Every morning about 10 o’clock, I leave my desk and take a quick walk down by one of our Central Office ponds. Yesterday morning, I heard a chirp and noticed a turkey hen leading a string of poults out of the woods. I stopped to count them—13 youngsters in all. Then another motion caught my eye. A doe. And her two spotted fawns. They were headed toward the turkeys. The two family groups met in the shade and entered the woods together.
I stood open-mouthed, wishing I’d carried my phone. As Facebook friends say, “Pics or it didn’t happen.”
But it did happen, and I went back to my office feeling renewed, refreshed and blessed to have followed my interest in nature to a career in conservation.
I grew up in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, just a few miles west of Asheville. In the 60s and 70s, that celebrated landscape seemed to have lost all its deer, turkey and bear. My brothers and I roamed a five-mile range of pastures, creeks and wooded mountains—places we knew once harbored large wildlife. Some days, I’d slip away from my family and sit quietly in the woods, hoping a deer, a turkey or even a bear would appear. None did, and that made me sad.
As a child, I didn't know that North Carolina was already working hard to restore its missing wildlife, and, like Missouri, it has done a great job of it. Now my brother calls when a black bear appears in his urban backyard. (I remind him to keep his greasy grill and smelly garbage in the garage.)
Today, much of America’s wildlife live among neighborhoods, commercial areas and farms, all interlaced with wooded waterways, parks and natural campuses like ours in Jefferson City. It’s proof that people can live with wildlife, and wildlife (at least those with general habitat needs) can live comfortably with people.
Sometimes conflicts occur, but I’d rather live with them than without them. It makes me feel proud that many native species have returned to our landscapes during my lifetime. We (agencies, nonprofits, communities, landowners and volunteers) have aided this return through far-sighted policies, active wildlife relocation and local habitat restoration. Mostly, though, our love of wildlife and our willingness to make room for it in our backyards, farms and public lands has secured its return.
My role has been to tell the story of this restoration and encourage everyone to participate in it. I’m happy to report that, for the most part, it’s been a success story. If the wildlife thoroughfare down by the Central Office frog pond is any indication, the future looks bright for continued success.
Oh, and next time I go for my morning walk? I’m taking my phone.
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