Ranger Kathryn's Arches

July 18, 2012

Feeding the wildlife?!? Really?!?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 4:42 pm
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This BRONZE raven pair is getting “fed” a macadamia nut — a spoof by Ranger Kathryn.

There are some things that really irk park rangers — typically encompassing behaviors that everyone knows are inappropriate, yet which continue to happen. Graffiti comes to mind as an intentional destructive act that disrupts natural beauty and creates extra work for the rangers who must remove it. Its perpetrators do not stop to think of the lasting damage as they carve their initials (or, for lunacy bonus points, their full name) into a tree trunk or rock face. Graffiti bothers me on a visceral level because it so rudely invades my wilderness experience.

Today, however, we’re going for something more subtle — more excusable, according to its practitioners. It involves human food given to vertebrate recipients. Guilt-assuaging deceptive thoughts like “It won’t hurt a thing,” “I hate wasting food,” “Just this once,” “He looks hungry,” “It’s only a photo op,” or “It’s the kind of food he’d eat in nature” pave the way down this slippery slope.

I doubt I’ll talk any readers out of feeding wildlife. It seems that many people feel entitled to give a squirrel a nut, or toss a french fry to a seagull. PLEASE DON’T. Here’s why:

1. It’s illegal in many places (and all national parks/monuments) to feed wildlife.

2. Wild animals have specialized diets and can die from the wrong foods.

3. Feeding causes wildlife to lose their natural fear of humans. (Rangers at the Grand Canyon say the constantly-fed squirrels are their most dangerous wildlife.)

4. Providing an artificial food source can cause adults to produce large families which the natural food supply can’t support.

5. You always risk injury when you do not keep a respectful distance from animals who may misinterpret your actions.

6. Feeding changes behavior patterns. (Opportunists become lazy.)

I’ve an idea what you can do instead: create natural habitat that invites animals to live closer to you. Plant trees or shrubs for cover. Set out a birdbath. Add butterfly- or hummingbird-attracting flowers to your garden. And keep a pair of binoculars near the window; wildlife is best observed on their own terms.

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[Note: outside the Arches NP visitor center you can photograph yourself with lifelike bronze bighorn sheep ram/ewe/lamb, bronze ravens, and bronze lizards. Fun for the entire family!]

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Thanks to ‘Wildlife Care of Ventura County’ for some of the ideas listed above.

September 29, 2011

What?!? Feed the chipmunks?!?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 10:50 am
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I was at the stunningly beautiful Delicate Arch in civilian clothes on my day off, introducing visiting friends to this icon of the park and of Utah. A 60-ish man was eating a small packet of gummy fruits and a beggarly chipmunk heard the rattle of the wrapper and approached him.

-- google image --

“Please don’t give him any,” I pleaded. The reply was coupled with arrogance: “Oh, I already did.” I felt my fists clenching, which frightened me, and I decided it was time to breathe before saying something I would regret forever. I realized that this man had already made up his mind that a minute of his own entertainment was worth far more than big concepts like animal health, visitor safety, ecosystem balance. Even if he knew it carried a fine (which I’m sure he didn’t consider), there was no law enforcement ranger around to write a ticket.

I wasn’t in uniform. My badge is the only thing that carries weight; still, I couldn’t resist trying. “Human food is terrible for their diet. We wouldn’t want them to become lazily dependent on handouts of junk food.” He paused and then replied under his breath, “One of us wouldn’t.” I had to walk away. Really. Just get myself out of Ranger Mode and pretend to be a tourist, taking photos, enjoying the arch and the exquisite day.

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