Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Ohio Animals Reply

Two of Central Park's "wild" animals
Photo by Cal Vornberger

I guess I'm not getting the last word after all. Here's John Blakeman, defending the honor of his Ohio turkeys and woodchucks.


Now it's getting personal!

But not for me. I'm delighting in all of this, even your good-natured put-downs of my particular views on the “wildness” of Central Park wildlife.

The affront is to my wildlife friends out here in rural Ohio. Let me get personal and try, perhaps, to represent the viewpoints of Ohio turkeys and woodchucks. Of course, they aren't aware of the anomalous happenings of their kindred in Central Park, but if they were, I think they'd be expressing the same thoughts I have on these strange appearances and behaviors.

Ohio turkeys and woodchucks would be expressing the same thoughts that Dusty, one of Garrison Keillor's two peripatetic cowboys, expressed when both of them, Dusty and Lefty, ended up in some small town after selling their cow herd. The structural and cultural confinements of the town just got to Dusty and he depressingly remarked – as only he could -- “How can anybody live like this?” in reference, really, to all urban life. Ohio turkeys and woodchucks would offer the same thoughts about their NYC brethren. If my Ohio wildlife could talk, their conversations would be rather deprecating and judgmental regarding the wild animals that have invaded Central Park. “How can anyone live like this?” would be their moan.

But to be serious, we field biologists need to be learning the answers to that real question. I think I've got Pale Male and his cohorts pretty well figured out now. I still want to see what happens to the CP red-tail population as it continues to expand with new eyasses and nests in coming years. But the biology of the urban hawks is now comprehended, if not scientifically quantified. The CP red-tails have retained necessary wild traits, while taking on successful new urban ones, such as nesting much higher and on buildings, and changing their hunting techniques from the ones rural red-tails use.

Again, Central Park, of all places, is an unstudied wildlife laboratory. It's too bad some serious studies aren't being conducted. It's no turkey, so to speak.

–John Blakeman

Well, one last PS, from a regular website correspondent and then...on to other subjects. Pale Male and Lola, for instance, and Charlotte and Junior.

Hi, Marie --
I feel I must comment on all these discussions of wildness. The basic rules of nature for for all living creatures -- eat or die; reproduce or die out -- are irreducible, but a wild animal's behavior is not carved in stone for all eternity. Its ability to adapt to its surroundings and to change when necessary is a sign of success in a species. The denizens of Central Park are teaching us amazing things about not simply surviving in strange surroundings, but flourishing in them. And what incredible teachers they are!
Jan Lipert