Letter: Domesticating wildlife

Dale Will (director of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails) was on the radio the other day discussing open space management and pointing out that some wildlife actually benefits from human occupation. This is true. The list includes animals such as rats, skunks, raccoons, opossums and a few others, mostly scavengers.

As wonderful and worthy as these critters may be, wildlife managers don’t generally try to enhance habitats to attract this sort of wildlife. This may suggest that Mr. Will is testing the waters with another convoluted rationale for sacrificing even more wildlife habitat for recreational purposes. But it’s not really fair to assume what Mr. Will’s intentions might be, so maybe he could clarify these benefits to wildlife, enumerate the specific wildlife species he was referring to and explain how such information might influence management practices.

In a weird and backward way, the belief that wildlife benefits from sharing habitat with humans can become a self-fulfilling “truth.” When we have sufficiently invaded their wild habitats and displaced beautiful creatures such as deer and elk into our neighborhoods, there are always those pseudo-environmentalists ready to point out these poor, lost, habituated survivors, stripped of their independence, dignity and the very essence of being wild and free, and claim these backyard pests surviving on over-fertilized landscapes to be another example of wildlife “benefiting” from human occupation.

Jim Duke