Nature Notes: Utopia

Nature Notes: Utopia

We live in a truly beautiful setting, surrounded by surf and sand, ocean and bay and mountains that rise to the sky. We have peace and quiet and a safe and secure village lifestyle. Friends are easy to make and neighbors bump into neighbors in grocery stores and wave at each other as they pass one another in cars. Even bicycles, which have been somewhat scarce due to our coastal weather, are seeing an increase. This is a great place to be and given the alternatives, it is all the more attractive.

Recently PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) came out with a controversial ad campaign likening the holocaust in Europe during World War II to conditions that many animals suffer daily in this country and for them, life may not be as great a place as aforementioned.

Most pets around here have it really sweet, and with a little luck if we were to come back in our next life as some of these pets (mine included), it would be an understatement to say we would indeed be fortunate. In short, they have it made.

But not all. There are some people who treat their animals very poorly. Horses having to stand day and night out in the rain in tiny cramped, muddy pens with no protection from wind or weather. Ponies kept alone and untended, with no company, no care, no companionship - basically solitary confinement. Dogs with little or no vet care, chained to a post or left to wait for hours on end in the back of a pick-up out in the rain.

I guess if we chained the owners of the horses or pets out in the rain, day and night for a month or two, it might open their eyes to the problem, but without animal control officers to enforce laws regarding the improper care of animals, the abuse to animals is lessened only by education. The same holds true for wildlife. Education is the key here, and as long as there are folks who see animals as less of an elevated being then themselves, there will be abuse.

Bears have families just like dogs and cats and just like us. Deer recognize members of their family just the same as we do. Ducks and geese and songbirds find their way back to our feeders at about the same time each year, just the same way "snowbirds" find their way back to their parking spot at Quartzite at about the same time each year. (It's amazing! How do they know how to do that?)

Education and appreciation can go a long way towards relieving the terrible burden we put on domestic and wild animals. And if there is one quality we can make best use of, it is our gift of empathy. We really can imagine what it's like to walk in their moccasins. If we care to.

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• 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:

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