Letter to the editor: Urban wildlife at risk

Editor:

“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Mahatma Gandhi.

As I pulled onto my street at 11 p.m. last night, I saw a sight I had never seen in nearly 20 years of living in the Lake Ballinger neighborhood: a beautiful young deer milling around the intersection of 76th Avenue and 242nd Place. She stood in the middle of the road, apparently confused. My friend jumped out of the car to take pictures of this novel sight, while I waited in the car a few yards away, so as not to spook the deer.

To my dismay, a car came rumbling down the  opposite direction on the street, not bothering to slow down or share the road with the timorous young animal in front of his vehicle. My friend shooed the little deer toward the side to let the other driver pass and we watched in horror as the panicked animal sprinted away from the other car, straight into traffic on 76th. My friend cautiously approached the deer on foot and I followed slowly in the car, afraid that they would both get run over. Drivers come roaring down 76th at 60+ mph sometimes, even at night. The sound of screaming engines racing down the hill routinely wakes my mother up at 2 a.m.

The fawn darted from sidewalk to sidewalk across both lanes of traffic on 76th, barely avoiding vehicles that didn’t seem to register her presence. My friend, still on foot, “herded” the little deer out of the busy street. I followed in my car to give them cover, because the drivers on 76th were not slowing down to give the deer a chance to get out of the road. We tried to maneuver the deer into a wooded area, but she could easily return to the busy road once we were gone. I called animal control, got voicemail, and then, as instructed by the voicemail message, called the police’s nonemergency line. The local police politely told us that we could contact state patrol, but otherwise they could not intervene unless the deer was injured.

I was disappointed, because I’m afraid that this beautiful little deer is going to end up as roadkill. As hundreds of deer do every year in Washington state.

There are any number of reasons why the little deer found herself all alone by Lake Ballinger. A potential culprit is the recent deforestation occurring in South Snohomish County to accommodate the light rail. As local wildlife continues to be displaced by rapid development in their habitat, human-wildlife conflicts will only become more common in Edmonds. We have to implement strategies to respond to distressed wildlife in hazardous, manmade situations.

As with most environmental concerns, Edmonds has the opportunity to take a leadership role and set an example for other cities on how to do the right thing. On their website, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife lay out a plan to enable homeowners to turn their private land into a “backyard wildlife sanctuary.” Why not take that tack toward the entire city?

Just at our home by 76th, I’ve heard coyotes howling at night, seen raccoons raiding trash cans, watched eagles engage in arial combat with crows, delighted in baby cottontail rabbits darting around the lawn, wrangled possums and chipmunks that snuck into the garage, and now rescued a young deer playing chicken with nighttime traffic. It feels like our backyard has always been a wildlife sanctuary.

Urban wildlife are just as precious and beloved as our cats, dogs, bunnies, pet birds, etc. If any of us noticed a domesticated animal darting through traffic, of course we would jump out of our car and try to get the animal to safety. Why should the response be so different for wild animals at risk due to human behavior? Are we being responsible environmental stewards if we abandon our wildlife to contend with the disruption wrought on their homes by human encroachment? I don’t think that’s an adequate response. But we have the opportunity to do better by becoming a “sanctuary city” for local wildlife.

Jenna Nand
Edmonds

13 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Urban wildlife at risk”

  1. Jenna, I am on your side with your views stated above. We are lucky to live by Yost park and have over an acre of land, because of these factors, we are blessed with quite a bit of varied wildlife that comes through our property. One thing that I have learned by reading people’s comments here on My Edmonds News is that there are people out there in Edmonds that have the exact opposite view as you and I hold. The one that always comes to mind is Yvonne who lives on OVD and keeps a garbage can in her garage so that when they trap a coyote, she fills this container with water and places the cage with the animal still trapped in the cage into the water and drowns the animal. What a sight and sound this must be. She has no problem writing about doing this on this site for everyone to read. We are also growing with more and more people such as further north in north Edmonds vast tracks of land are being bulldozed flat to build housing. Fognal estates is a good example. This is just one of many that have been developed. There are many people who feel like you and I do but at times I feel that I myself cannot stop this onslaught. My wife and I can only do what we can do on our property but it is very good to read thoughts such as yours knowing we are no alone. If anyone has thoughts, pro or con about this subject I would like to read those thoughts. At 61 years old I feel lucky to be alive, live where I live and understand the balance of life. Hats off to you Jenna for writing down what you feel.

