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May 25, 2010 > Ohlone Humane Society: Our wild neighbors

Ohlone Humane Society: Our wild neighbors

By Nancy Lyon

It doesn't make much difference whether you live in a rural area, suburbia or a large city like San Francisco, wild life will always be with us. They should be viewed as enrichment in our lives rather than a problem to be solved.

We hear from a lot folks who grump about the gentle opossum that seeks only to survive by sharing a small part of their fruit harvest, or the hungry raccoon that may helpfully aerate your lawn looking for pesky grubs. If you step back just a bit, take a deep breath, and consider that we share the planet with these other earthlings, our goal should be living with them in harmony. Perhaps we will see them through different eyes.

To this end, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has initiated a campaign to create "Humane Backyards," a place of peaceful unity between humanity, companion animals, and wild creatures; neighbors sharing outdoor spaces surrounding urban and suburban homes. Their philosophy is that when you make your yard (or deck, or roof, or any outdoor space) a humane backyard, you are fostering beauty, pleasure and, not incidentally, understanding.

A humane backyard is one that is ecologically sound. Those who commit to having a humane backyard "use no products or practices that harm animals, seek to preserve a natural landscape and enhance the natural diversity of green space. The idea builds on an exciting national trend aimed at fostering ecologically sound communities."

The project views every home as a nature preserve in waiting. Those who maintain humane backyards are generally rewarded with lower water usage, less maintenance, a more natural relationship with their surroundings and inevitably gain a deeper appreciation of nature. Wildlife populations benefit from this wise understanding of habitat and animal behavior. Tired old conflicts between wildlife and homeowners are reduced.

HSUS states that any space however large or small can be a humane backyard.

It can be a container garden on an apartment balcony with a hanging flower that serves as a stopover for migrating hummingbirds and butterflies.

A condominium with a small patch of ground, an average suburban yard, a sprawling corporate property or a community park, has the potential to make things better for wild animals and, of course, yourself.

Rather than spraying your yard with pesticides or herbicides that harm not only wildlife but you and your family, a yard free of these poisons becomes forage for insect-eating birds. A corporate campus can become an amazing refuge that blossoms into an area where diverse animals survive and thrive.

According to HSUS, the Humane Backyard begins with simple and practical steps. Landscapes are reshaped incrementally to attract songbirds and butterflies, deter wildlife species with whom conflicts occur and above all, humanely resolve conflicts when they do happen. Connect one humane backyard to many and entire communities are transformed; the relationship between humans and animals revitalized.

They ask, "Where do you live?" And next time you are asked, imagine this answer: "Where? I live in the city; I share in the wild."

Sharing your private space with your wild neighbors in a special sanctuary can provide an incredible connection with the earth and her great diversity. It's a joy to share company with your wild neighbors in this special space. Sadly, every day, more and more wildlife habitat is lost to the spread of development. But you can help wild animals in urban and suburban areas by offering them sanctuary in your own backyard (or front yard, roof-top garden, or deck), no matter how small.

It's important to remember to keep wild critters wild for their protection and not make them "pets." However, you can still provide a place of sanctuary in your garden without compromising their wild state. Check out the following HSUS link on how your yard can become a desirable and natural habitat that nurtures our wild neighbors: http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/gardening_wildlife.html

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