Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Wildlife Could Use a Break: From Us

As conservationists and nature lovers we are all very much concerned about the future of our birds and of course all of our wildlife. Climate change, habitat loss and pollution top the list of issues that keep us up at night worrying if future generations will get to enjoy nature the way we have.

But at the same time I see things that many folks do every day that just seems to turn a blind eye to the wildlife that tries so very hard every day to survive right around our own neighborhoods.  Somehow, we have managed to disconnect ourselves from the rest of the world believing that what we do at home does not affect the overall ecosystem, but in reality it very much does and the future of many species may ultimately depend on how we conduct ourselves in and around our own backyard.

So If you are ready for a little tough love please continue reading.

I am often saddened on how little tolerance home owners have for nesting birds. If f there is a bird nest near their front door or on a window ledge they want it moved or just out of there ASAP. We could give a nesting bird a break by being a little more easygoing and letting them raise its young that it fought so very hard to do in the first place.

After all, it will only be a few weeks and then the birds will begone. Nature should teach us patience and being a little inconvenienced once in a while is not always a bad thing, especially when it comes to giving nature a helping hand. It is a magnificent family experience watching nestlings go out into the world for the first time.

We could also give all wildlife a break by stopping the pesticide and insecticide uses in our backyards. If you got a call from your local town and they told you they were going to spray pesticides everywhere you would run down to borough hall with a picket sign.

Yet we think nothing of using these toxins all around our homes. Then of course we wonder why we don’t see bees, butterflies and birds like we used to. Often poisons can be avoided to solve a problem and when all things are in balance most garden pets take care of themselves  so please o organic! No one will call you an old hippie. In the end it’s just about the health of our families and our community.

If I had a dollar for every bird I rescued over the years that was caught in fishing line I would be writing this column from the Galapagos. Birds and other wildlife suffer a terrible death from fishing line if they are not found and rescued and most times they are not.

Recently, we sadly had to recover a Great Horned Owl that was strangled to death on fishing line that was left on a tree. Clean up your line and if you see line on the ground even if it is not yours please pick it up. Very often there are fishing line recovery bins along lakes and ponds. Is it a little inconvenient? Sure. But the alternative is far worse.

And while we are at it please resist the temptation to release balloons! They kill wildlife such as turtles and birds every day. There are much better ways to celebrate events than doing something that kills so many living creatures and if you are like me you never want to see another photo of a dead animal with a balloon in its throat or tangled around its feet.

This is a tough one for some of you I know but if you care anything about the future of our bird populations please keep your cat indoors. They are not wild creatures, they are not part of our ecosystem and they kill millions of birds each year. I have heard all the excuses and none of them hold water. If you love your cat please keep it safe indoors.

Bird deaths from window strikes is out of control but we only think of big office buildings and skyscrapers being the culprits. Our homes can be just as deadly. There are many solutions including putting up decals especially made for preventing this kind of tragedy. We can’t very well ask corporations to help if we don’t do something ourselves at home .

My last plea of the day will really get some of you very upset with me but let me ask you a big favor. Please try to be more tolerant of the  creatures that roam your backyard like the groundhogs, squirrels and possums . They are only trying to survive and unfortunately in many cases the last places they have to survive is our suburban neighborhoods.

When I hear some of the awful things people do to these poor animals it is heartbreaking. Maybe consider putting out a few extra tomato plants and setting aside part of your garden that you can share with some of our woodland friends. After all it might just  go a long way to teaching our kids and grandchildren to be more tolerant of the natural world around them

There are also some positive things you can do to help.

Use Native Plants in the backyard!

Everything from birds to butterflies depends on our native plants to survive. Creating a small habitat can help birds endure the stresses of climate change  and bring back many of our butterfly and pollinator species that we are losing every year.

Put out some water!

Many of the ponds and streams we played in as kids no longer exist. By putting out a simple bird bath or even just a shallow tray of water it will help migratory birds as they continue their long arduous journey along the flyway. Just change the water often so as not to get mosquitos and all will be fine for all concerned.

Put up some bird houses!

Just about everyone can put up a bird house somewhere. There is a housing shortage in New Jersey not only for people but for birds too. Bird houses will help everything from chickadees, wrens and even owls raise their families and bring forth the next generation of the birds we love so much.

 Put up a bird feeder!

I understand this is not for everyone and I realize there is an expense plus many people live in places where it is not practical or possible to feed the birds But if you can, feeders will help birds survive migration and nesting season and especially help through severe cold and wet winters.

And one of my favorite things about feeders is that they help folks connect more with nature which is always important . Keep the feeders and the ground clean and use a good healthy bird seed mix. And PLEASE do not feed birds bread! It is the ultimate junk food filling their stomachs with material that has no nutritional  value whatsoever

 Take a Child Birding 

One moment in nature may create a lifelong passion for the outdoors and thereby helping to make the world a better place for wildlife and human kind also

We very much need to change our way of thinking when it comes to wildlife in our community .  A little bit of tolerance, patience, understanding and education will help us not to be so hard on the wildlife that wants the same things as all of us, to be safe, have a good meal, and to successfully bring forth their next generation.  So whenever and wherever you can let’s try our best give wildlife a break. It’s the very least we can do.


6 thoughts on “Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Wildlife Could Use a Break: From Us

  1. Deb

    Superb article. Everything about our yard now is geared toward wildlife. We have actually contained our veggie and fruit plants in enclosed raised beds, leaving additional plants for the birds and pollinators. We have deer, foxes, turkeys, woodchucks and chipmunks passing through regularly. It is no sacrifice to lose a few plants to animals clearly living on the fringe of suburbia.
    Thanks for sharing your insight.

  2. annie mardiney

    Great article! I’ve been a NYS and federally permitted wild bird rehabber for 15 years (and do as many live raptor programs as possible with my unreleasable education raptors). I take in 300+ injured or orphaned wild birds annually. The primary reason I get them is due to accidental collisions with windows and cars. Second most common reason: outside cats, whether it’s Fluffy the pet cat, or “community cats”. When a Good Sam brings me a wild bird their cat inured, but it is also meaningless if they continue to let their cats go outside, or feed feral cats. Period.

    1. Don

      Thanks Annie , it is very sad ,its a sensitive subject with some folks but they do need to hear the truth for sure

  3. John Gregoire

    There is no valid excuse for allowing a cat outdoors. To do so and claim to be a lover of the wild is inconsistent thinking at best. Some wonderful remarks in this blog except for the comment of writing from the Galapagos which we humans have already overcrowded through so called ecotourism.


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