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  2. Hi David, thank you for sharing what’s in your heart. I’m sure that, in Edmonds, the animal lovers far outnumber anyone cruel enough to drown a coyote alive (that’s probably criminal animal cruelty and not a legal form of euthanasia). There’s so much we can do to advocate for our wildlife in the face of burgeoning development. Lobbying for our cause with the City Council is a good place to start!

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  3. My jaw literally dropped to read about a person trapping then drowning a coyote. What are these people thinking? Does this give them pleasure? Let’s protect our precious wildlife and let them try to find their way as we destroy their habitat and take away their freedom. I like to think most folks feel as Jenna, David and I do and love, cherish, and enjoy our wild neighbors.

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    1. I completely agree, Irene, that story about drowning coyotes is one of the worst cases of animal cruelty I’ve heard happening in Edmonds. Most of us do love animals and want to protect them.

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  4. I’m fairly certain that trapping wild animals and disposing of them in Washington State requires a valid state trapper’s license to be legal and must have some purpose, other than just killing an unwanted animal. It might not be a bad idea for someone to send that post by Yvonne to the WDFW poaching hot line for further investigation, if you want to try to do something about that questionable activity. Sounds like she might need a visit from a game cop. I know game cops can, and do at times, give citations to salmon fishermen for mutilating and killing unwanted food fish such as dog fish shark. I know this because a fish cop told a group of us at a fishing club presentation that they do this when they see it occurring. I also knew a man who had a state trapper’s license to remove unwanted animals on private land with request and permission of the owners and on public lands. He sold the pelts. Not my idea of a great or fun hobby, but at least it is done in a legal context. What this lady is doing is both illegal and unethical behavior unless she has a license to do it and a reason for doing it other than just removing an irritation in her life.

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  5. Regarding… “Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife lay out a plan to enable homeowners to turn their private land into a “backyard wildlife sanctuary.” Why not take that tack toward the entire city?”

    The Edmonds Backyard Wildlife Habitat Project (EBWH) was initiated in 2008, of which I was on the Steering Committee. A history of this community organization leading to Edmonds achieving Community Backyard Wildlife Habitat Certification by the National Wildlife Foundation (NWF) in 2010 is described here…

    http://www.cemetery.edmondswa.gov/images/COE/Government/Departments/Parks_and_Recreation/Documentation/Edmonds_Wildlife_Habitat_Project_overview_July_2014.pdf.

    We were the 41st Community Wildlife Habitat recognized in the US. This was a point based system in which points were earned by private property, commercial property, and schoolyard backyard wildlife certifications; sponsoring community events supporting habitat and wildlife preservation; educational programs, etc. At some point (I don’t remember the date), the oversight of this program was transferred to the Parks Department. The restoration project leading to the Edmonds Wildlife Habitat and Native Plant Demonstration Garden was initiated by the EBWH organization. And now many of those from the original EBWH organization support the Demonstration Garden upkeep and provide/participate in educational wildlife and habitat programs offered there. Similarly, the Friends of the Marsh group was spun-off from the EBWH organization with a focus on restoring the Edmonds Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary and promoting Willow Creek Daylighting. Ultimately, the Friends of the Marsh group morphed into what is now known as the Save Our Marsh organization. Many of those that were involved with EBWH continue to participate in both the Demonstration Garden and Save Our Marsh organizations and programs. I encourage those interested in preserving and restoring Edmonds natural areas, habitat, and wildlife to seek involvement with the Demonstration Garden and the Save Our Marsh Organizations.

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    1. Rich It seems that the idea that be present goes beyond just private property and parks being wildlife sanctuaries from my reading it seems that some are not even able to make it to parks or backyards and we need measures in Edmonds to make sure they can. I know I personally have been driving and seen wildlife and was worried that they would not make it somewhere safe. There were no precautions in sight to give anyone any warning that there was wildlife. I think especially with the grazing of trees south more wildlife will come north and the northern cities need to be more prepared than they currently are. The wildlife habitat were a great idea but it needs to be evolved and I think Jenna brings forth the idea of how to move Edmonds forward on that

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  6. Rich Senderoff provides important history and perspective on efforts to protect wildlife in Edmonds. He also makes valuable recommendations of organizations that citizens can work with on behalf of animals. In addition to Save Our Marsh and the Demonstration Garden, the local Sierra Club group offers further opportunity to protect wildlife: for information, go to Sno-Isle@Washington.SierraClub.org

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  7. Thanks, Rich and Marjie, you guys have done great work to protect our local wildlife. I’d like to see us push further to pass laws that protect wildlife in perilous circumstances.

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