Chronicles

North Shore Environment

        Over the past couple of centuries, human activity has changed the natural environment of the North Shore rather considerably. In the main, this has been to the detriment of many natural species of flora and fauna. In many areas, the original forest has given way to stands of second growth, farmer's fields, suburbs, parks, shopping malls and the like. These changes, though, have actually been beneficial to some species of plants, animals, and birds.

        Native plants that benefit from disturbed ground proliferate; witness the large expanses of Fireweed currently at full bloom along our roads and cut-over areas. Wild raspberries and many of our native asters also flourish. So, too, do plants that have been introduced from Europe and elsewhere, most often by early settlers. In fact most of the flowers that provide such beautiful "wildflower" shows along the highways at this time of year - the dandelions, daisies, thistles, wild mustards and clovers are all descendants of plants that came this way as seeds, often in the hay and other fodder that was used to feed animals during the long voyages from Europe, or in the grain seed that the pioneers used to plant their first fields.

        Some species of birds have benefited from their close contact with human activity as well. Starlings were actually introduced from Europe, so successfully that their North American population now approaches two million. Native birds - crows, several species of gull and sparrow, and robins have all done very well. Robins and the native sparrows are welcome, but the increased opportunities for crows, starlings, and gulls have placed many other species, those that are not as adaptable, in jeopardy.

        Many people do not realize that deer are not native to northern New Brunswick. First Nations people and early settlers alike hunted moose and caribou around here; it is only in the late 1930's, coincident with the disappearance of the caribou, that deer began to establish themselves. Caribou are wilderness creatures; they need very large tracts of wild in order to conduct their annual migrations and to find the mosses upon which they flourish. Deer, on the other hand, have always been creatures of forest edges; they thrive on cutover lands, overgrown fields and the like. It is fascinating to realize that, despite the huge drop-off in population locally (for reasons that I will not discuss here), the White-tailed deer is more plentiful across North America now than it was two hundred years ago.

        But it is undoubtedly that scourge of neighbourhood garbage cans, bird feeders and garden patches of corn - the racoon - who has done best by our presence. Studies in southern Ontario have established that raccoons are up to one hundred times more plentiful in urban and suburban neighbourhoods than they are in their so-called "native" habitats. Despite our efforts to control them, they are increasing all the time. Indeed those efforts may actually be contributing to their ongoing successes.

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