. The birds appear unusually skinny, dishevelled and lethargic with ruffled plumage.

Pictou resident Peggy Scanlan is among those who do not feed the birds during the summer. She had good reason for not wanting to risk attracting other animals.

Antigonish County resident Bob Bancroft agrees for another reason why people should heed beyond risk of disease, other animals, or the consequence of mixing more social bird species with those that tend to be loaners.

He has observed how feeding the birds beyond May encourages parents to lead their young to the feeders and eventually leave them there without ever showing them how to forage on their own. The lesson from this is that, if one must feed the birds, it should be limited to a period from the fall to the end of nesting in the spring.

People who enjoy birds can follow Scanlan’s lead and take up bird watching. The thrill of seeing them in what remains of their natural habitat is worth it, and recording bird populations in the wild is a service to the natural world that cannot be quantified.

Feeding wildlife has reached a crossroads. Scriptures show how we have dominion over other forms of life, but they are not in our custody. They are in our care. Let us act accordingly.

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