by: Mike Lushington
Of late, I have been taking full advantage of the good snow conditions
to snowshoe or ski in the area around our property. Although the skiing,
in particular, has been excellent, there is very little snow in the woods;
I know that one mild spell could mean my putting my skis away rather
earlier than I usually do. In the meantime, I have been puzzling out the
wanderings of the various creatures that inhabit these woods. One day,
Sasha (our new dog) and I encountered a moose; on another, we found where
several deer have been wintering.
We have had very few deer in the area for the past number of years.
This might be the first small herd to overwinter in my immediate vicinity
since we first moved here, some ten years ago now. That got me thinking
that it just about time for the annual warnings from the Department of
Natural Resources about tying up dogs to prevent them from chasing and
killing deer. (Moose don't worry very much about dogs, for obvious
reasons.) Certainly I hope that anyone who has a dog in the vicinity of
Point LaNim - and wherever deer may frequent - takes due care to give
these beautiful animals a chance to repopulate our fields and woods.
Deer are rather big animals. So are dogs. When one takes it into its
head to chase and kill the other, the results are often conspicuous.
People get upset - and so they should. But what many do not fully realize
that another of our favourite pets causes carnage in our rural areas on a
scale that makes what dogs do to deer look trivial in comparison.
Research indicates that cats kill around three hundred million (300 000
000) birds and small animals each year in North America! They routinely
kill robins, sparrows, thrushes, wrens, warblers and any other small birds
the can find. Feral farm cats also kill grouse, rabbits, squirrels,
chipmunks as well as field mice, voles, and moles. In short, they kill
anything they can - and some of them are at the business twenty-four hours
a day. Putting bells on them does not help. Making sure that they are
well-fed is no deterrent. Cats kill whatever and whenever they can.
I am responsible for any damage my dog does in the woods or in the
neighbourhood. That is a matter of law. I understand and accept it. What I
can no longer accept is that cat owners share no such responsibility. I
could never own dozens of dogs and allow them to do whatever they want,
but cat owners, apparently, have no restrictions as to the number of
animals they own or responsibility for what those animals do.
It all seems to come down to a variation of the same problem that those
who wish to work for some measure of protection of our wildlife have
encountered for years. If the target animal is big, beautiful, has large
brown eyes, or is in some other way deemed to be "attractive", people
become involved in campaigns to save it. However, if the threatened animal
is small, unassuming, or "ugly", it attracts no so attention. Dogs chase
and kill deer and everyone notices. There are laws to prevent and
prosecute these happenings. Cats kill all sorts of other, smaller
creatures - and no one pays any attention at all.