Spiders and carpenter ants are more numerous in my neighborhood this year. Carefully watching the habitat that is our yard has yielded some observations that may be related to the proliferation of bugs.
My first observation was a pair of robins who returned in the spring to make a nest right outside the window next to my writing desk. I watched as they collected nest material, did a territorial singing around the lawns they claimed as their territory and hung out together like teenagers on a park bench. Along about the middle of June there was some excitement near the nest. Bird screaming tore my attention away from the computer after competing with my concentration for long minutes. I went to the window to see the cause. The nest tree was moving even though there was no breeze. Through the thick foliage I got a glimpse of a gray leg and paw I knew belonged to a raccoon. The birds where diving the tree trying to repel this thief in action. The struggle was joined by two scrub jays drawn in by the excitement. I am not sure the scrub jays had the robin family welfare in mind, but they jumped in on the aerial attack of the bandit. In the end, the small masked animal prevailed and the robin eggs were lunch.
The robins moved after that. All summer we had no robins in the neighborhood. What we did have was two raccoon families who had multiple offspring. One mother brought three little coons out and taught them which houses leave out cat food and water. As cute as they are, I lay the proliferation of bugs in the area to the absence of songbirds.
Now, if we had a coyote in our neighborhood, the balance of life would be different. The skunks, possums, squirrels and raccoons would have a predator. So would the domestic animals that were dropped off here in the middle of the night by city folks who made a pet mistake. The pets that matter to people around here are not left out at night and watched by all of us who live here. The others fend for themselves on the welfare that feeling people in the neighborhood extend to them. But the balance of nature is off here, both as a result of outdoor feral cats and medium size wild animals. The birds don’t raise a family where they are unsafe.
This phenomenon is common in neighborhoods and in parks and wild places in the United States. We have removed the predators from many of our landscapes leaving the non-threatening animals, i.e. e. deer, raccoons, squirrels, and skunks to make a living altering the populations of birds, plants, streams and trees without sanctions. The population of deer in towns can be huge, leaving the animals no choice but to eat vegetation they are not used to and living lives on streets with yards divided so that they have no place to run. Without running in their lives, deer become susceptible to disease, carry ticks and trample shorelines of lakes and creeks.
The scientific term for this is trophic cascade. There are many reasons why we need coyotes, cougars, wolves and bears and why we even need them in “town.” I could write a book about what I have learned about them and how to live with predators. I think I will go do that right now.
Causes Linda Hunter Supports