Life with Wildlife

Article excerpt

For more and more Americans, viewing wild creatures doesn't need to entail a trip to the zoo or Yellowstone. Many people can see them out their windows, as though on an armchair North American safari. And the animals are not just your run-of-the-backyard deer or rabbits.

Some residents now see grizzly bears, especially in fast-growing resort areas of Montana. Cougars are returning in parts of the West, not far from outlying suburbs, while wolves are being reintroduced and extending their range in the upper Midwest and northern Rockies.

Moose and turkeys are being spotted in suburban Boston, and beavers are at work near Northeast subdivisions, flooding basements with their dams.

Decades of conservation and protection of wildlife have forced a new integration onto an ever-expanding pattern of human settlement. The concept of wilderness as something distant and pristine no longer holds. The beasts now join the picnic.

Assuming the old ways of animal control - hunting and trapping - won't come back into use, people will need to adapt in other ways. Most Americans like the idea of wild areas restored with native wildlife - including predators hunted or trapped to near-extinction in centuries past - but in a NIMBY way. Coexisting with nature's larger, often dangerous creatures requires more than abstract enjoyment.

People heading into national parks are regularly briefed about respecting wildlife, particularly bears that appear friendly. Preservation groups hold workshops to teach common-sense rules about predators - like clearing away brush that might serve as backyard hiding places, or not tempting them by leaving pet food outside. …