Man has not been alone for a very long time. Dogs, cats, cows and horses gave up freedom for security long ago by joining us. Pigs, sheep and goats, too. I have to wonder what it is that is going on now, and where it will end.
My daily morning walk of some 2.2 miles (maybe a little over 3 kilometers) elicits no cats, only the voices of local dogs, ensconced behind fences and gates but though I walk in a city, there will be rabbits, moving away without urgency as I approach plus occasionally, a coyote slinking unhurriedly into someone’s shrubbery. A pair of ravens presides over our neighborhood in lordly though inconspicuous glory; a sole roadrunner owns the ground and the tops of walls. A decade ago, none of these would have been imagined, let alone seen regularly. There have even been prairie chickens (grouse) in our neighbor’s shrubbery at times.
On the fringes of our little city, we have regular reports of black bears investigating trash cans in peoples’ backyards and even sometimes a cougar, the American mountain lion. Small children have been attacked by them, though rarely. Contemplation of all of this has lead to wondering where it’s going.
Dogs and cats wandered into man’s habitat long ago; now government is pricing them out again. People now go to jail for killing them, that’s reserved for vets who charge a lot to do it for you. Fines apply to tying a dog in the yard, a license ($159 a year where I live) is required for that and a special trolley must be used. You can’t leave a dog alone too long without punishment, either. Dogs and cats must be licensed, tagged and neutered at the owner’s expense and puppies require another expensive license. San Francisco has outlawed selling pets at retail. The trend says dogs and cats will be rich folks’ privileges soon. Since these critters can’t make it on their own anymore, excepting maybe cats, one wonders how they now regard their ancient bargain with man.
The wild folk that never made a bargain are just moving into human territory without an invitation, no by-your-leave needed nor wanted. It’s hard to object, since we’re simply helping ourselves to more and more of their shrinking living quarters. And, but for the occasional bear or cougar, usually without colliding with us. The bears seem to provide trouble only when troubled or at least, mostly. Sometimes, it’s hard to get a complete story. Cougars eat the occasional toddler, or try; evidence suggests people don’t taste very good generally. That usually gets people excited and the responsible cougar or some cougar anyway, dead. Which doesn’t seem to affect a replacement turning up sooner or later. But only on the fringes of town.
Alaska and parts of Canada are used to moose, polar bears and what-have-you sharing Main Street with normal traffic (sparse) but that’s not been the pattern in the lower 48. But time passes, things change, right? I hear there are crows living in some cities now. My city has prairie dogs in places (though there is budget to keep them out of the airport) so it seems likely ferrets and foxes are in the offing.
If we all crowd together on top of one another as the government seems to prefer now, the critters are poised to take over the suburbs as we desert them. That should please the governmental environmentalists, though it’s not obvious what it will do for the governmental tax base…