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Striking a balance with nature

Posted: September 24, 2008 9:09 p.m.
Updated: November 26, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Last Saturday, Santa Clarita celebrated yet another successful River Rally. Thousands of people turned out to give the South Fork of the Santa Clara River a loving grooming.

The River Rally is not just about picking up trash so it won't wash to the ocean, where it can harm sea creatures. It is a day of learning about local nature.

Every participant must receive a talk on ecology from the Fish and Game Department before venturing into the river. Displays from local environmental groups, water districts and the city provided additional information about river issues and local flora and fauna.

As usual, our booth's display on wildlife corridors provoked a lot of discussion. On the one hand, people are excited when they see local wildlife, but they are apprehensive about coyotes and bobcats. They don't like their pets becoming another animal's breakfast, no matter how much such an event represents the circle of life.

Nature is voracious. Everything feeds on everything else.

But when it comes down to my cat being eaten by a hungry coyote, like everyone else, I have a hard time accepting it. However, unlike many people in our community, I don't blame the coyote or feel hatred or fear of him. He did not eat my cat out of malice for me or the cat, any more than I might eat a hamburger out of malice for a cow. He was just being a coyote and looking for a meal as all coyotes do. I should have kept my cat inside or sat outside with him.

I know that at this time of year local streams are often dry and game is scarce. All animals will do what they can to seek food and water, just as we humans or our pets would do in a similar situation.

I have long puzzled over this separateness that we humans seem to feel from the web of life. We act as though we can destroy natural areas, replacing them with man-made structures without consequences.

Then we are shocked when floods ravage neighborhoods that previously were protected by barrier islands and wetlands, or stripped forest areas cause massive mudslides that bury whole towns or villages.

We cannot understand why our man-made levees won't hold back the mighty Mississippi. And we can't understand that when we build houses into natural areas, wildlife will continue to wander into the housing developments from adjacent woodlands, hills and wildlife corridors.

The Santa Clara River and its tributaries are primary wildlife corridors in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Without these pathways, animals would not be able to move between the San Gabriel, Santa Susana and Los Padres mountain ranges.

Populations would become weak due to inbreeding, and the delicate balance of nature would be out of whack. For example, without coyotes, we would likely become overrun with the field mice and rabbits that are their usual prey.

Many of us are either living on the urban interface close to natural areas or near a wildlife corridor.

That means we will see and interact with local native wildlife from raccoons and opossums, rabbits and mice, to predators such as hawks, bobcats, coyotes and even an occasional mountain lion.

If you want to learn more about how to live with local wildlife, then you may want to visit the SouthCoast Wildlands traveling photographic exhibit "Wildlands of the Santa Clara River Watershed." It will be at the Acton Community Center Oct. 6 to 16, with a reception on Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. From Oct. 16 to Nov. 6, the exhibit will be at the Fillmore Library; the opening will be Oct. 18 at 1 p.m.

Lynne Plambeck is president of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment and a Santa Clarita resident. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily that of The Signal. "Environmentally Speaking" appears Thursdays in The Signal and rotates among local environmentalists.


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