According to Wikipedia, April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month. It’s also the awareness month for: poetry; mathematics; sexual assault; Parkinson’s disease; prevention of animal cruelty; Asperger’s syndrome and autism; Confederate history; developmental disabilities; diabetes; cancer control; jazz appreciation; rape prevention; distracted driving; donate life; and sexually transmitted disease. Whew!
This past week, however, a news story from Worcester reminded this writer that we need some more April awareness about our own surroundings. Just as children who don’t grow up on farms come to think that food comes from supermarkets, if no one enlightens them, both children and adults who have never lived in the midst of a rural or semi-rural environment have little exposure to wildlife. So, they are often very fearful in encounters with wild animals, and they react inappropriately, or with excessive force. Such was the case of a 76-year-old man in Auburn, who, upon seeing a bear eating birdseed in his yard, went back into his house, according to news reports, and came back out with a rifle, shooting and killing the female black bear, possibly leaving some orphaned cubs awaiting her return.
The man is facing criminal charges, largely because it is not appropriate to kill a wild animal just because you are afraid of it, when it is not threatening you. Wildlife authorities were clear in stating that he should have called them when he went back into his home, rather than coming back outside to harm the animal.
Rumors of large animals roaming wooded areas is more inspiring than frightening to some people, since it signals that our ecological systems are finding balance again, rather than being heavily dominated by either prey or predator species. Too many deer, for example, mean too many deer ticks, and a greater incidence of Lyme disease. More coyotes, or even bears, means that a predator species may cull that population naturally, without requiring help from humans. Despite being a geographically concentrated problem, according to the Centers for Disease Control, Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the United States.