By Denise Shepherd
Public Affairs Intern
I was a new wildlife management student at the University of Georgia. One of my classes required me to complete a semester-long project worth a huge chunk of my grade, and I was both excited for and terrified of it. The task: find wildlife. I’ll never forget my professor, Dr. Michael Chamberlain, going over the syllabus while a bunch of new-comers stared at him wide-eyed and slack jawed. He seemed to be used to the reaction this particular project received, so he closed with this: “Wildlife is all around you guys. That’s the whole point of this project. I want you guys to realize that wildlife is absolutely everywhere, you just have to look.” Was he sure? I’m a nature loving animal guru, but thinking back, I couldn’t remember that many times where I had encountered wildlife. Man, was I in for a WILD lesson.
If you were to hand me that same project today, I could complete it in a week with a “no-sweat” attitude. Walk along any stream or river twenty feet, and I guarantee you you’ll find racoon tracks. Visit any park with a pond, and there are goose and duck feathers scattered across the grass. Walk half a mile in any direction in the woods while staring at the ground, and more often than not, you’ll find deer droppings. Dr. Chamberlain was right. Wildlife is all around us, we just have to look.
Looking is a LOT easier than it used to be…
Technology has taken us to an era full of smartphones, social media, and cameras strapped to everything from eagles to doorbells. It might look like wildlife populations are on the rise, but the truth is, nowadays, we can SEE more wildlife because we’re LOOKING.
That fox caught on your doorbell camera – that’s probably not the first time it’s been in your yard or on your porch, it’s just the first time you’ve had a camera installed to capture it. More wildlife is showing up on camera because we have more cameras. So, enjoy the viral videos and news stories, but remember, we often share our turf with wildlife.
Living with Wildlife
Georgia is the largest state east of the Mississippi River in area, but it’s also the third fastest-growing state in the nation in terms of population. While the Peach State supports the sixth-most ecological diversity in the nation with its various ecosystems, it also supports our expanding population, subdivisions, and businesses. This loss of habitat forces wildlife directly into our backyards.
As human populations increase, we will interact with more and more wildlife as we continue to share space. It’s important to remember that our actions can also work to protect and conserve that wildlife. By taking simple actions to manage habitat in your backyard or neighborhood, you provide wildlife the space they need to thrive in a human-dominated world.