A couple of years ago I crossed paths with a retired expert in wildlife biology while both of us were trying to help a woman who had a group of (gentle but scary to her) black snakes living on her property, including one very pregnant one. We met at her house for tea and discussed this issue and many other things. While I had met a number of wildlife management specialists who remove, kill, or deter wildlife on residential properties, i was surprised to notice how powerful his approach to wildlife education was. He was both an amazing resource when it came to in-depth knowledge about many kinds of wildlife, and a person whose passion for wild creatures equalled his patience and kindness toward humans who did not understand them. He and I combined efforts and managed to get the very pregnant snake removed for research purposes (I found the research project, he bagged the snakes in a pillowcase for researcher pickup). As it happened, while in research, the snake gave birth to the 50 babies which were subsequently relocated back in the same habitat area but not on her property. I learned that snakes have their winter strategies developed in advance of cold weather, so when approaching the time of hibernation, it is risky to translocate them out of their normal "haunt", as they are likely to die due to not being able to locate and access their traditional hibernating spot or find a new one.
I observed how his quietly shared information calmed homeowners who were driven by extreme fear or discomfort to want to get rid of an animal or destroy its home, and was gratified when some -- not all, but some -- could begin to appreciate and enjoy the creatures that shared the outdoors with them.
Wildlife education may be a winning strategy to employ, and one that may open up an enriched experience and new possibilities for the client's landscape. Designing the animals out of the equation may be a less interesting solution, just as it is probably ecologically out of touch.
If we can help people treasure the planet and love their piece of it, our job changes, allowing us to move away from a reactive focus on editing out what is natural and toward enriching our clients' experience of the natural and of the creatures that share the land they live on.
The Root of the Matter is a blog created by Bespoke Gardening owner Christine Reid to share observations and in-depth insights from a seasoned professional gardener. Edible gardening, perennial gardens, and shrubs and trees — as well as the environments in which they live and the ways we care for them — are all areas of interest.