Associating With Wild Critters (or not)

There is a big difference between domesticated animals and wild ones.  As a matter of fact there are probably less than a couple of dozen types of animals that are considered domesticated, and these all have been with people for thousands of years.  Of course, we have to agree on a definition of ‘domesticated’.  Webster defines ‘domesticate’ as “to cause to be at home”, or “to accustom to home life” or “to tame”.  Now supposedly dogs have been ‘domesticated’ for over 15,000 years, but dogs send more people to the hospital than any wild animal in the continental United States.  It must be that ‘domestication’ has to be a relative term or a continuing work in progress.  We here in the Quoddy region interact with a lot of wild animals almost daily, but seldom ponder the effects of our actions.  There are some times when we do think about the effect of our actions, like when a deer darts out in front of us when we are driving and we are unsuccessful in evading him.  Our thoughts are then generally unprintable and Walt Loring’s Auto Body gets a new (or repeat) customer.  There are many ways to address problems such as the perceived overpopulation of some wild animals, but none seem to satisfy everyone.  Some say there is no problem, and we should just be more careful; and certainly our ‘problem’ is not of the scale of places like New Jersey, where the population of deer, after having once been extirpated, has returned to real nuisance levels.  Canada geese fall into the same category, although they apparently are a result of a misguided process to introduce a variant for hunting.  The unfortunate interactions with these critters are often exacerbated by people coaxing them with food.  The recent actions over on the Charlotte road in Moosehorn with a black bear is an example, and the potential for injury to people is greatly increased as is the resulting demise or at least relocation of the bear.

Pic is Vivi. I knew her a little from last year, (She still had the same ‘V’ on her tail) but she had to get familiar with people again. A pretty easy-going squirrel, but be careful if she gets excited by another squirrel. Once she felt threatened by another squirrel when I was feeding her and she ran up my arm and leaped off my shoulder to a nearby tree before I knew what was happening.




Some wild animals can be tamed, but it apparently takes many generations of selective breeding.  Don’t think that you have tamed a chickadee because it eats sunflower seeds from your hand.  It doesn’t like you.  It just considers you an ugly variation of the regular feeder that it has learned to trust, because no harm has befallen the animal in the many times it came for a seed.  If you do feed critters up close and personal, keep in mind the effects of your actions.  Consider, along with getting bitten, contacting: Hantavirus, West Nile virus, bird flu, Raccoon disease, rabies, salmonella, or any of the many malevolencies spread by the ever present fleas, lice and ticks.  Consider also the effect on the area if your actions attract more critters and the potential nuisance.

In spite of these perceived hazards, we naturalists (?) often handle wild critters, from snakes to butterflies and everything in between.  I’m interested in all of them; what they look like up close, where they are found, their life history, variations, and certainly their personalities.  And besides that, it’s fun.  I even pretend that some of them like me.