Wednesday, February 21, 2007
In a nation committed both to suburban living and to wildlife protection, clashes are inevitable. From Texas comes a story about a sharp increase in suburbanites’ encounters with wild animals such as coyotes, deer, and even feral pigs.
One land use solution that is often favored by suburbanites is to have government try to remove the “problem,” such as by capturing pesky coyotes and trapping the razorbacks. Under this attitude, the suburbs are viewed as sanctuaries both from the bustle of the city and from the dangers of the natural world.
On the other side, ecologists argue that the world belongs to wild animals as well as people. Healthy ecosystems can’t depend solely on a handful of reserved areas such as parks and government-protected forests. Humans outside of cities should learn how to live with animals, just as any good Texan knew how to do in the 19th century.
What can suburbanites do? They can act in a way that is mindful of the natural world around them. Domestic dogs can be kept on a leash; if the house cat is let outside, one simply accepts the risk that it might become a coyote’s (or bobcat’s) dinner. Children can be told to avoid approaching raccoons. Wire and netting can be used to try to keep deer out of flower beds; if this doesn’t work, the flower beds may simply have to be given up. Bending one’s life to live side by side with nature is a prescription for a modern, more nuanced attitude towards life in the suburbs.
Is this just an environmentalist’s dewy-eyed vision of the world? Not necessarily, especially if one adds a potentially sensible step of having a locked shotgun at the ready, if a citizen has special concerns about dangers to small children. This is Texas, after all, and this is a world of wide open spaces and diversity of life.