Sunday, January 23, 2011

Opinion: Seeing the Unexpected

Stay where you're at. I'll come where you're to…

The title of this entry is a Newfoundland saying I learned from a friend of mine from "the Rock". What I saw today made me think about it in an entirely different light.

Fox are not a common sight in residential areas. © Alison Clair
I saw a quite uncommon sight this morning when I was driving through a residential area just outside Bridgewater. A red fox ran across the road in front of me. It crossed from an open field right beside someone's house to another open field. A strawberry field operation is also adjacent. The whole area is houses, fields and lakes much of which is highly cultivated. It's pretty much a normal "bedroom community" usage mix.

The fox was a beautiful sight and quite healthy looking. You could tell it was somewhat timid as it ran well up into the field before it turned around to look at me. The morning was cold and crisp so I assume it was out hunting for breakfast. It must have stood about 20 inches high, so not really a small animal.

What worries me is that breakfast might have included someone's pet cat or small lap dog. 

Clear cutting in southern Nova Scotia is (still) a common occurrence. As we reduce forest coverage we progressively force animals, both large and small, into smaller habitats and closer to where we live. I understand the need for economic activity in areas that rely on resource exploitation, and do not have much more to offer than those jobs. It's the norm for much of the South Shore. 

At the same time we have to be good stewards of the land we have inherited, and manage it in ways that benefit ALL who use it to live, and that includes the diverse woodland creatures and plants that inhabit the areas we so easily destroy.

This overlap of animals and humans is happening at an alarming rate. For an example, I only have to mention the prevalence of coyote/human interactions over the last few years throughout our province. If you didn't know, coyotes are not native to Nova Scotia. Coyotes are historically a "Plains" predator and their first confirmed sighting in Nova Scotia wasn't until 1977. Nova Scotia used to have wolves, which are a coyote predator, but we killed our wolves off many years ago. No major predators means coyotes are multiplying while forest habitat is shrinking. Not a good combination.

In the village where I grew up, I am told that people can hear coyotes howling at night. This disturbs me greatly. I don't even like to let my (very large) dog out at night for very long. This closeness is happening even though there is a large area behind the village where a lumber mill is located. With the accompanying human activity and open space you would think it would act as a buffer. Apparently not.

Of course the coyote problem is far more complex than simply explaining it away by clear cutting. But it is PART of the problem. The less territory we have to use, and the more of us there is to fit into that space, the more instances of undesirable interactions we will have. If we use the land responsibly, we should be able to minimize these occurrences.

In this short diatribe I don't mean to offer any great wisdom or profound solutions. But if we continue on as we have in the past, we will see that more and more wildlife will be "coming where we're to."

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