Remember, raccoons are wild animals

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By Sylvia Brockner

Well, I’ve done it again. Once a klutz, always a klutz. Seems like every few years, lately, I have to go tumbling around, either spraining or breaking something.

This time it’s a broken right wrist. How these things happen so quickly amazes me, but of course, if you had time to think about it, they wouldn’t happen.

This time, I broke my wrist when I fell on the boardwalk at Evergreen Lake as a friend and I were walking out to have lunch on Bill’s bench. Breaking my right wrist is a big problem for I am totally right-handed. I am getting physical therapy now, trying to make muscles work that have had a two-month vacation.

I broke my left wrist 25 years ago when I was separating my dog from a raccoon. Raccoons have never come regularly to our house because we do not feed them. However, raccoons are panhandlers that quickly become accustomed to being fed by humans. They have no fear.

There are few animals that are as appealing as raccoons. They are alert, cute, adorable, precious, friendly, sweet, innocent and many other adjectives that I have heard used to describe them.

They are also wild animals.

Wild raccoons eat a variety of foods that change from season to season depending upon availability. They are omnivores, consuming crawfish, small rodents, baby birds, insects, grapes, berries, corn and other vegetable matter.

Wild food is not especially abundant for raccoons in this area. Thin, hungry animals tend to bear small litters, thus keeping their population in balance with the food supply. The influx of people, many of whom feed raccoons and other animals, has disrupted this natural balance.

Fat, well-fed raccoons have litters of five or more young instead of the more normal three or four. Populations soar.

Once the population of any species exceeds the carrying capacity of the land, trouble rears its ugly head. Starvation and disease usually take their toll until the population once more returns to normal.

This is one of the most basic biological laws. It applies to every species that lives, including man. Stopgap measures can be employed to help out for a time, but no species can survive that has a population greater than its food and water supply will support.

It is a sad fact of life that the best, well-intentioned acts of man often are detrimental to wildlife. It is for this reason that the Colorado Division of Wildlife constantly urges people to refrain from feeding animals.

Nature is harsh and by human standards seems cruel. On the other hand, nature is balanced and allows nothing to go to waste. If a pine siskin is killed flying into a window, it is eaten almost immediately by a chipmunk. In turn the chipmunk becomes food for the weasel, which in turn is eaten by the great horned owl.

There are endless food chains in nature, some simple, some very complex. In the end, all matter is returned to the Earth. If we can preserve enough of the many types of natural habitat, the various species will survive.

Preserving the habitat is the key to preserving wildlife. We must save wetlands, pine forests, deciduous forests, grasslands, deserts, all of the various types and niches of habitat if we are to maintain the diversity of species we now enjoy.

Otherwise, one by one they will become extinct as the passenger pigeon and heath hen already have.

If we are truly concerned about preserving wildlife in its great diversity, there is no greater thing we can do than contribute to societies such as The Nature Conservancy whose purpose is to purchase and preserve habitats.

Another means of contributing is to become involved with conservation action groups that are trying to save habitat through political action and education. They include the National Audubon Society, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and others.