Our poor garden! These pictures are from a couple of years ago. Because again this year, we are again confronting the devastation created by wild creatures in the area: deer, rabbits, raccoons, and squirrels. But especially deer!
Sharing our garden space with hungry herbivores challenges us to respect the natural order, to live and let live. We have been here forty years. The garden should now be a mature collection of perennials lovingly traded and bought. The rock garden should be a blaze of spring colour. But we are just about ready to give up on anything except grass. For thirty-five of those years it was rare to see even a rabbit. The neighbourhood has changed.
In our neighbourhood we live with daily evidence of the unintended consequence of intensive urban development, and more important, of the environmental damage created by overpopulation! And as population increases exponentially, the resources supporting it become more and more degraded, and the population itself becomes weakened and diseased. We do not face it here on a human scale, yet, but the same processes apply. We would do well to heed the example.
This problem arose because of a huge mall and residential development in what used to be marginal farmland… the soil along the escarpment is shallow, and clay. Big box stores, acres of paved parking lots, more acres of middle class homes, the most complicated and dangerous highway interchange in the area … and the incredible insult and irony of calling it all “Meadowlands”.
Then several mild winters followed and the animal population in the conservation area and the escarpment corridor exploded. This is a very built-up area now, but the escarpment provides a natural corridor that brings the hungry creatures deeper and deeper into neighbourhoods that used to be spared their nocturnal visits.
The deer are spectacularly beautiful… even when there are four of them munching on the hedge or eating the euonymus growing beside the front window. Knock on the glass… they just look up with their soulful eyes and get right back to eating. While it is a city bylaw that we must clean up after our pets, the deer leave their calling cards everywhere… watch your step. Too stupid to be afraid of traffic, they also pose a serious hazard to drivers, wandering down the middle of the road or darting across without warning. It is not unusual to see six or more moving together, systematically stripping garden shrubs as they work their way down the street, taking turns keeping a lookout. Last winter a doe gave birth in the sheltered corner of a neighbour’s front porch. They were advised by the SPCA to ignore them, and indeed both doe and fawn quietly disappeared after a few days! The deer are also vectors for “lyme” disease, spread by deer ticks. I am told that the deer have destroyed the undergrowth and wildflower meadows in the large conservation area that starts just three blocks west of us. No violets or trilliums this year? I don’t want to see it.
I hope the fox that is digging a new den in the small terrace under my bedroom window will control the population of rabbits and chipmunks. She moved in last spring, and it was fun to watch her kits, but the idea of having foxes in the garden makes me uneasy. No one likes finding dismembered furry corpses in what used to be the flower beds… and are they a vector for rabies?
Ours is a very small problem compared to the global picture and what is happening to human populations as well. Populations growing out of control, spontaneous uncontrolled migration in search of food, suffering, misery, devastation, and ecological ruin in its wake. Sobering truths.
Here are three relevant books or films I intend to revisit this summer… I am sure there are many more… link back and tell us what you recommend. The film links are here: just click on the title and open in YouTube:
Watership Down (full movie) This is not, thankfully, Walt Disney. It is not cute. It has exquisite water-colour scenery and the rabbits, anthropomorphic and obviously symbolic in character, are voiced by very well-known British actors. Really worth watching. The climax is terrifying! Meadowlands… food for thought!
Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, (trailer only) filmed as The Secret of Nimh The full movie does not seem to be available, although there are many small segments. There are heart breaking scenes of heroism and sacrifice. Worth getting from the library.
Animal Farm (the original 1954 animation) Orwell’s great political fable. Have you watched it recently? It is as fresh and disturbing as ever.