Wildlife, humans need to coexist peacefully
My first encounter with menacing geese was in the early eighties.
I served on a state board that met in Topeka, and often had my break from meetings on the grounds of the Menninger Foundation where there was a pond. It was both a welcome break from the meetings and served as a moment of pastoral reflection.
Often geese were on or near the pond. I got in the habit of bringing leftover bread or would pick up day-old bread to feed the geese. They quickly became used to, and even seemed to anticipate, my arrival. It got so that if I didn’t get out of the car as soon as they thought I should, they would gather around and peck at the tires. They became so aggressive, that in time, I quit going to the pond altogether.
I took this experience to be an aberration and gave it little thought as the years passed. My experience with geese has been one more of awe in watching them lift off from the corn stubble of fields close to the Kansas River and take off, a chevron-shaped black ribbon across the face of dawn, or drop silently at dusk over wheat stubble to bed down for the night.
My experience with other wild life has been similar; seeing elk and deer for the first time while camping in the west or watching them lift their heads in regal fashion, tails in upright position and bound across the desert in flight. I have stopped to watch them feed; have often as not been watched by them, as well.
It is only recently that I have become aware of another side of wildlife – wildlife and its intersection with human kind. I became starkly aware of the damage that can be done by Canadian geese to the engines of planes by the downing and miraculous landing of flight 1549 over the Hudson River. Such small birds that can do such huge damage; such potential threat to the health and welfare of people in their flight path.
Around the same time, there was an article in the Star about the deer population, or overpopulation, in Shawnee Mission Park. It talked about the consequent damage to the ecosystem from the deer feeding off young trees and natural grasses. It gets a person to thinking about how wildlife and people can coexist.
We bear some responsibility for having built airfields in the flight path and natural habitats of geese. Just as we bear some responsibility for having built parks and housing developments smack-dab in the middle of the habitats of wildlife, like deer. However, once having made these decisions and proceeded with these developments, we are now left with how to manage the outcomes. It is no easy task.
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