I’m back. Literally and figuratively. Since working non-stop since mid-December, celebrating a birthday and taking a quick week off to jaunt over to a slightly warmer but much prettier British Columbia, I am finally easing back into my slightly boring but predictable schedule. Over the last few weeks I ate a ton of food, skied a ton of slopes, ate some very expensive jam (which I will tell you about in due course), read some great books, and in general kept myself all too occupied, which happens to be one of my least favorite things to do. I enjoy my downtime and go out of my way to plan a life where I have plenty of it.
But in the meantime I was looking at this picture of a bunny I took some weeks ago, and pondering the huge abundance of wildlife that shares with us this land called Canada. It’s kind of hard for people here to understand, but this is one of the very few places in the world where animals and humans share any kind of space voluntarily. In most countries the only birds you see are pigeons and the only animals the stray cats and dogs skulking in the streets. The rest are scarce to the point of extreme rareness and reticence.
Many people that move here cannot believe that rabbits and deer are frequent visitors within the city, fearlessly venturing on our lawns and hopping our fences. That squirrels are not only common, but cheeky, and that folks routinely name the chipmunks that drop by to pilfer bird feeders. They are astounded to hear coyotes howling at night, and see huge elk crossing the highways, never mind the foxes, ducks, geese and many other denizens of any average Canadian neighborhood. Certainly no bears have ever entered their hospitals like they did here a while back, and no animal crossings are built so that critters can cross the highways safely.
The reason animals shy away from people in most of the world is because they are prey there, and feel it keenly. The plump ducks, geese and rabbits would quickly be poached by families thankful for a free dinner, deer would be poached too, never mind the season, fish would be caught until there’s none left, and the predators would simply be exterminated. Not that North America doesn’t have those tendencies from time to time, but overall animals fare much better here than elsewhere.
It’s funny to me how we mourn the animals that have to be shot due to posing a hazard to people and whose numbers drop as we take over their habitat, but as soon as an enterprising species acclimatizes itself to living around us we call them a nuisance, like the unfortunate seagulls, pigeons and gophers. Methinks we’d be better off celebrating their adaptable natures that ensure their survival and take the occasional inconvenience they pose with humor if not grace.