Wildlife Viewing. This weathered sign greets mainlanders who arrive on the island where I live. Wellesley Island offers woodlands, grasslands, marshes, and shoreline. Deer, turkey, fox and porcupine frequent the open land along the roads. Beavers, muskrat, osprey, and herons inhabit the bays and canals. Birdwatchers come to spot songbirds. Campers at the state parks hear the mystical calls of loons and owls in the night.
The novelty of wildlife fades when visitors become residents. The black squirrel is scorned for severing tree branches and the chipmunk for burrowing in the perennials. Coyotes are disparaged for their predatory nature and the geese for their prolific waste. Another sign, newer and five times larger, offers pest control. There’s never just one. Eaves are sprayed for spiders, foundations for ants. Our neighbors trap and relocate a woodchuck and a raccoon.
This is an old story. We believe our needs and habits take precedent over those whose land we have usurped.
I hang wasp decoys on all sides of the house. Like Chinese lanterns, they are orb-shaped to resemble paper wasp nests. I read that wasps will not infringe upon other wasp territory. A tin owl suspends below our porch light, to discourage birds’ nests, only because our comings and goings would prevent parents from caring for the eggs and hatchlings. Goldie does her best to chase the squirrels off the orioles’ oranges. But the savvy squirrels feast on the oranges when Goldie and I take our walk.
Despite discouragement, the so-called pests persist. The bats spend their days tucked into the folds of our patio umbrella. Rogue black ants scuttle across the counter after a heavy rain. Spider webs glisten outside the kitchen window. The ticks find their way into our house on Goldie. We give plenty of leeway to the snapping turtle who annually buries her eggs by our lamppost.
When wildlife crosses our arbitrary boundaries, we lose sight of Mother Nature’s complex system. Yet, because of her scheme we can marvel at the gobbler’s fan, admire the delicate leap of a deer, and wonder at the engineering of a beaver dam. All creatures have a gift or a purpose in a design much bigger than the one we comprehend.
As is often the case, a change in perspective fosters deeper understanding. I vow to be more benevolent toward all living things, animals and people alike.