Yesterday I gave up on my belief that I can make a positive difference with respect to wildlife after one of my chipmunk pals ingested poison on a neighboring property.
I want to be an “influencer” but not in the arena of nonsense like “buy this wrinkle filler” or “click here to get a discount on my favorite $400 t-shirt, I’m so obsessed!” I don’t make any money from this. I simply want to spark an interest in wildlife. I want people to fall in love with their own backyard, so to speak. I do this because those living, breathing intelligent mammals who experience pain, fear and suffering deserve our respect and kindness. They’re the underdogs and I will always be in their corner. It’s been that way my entire life. The insect poster child of pollinators, the Monarch butterfly, is essential to our survival. Their population has declined more than 80%!
Someone I know who bought my book Wishy the Bookworm Chipmunk fell in love with him. He would bring it up every time I saw him and tell me it brings him a lot of joy. I asked if Wishy inspired him to see the chipmunks in his yard differently? His entire countenance changed into something somewhat demonic as he said: “Oh, you don’t don’t want to know about the things I do to them!” Seriously. I walked away.
The sweet chipmunk who visits me got into rodent poison put out by a pesticide company on a nearby property that has an issue with mice in their basement. I do not fault anyone for doing what they need to do to keep a mouse infestation out of their home provided it’s effective, as humane as possible and highly targeted. The thing is, placing poison outside a home will NOT solve the problem but will assuredly kill innocent wildlife that will ingest it. When a rodent or any living creature eats the poison and then a bird of prey or other predator eats that rodent it, too, will be poisoned.
I was devastated imaging her suffering in her burrow due to the anticoagulant in the poison that assures a slow, painful death that can take up to three days. I have a very good relationship with this homeowner, I consider them a friend and vice-versa. We spoke and we reached a very nice agreement. The outside poisonous bait traps were removed (they were incorrectly told by the pesticide company that it wouldn’t harm wildlife) and in turn I hired a good friend, a contractor who does new builds and renovations, who will do what REALLY works: inspect their home for points of entry and seal them up with spray foam and steel wool. Of course keeping pet food and other attractants in rodent-proof storage is essential. Other things include removing bird feeders and trimming low-hanging branches that come into contract with a roof.
While in some ways I live in a bubble on my Certified Wildlife Habitat I can’t control neighboring cats, pesticide applications that kill off pollinators, general pollution and the like. I do all that I can to reduce them by trying to influence those who contribute, but I’m learning that what I can do seems so very little.
I was so heartbroken when my dear little friend wasn’t waiting outside for me first thing yesterday morning in her usual manner knowing she had entered and left a bait trap. I fired off a series of unanswerable questions to Wayne about life in general as we sat in our sunroom hoping to see her. I told him I was getting out of the chipmunk “business.” I was inconsolable. Then another chipmunk friend came to take some seeds from me (I never leave any out, it’s always on-the-spot feedings). His cheeks were completely stuffed when I offered him a peanut. He fiddled with it a bit before shoving it into his cheek so far out that I went from doom and gloom to uncontrollable laughter in a New York millisecond looking at his face. Although I didn’t get a pic the image will be with me always. I can’t break away from loving them! Next I spotted an earthworm crawling on our paved walkway. With a stick I gently relocated it to a raised garden bed where I watched it slowly make its way under. I can’t explain why I feel more satisfaction from that than other more socially esteemed accomplishments. I’m a freak that way.
I came across an article early this morning about a former Navy Seal, Mark Matzeldelaflor, who finds healing in nature and saving Monarch butterflies:
“I realized there’s so much healing in being outside in nature, getting your hands in the dirt and doing good work.” Last year, the 37-year-old turned that realization into a nonprofit organization called Guardian Grange, which aims to use nature to help veterans cope with trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues that come with transitioning back to civilian life.
In the article is this quote from Matt Forister, a professor of biology at the University of Nevada:
“Insects are pretty good at taking advantage of any bit of land that isn’t polluted or destroyed,” he said. “If we give them an inch, they’ll take it.”
Maybe my “preaching” and posting pretty pictures won’t “take” with the people I encounter or anyone reading here, but it will matter to those in my tiny circle. Give them an inch and they’ll take it! Every inch matters! I realize now that it is I who is also benefiting from the small inches I can give. The joy is in the giving and educating, even if there seem to be more losses than wins.
Yesterday when I approached the sunroom after helping the worm I could see Wayne through the window. He was pointing and smiling! I turned around and there was my dear friend! She’s alive! For those wondering how I know who is whom all chipmunks have unique markings and personalities. She has a tiny bald spot on her forehead between her ears and she ran right up to me! A victory that means the world to a little chipmunk and me.