Nature Notes: Season of Plenty

<I>CRAIG SPARKS photo</I><BR>Sunrise at Nahcotta

Season of PlentyFor the wild creatures of Mother Nature's magnificent realm, late summer is the fat time. Food is plentiful, the rains have let up and life, at least for a little while, is a bit easier.

The Caspian terns have fledged their broods and are busily showing their new ones the essential fine points of survival, as are all the rest of our wildlife families.

There are lots of species who have their babies later in the year to take full advantage of the food available. These late families take a chance with the possible arrival of an early wet season which makes raising a new family a lot harder.

The Canada geese are being fairly lazy, flying from here to there, moving from one feeding place to another, and they seem relaxed and content to just fatten up for the winter like their cousins the ducks. Since there is no hunting this time of the year to terrorize waterfowl, the young birds grow stronger everyday as they prepare for their sojourn south to warmer climates before the winter rains start here.

Raccoons and possums, skunks and porcupines, squirrels and rabbits, bear, elk and deer and the rest of those who don't migrate south take in copious quantities of plentiful berries and green forage as they prepare for colder weather and dwindling food supplies.

The human component to the food supply for wildlife here on the coast is considerable. Keeping bird feeders clean and well stocked, water pans clean and full, salt blocks put out for the deer and elk, corn scattered for the ducks and geese, all add up to wildlife having a better chance of survival and a better chance of reproducing in the spring. The equation is simple: more food and more shelter (wild habitat left standing and healthy) equals more animals. Cut down habitat and you cut down the wildlife population. A simple concept that seems to escape some people!

There has been a lot of wildlife road kill here lately and the solution is simple. Just slow down a bit! Animals can generally escape a car traveling at 40 miles per hour [mph], but the speed of a car traveling at 55 mph to 60 mph is just too much for wildlife to escape. From a crow or a seagull or an owl feeding in the road to momma deer with her fawns, to a troupe of raccoons, the extra few seconds of escape time they gain by us slowing down a bit equals lots more wildlife. Hey, just how hard is that? Besides, you'll get 20 percent better gas mileage, so why not?

Generally speaking, wildlife species in any given place have evolved to elude the fastest predator in their wild habitat, and the speed of a pouncing lion or a diving red-tail hawk seldom exceeds much over fifty miles per hour. It's not much of difference to us, but it marks the difference between life or death to these animals. So give them a chance, just slow down a bit, especially at night. Do the math; you won't even notice the few seconds difference in travel time when you get to your destination, and you'll be part of the solution and not part of the problem!

• Check out our new weekly nature movie at: (http://home.pacifier. com/~sparks/wildlife!!.html )

• Craig Sparks is director of NAWA, a filmmaker, freelance writer and wildlife rehabilitator.

• Found injured wildlife? Questions? Call the Wildlife Center at 665-3595 or send an e-mail to: sparks@pacifier.com.

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