Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Who Let the Dogs Out???!!!
I just returned from my a.m. walk. The grass, having received a small shower, was completely wet. So, it gave me a chance to step softly and wait patiently for what might be seen by going slowly and silently. Or so I thought.
Overhead, I was surprised that my gentle presence had startled a pair of Wood Ducks. They circled, having lifted off the pond, but their alarm whistles didn’t seem to raise concern for anything else, as they winged by me. Wood Ducks usually nest in trees above the pond (but sometimes on the forest floor tucked way back into the brush); and when flight time for the ducklings is deemed appropriate, the parents push them out of the nest (or they jump) onto the surface of the water below. It’s quite a delightful thing to watch.
As I crept up toward the gate to the pond pasture, carefully looking in all directions, way down the hill, in the grass I saw a slight movement and stopped. Adjusting my sight (bifocals)(had unfortunately left binoculars home), it was possible to discern the shape of a nesting turkey tucked back under the Tartarian Honeysuckle. In the process of carefully putting my body into reverse so as not to disturb her, my ears were accosted with the unnerving howl of what, locally, is called a “Rabbit Beagle.” Actually, it’s also a Turkey Poult Beagle, a Bobwhite Beagle, a Whipporwill Beagle, and a Pest Beagle.
And yes, we, too, have inquisitive Border Collies. But we don’t turn them loose on the world, and , by golly, when we say “Sit,” they sit. When we say, “Let go,” it means stop whatever you are doing and come, “To me.” And when we hike about the farm during this time of year, they are ON THE HEEL or ON A LEAD.
People who say to me, “Oh, we have a XXX (dog), but he really needs “room to run” have no regard for the destruction their beloved pets do as they plunge through spring.
It’s the animal equivalent of clear-cutting! Nothing nesting on the ground survives a dog’s curiosity! I do not mince my words here: letting dogs do as they please, undisciplined in the spring (or ANY time for that matter!) simply curbs or eliminates the chances for seeing wildlife and the chances that wildlife will want to nest at all on such a property..
That said, we did take the Border Collies to the pond the other evening with friends. And yes, they romped and played and swam and did what dogs do: made a lot of noise, crashed through the brush and made general pests of themselves! But we were on a trail that we take often and predictably. Wildlife have been conditioned to that behavior on our part. It’s the trail we always use. Occasionally, as we made our way to the pond, I would call the dogs up and make them heel for awhile, letting them know who was in charge. Point being: they are under control. Also, even in their swim, all activity was at the closeby shore, not at the back of the pond, where their destructive force could harm nesters..
Turning a dog loose on the land, to “let it run” anywhere it wants, is unacceptable. Further, not keeping the pet up in its own home/yard at the end of supervised playtime, is also unacceptable. “Letting a dog run” should only be done when (1) the master has complete control, even at a distance, and with (2) in open fields where the dog can be watched/seen. Even there, Meadowlarks nest in open pastures, so “running” isn’t the best idea. The dog should never be allowed to burrow into potential nesting habitat, especially during this time of year. Cats, too, can wreak havoc on bird nests. Feral cats are a problem on farms, out here JOTOLR. While they can usually make a good living cleaning up all the rodents of one kind or another, , they also make meals off of songbird babies.
So, if I have ruined your day, I’m sorry! But every time a vagrant “Rabbit Beagle” croons out here JOTOLR, in our woods, I know it’s on the loose, unsupervised.. This time of year, it signals a pillaged nest of one kind or another and the master’s nowhere around.
Seems to me if we want to have a positive affect on conservation, it’s our responsibility to be good stewards of both wildlife and our own domestic pets.