The choice to coexist with wild animals
Yurts at Poncha Pass - Colorado Yurt Rentals and Sustainable Building Workshops - Photo of Chris in ground of Earthship

Written by Chris

February 2, 2014

There have been a string of shark attacks in Australia resulting in the policy and current debate over pursuing and destroying the species responsible. While living on Vancouver Island 3 years ago, there was an attack by a cougar in the area I was living at Kennedy Lake. It was reported that while a family was leaving the lake, their 18-month-old child was walking 12 feet or so in front of them when a young cougar attacked her. The authorities took the steps to locate this young cougar to end its life, thereby making the area “safe” once more.

This news of shark and cougar attacks has been played out throughout the years over North America with regards mostly to bears. The solution is also familiar. My question is if it is right to induce a policy of reciprocity on wild animals when they attack. Humans are continuing to dominate the earth while pushing the boundaries of the places we explore and spend time. We also are no longer heading into the wilderness with survival in mind, but often as a picnic with the family. Letting an 18 month old toddler walk on her own a few feet ahead on a trail does not seem that crazy these days. Luckily the child survived, but the actions of not entering into the wild prepared, resulted in the cougar being exterminated, making the wild, well, that much less wild. This cycle has brought us is to a collective choice that we are currently in the process of making.

The global population has passed 7 billion and is well on the way to 9.5 billion by 2050. As humans carry on to reach into the furthest parts of the globe and encounters with wildlife are going to continually rise based off our own decisions, are we going to choose a policy of seek and destroy? We repeatedly find ourselves in these animals’ various habitats and although we are inherently a part of an intricate food web, we happily deny this fact. Perhaps a better question and more relevant one is if we as humans want to exist on this planet by ourselves. I won’t play dumb to the fact that this question is not met with polarized views for various reasons. From a farmer in India trying to protect his kids to ranchers in the states protecting their livestock, there will always be reason on both sides of the coin.

But perhaps what most can agree on is that education and respect will reduce the number of deadly encounters humans have with what is left of the macro wildlife. It is each of our responsibilities to educate ourselves and those around as to what it means to travel, live, and carry on in the outdoors in such a way that our actions protect wildlife from becoming a threat to humans. I for one enjoy surfing, diving, backpacking, and living in the outdoors. I try my best to take the steps to avoid wild animals, but when I enter into the wild, I accept the possibility, as should we all.

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