When it comes to wildlife in Arizona, man teeters on a fine line between living in harmony and living like an idiot. The harmony part comes from respecting or even nurturing the bountiful bevy of beautiful beasties, which range from the delicate hummingbird to the not-so-delicate javelina.
Mix in the raucous rattlesnake, precocious pack rats, perky prairie dogs, captivating coyotes and lovable lizards, and we’ve got ourselves an amazing array of animal wonders.
That should not mean, however, we should let them kill us.
Here is where idiotic thought often comes in. One example of idiocy comes from the camp that screams about people who dare to defend themselves while out in the wild.
“If you can’t handle the wildlife, just stay home,” is the typical mantra. Since those exclaiming the mantra typically do so via typing, we can assume they are home themselves, perhaps in a cozy armchair, hemming and hawing about the proper way to handle wildlife from the comfort of their very own living rooms.
A local example of this group’s outcry came in response to a camping incident in which the campers threw rocks at a stubborn rattlesnake, poised to attack, in the middle of the only path leading up a steep hill.
While the armchair crowd quickly started chanting, “Stay home!” nobody suggested other methods of dealing with the snake, which was blocking the two campers and their two dogs from returning to their campsite. Perhaps caressing the snake, nudging it gently to the side with a forefinger or inviting it back to the tent may have been more-acceptable options.
Then came the beaver incident. Although the beaver incident was not in Arizona, it appears the armchair camp extends its tentacles to all parts of the nation, even the world. A rabid beaver in a Pennsylvania river repeatedly attacked a 51-year-old Boy Scout leader while he was taking a dip. He was able to grab the frenzied critter and hurl it to shore, where it promptly attacked a pool noodle.
The pool noodle may have been the tipping point.
Members of the Scout troop began pelting the beaver with rocks until it lay dead on the shore. As evidenced by its assault on the pool noodle, the beaver was apparently eager to chomp down on anything nearby.
The Scouts may have very well saved their own lives, as well as the life of the troop leader, especially if the beaver had chosen to chomp on an aorta. But that didn’t matter to the slew of armchair online commenters, who began to bellow with rage: “If you can’t handle the wildlife, just stay home!”
Once again, the stay-home group did not offer feasible options for dealing with the beaver that fell short of killing it. Perhaps the Boy Scouts could have left all their gear behind and booked a room at the nearest motel. Or maybe they could have attempted to befriend the beaver and use it as a weapon against other wayward wildlife.
In any event, the stay-homers were horrified by the stoning. They seemed to prefer that the animal not enjoy a rapid death, but rather suffer through the long, painful and always-fatal process of rabies deterioration.
Even good ol’ Cujo was better off being fatally stabbed in the eye with a broken baseball bat.
All this violence against wildlife in no way means that hurting or killing any animal that irks you is the way to go, although some situations are not as clear-cut as others. A particularly perplexing example comes from Flagstaff, where prairie dogs have apparently gone too far, and a pool noodle isn’t even involved.
The cute critters are wrecking the lush lawns of Foxglenn Park, so the city is planning to annihilate the dapper dogs with poison. The example is particularly perplexing because, although we know it may be cool for man to employ deadly tactics to defend his very life, we’re not sure if death is the only answer when it comes to defending his soccer fields.
Yes, the city has already tried trapping, moving and blockading the prairie dogs, and even feeding the prairie dogs to ferrets. And it is open to brainstorming for other methods that fall short of murder. Maybe there isn’t one.
This leads us right back to where we started, teetering on the fine line between harmony and idiocy when it comes to living with our feral friends. Perhaps we can avoid the dilemma altogether—although we cannot always avoid scorpions in our bedsheets or bats in our attic—if we take the armchair camp’s obnoxious cue.
Maybe we should all just stay home.