Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Deer A Day

In the past few months we’ve traveled by car across about 1000 miles of Turkey and nearly 1000 miles of California. Both have similar climate and terrain, and we explored both inland and along the coast. Each has large metropolitan areas, agricultural regions, and protected wilderness–but there was a stark and eye-opening difference. We saw NO wild mammals during our travels in Turkey. None.

You may be saying, well, but really what wild mammals do you see traveling Interstate Highway 5 through central California?

Traveling for five days in California, including driving the “barren” and straight Highway 5, we only had one day when we didn’t see at least one mule deer.

For the past 15 years, I have kept travel diaries. Each day I record the wild animals species we see. Driving from Los Angeles to Sonoma County in northern California and through Sonoma to the coast, over the course of five days we saw:
  • cotton-tail rabbit (4)
  • western gray squirrel (2)
  • raccoon (1)
  • gray fox (1)
  • mule deer (12)
  • harbor seal (~200)
  • Steller’s sea lions (50)
  • Pacific treefrog (1)
  • northern alligator lizard (1)
  • Pacific pond turtle (1)
In both Turkey and California we saw numerous species of birds, but still more in California.

The most obvious reason for this difference in wildlife is that humans in large numbers have lived longer in the Mediterranean than they have in North America. People have farmed, hunted and harvested natural resources longer in Turkey and have had a more deleterious cumulative effect on the land.

What we have in North America, and especially in California and the Pacific Northwest of the U.S., is a treasure of plant and wildlife. Our increasing population must make important choices:
  • We can go the way of the past, battering and pillaging our wild places until the treasure is gone.
  • We can work to preserve the bounty that is still here, still flourishing, still holding on.
In the United States we have laws to help us preserve the glorious bounty of plants and creatures, but private citizens must make their voice heard to enforce those laws. The Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Act both afford protection to creatures, plants and habitat, but our wildlife protection agencies have been financially cut to the bone by our current political leaders.

You and I are the eyes and ears that must report offenders that destroy our precious natural world.

When I read “All Birds Deserve A Safe Harbor” by Kimball L. Garrett and Kathy C. Molina in the 7/12/06 L.A. Times about Caspian and elegant tern nests and fledglings being maliciously destroyed and killed, I decided it was time to step up and demand that other living things not be destroyed for human convenience.

Most of the birds in your neighborhood are protected by the Migratory Bird Act (check the list). City tree trimmers can not hack down trees during nesting season, destroying nests and baby birds. It is a violation of the Migratory Bird Act. Violators can be fined up to $15,000. Betty Dunbar of Huntington Beach, CA, has persevered in getting that city to not trim city trees during nesting season.

Saving tigers and elephants is important, but look around you. How much of the native habitat and its animals are gone from where you live? We can’t ask Asian and African peoples to preserve their wildlife if we aren’t leading by example.

Be informed about endangered and threatened species living in your area: Southern California -

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