Article by Elizabeth Trickey and photos by Jen Howard
EEK, a spider! Yes, so many people suffer from arachnophobia. It is an irrational fear. Humans are thousands of times bigger, yet so many people are frightened of the wee creatures! Strangely enough, a good number of humans don’t seem to fear much larger critters, ones that can really do serious harm.
We all love to see wild animals. And they are often closer than you realize. What with urbanization taking over wildlife habitats, we are encountering more animals than ever before. In some respects, it’s exciting! Cameras come out, and people move in closer for that perfect photo. And it doesn’t always end well…
Many critters are attractive, with fluffy fur and adorable eyes. The younger the animal, the cuter. We all grew up with our favourite stuffies, often teddy bears. It is surprising, though, when bears, bison, or moose are seen near a road, cars stop, and people hop out to get a good close-up! What are they thinking?? They aren’t stuffed animals!
Should we fear these large critters? No, not at all. They are living in their natural habitat, spending their time foraging for food. And frankly, humans are probably not very tasty. These animals will protect themselves, but other than that, they will mind their own business. If critters hear or smell humans, they will avoid them. No, definitely no need to fear. It’s respect that’s needed. I leave you alone, and you leave me alone. Mutual respect.
What about the smaller mammals that we see on a more regular basis? Raccoons, squirrels, foxes, skunks, rabbits – they will also keep their distance from humans. They don’t need hand-outs from us to survive because nature provides to all animals. They learn to forage for food at a young age, and there is plenty to eat in the wild. Several of these species can carry serious diseases, like worms, distemper and rabies. Now that can be fearsome! However, it is still a matter of respect. We need to respect their ability to fend for themselves, and not leave food out for them. Sure, we do enjoy seeing them and watching their antics, but the food we might leave for birds or chipmunks can just as easily be eaten by larger critters that we don’t want hanging around our properties, waiting for the next meal.
In the last year, there have been several reports of coyote attacks, with the result being that authorities have killed those animals. Now, understandably, many people are frightened by coyotes. How did this happen? Historically, coyotes rarely bothered people, and there has only ever been one documented case in Canada of a coyote killing someone. So what has changed? Experts say that it is because these animals are becoming habituated. People are feeding them, whether deliberately or by leaving out garbage, and coyotes have learned that humans provide great take-out food.
Let’s make a concerted effort to respect our wildlife. Give them space, and let nature take care of them.