8.26.2007,12:53 PM
Let Wild Remain Wild
I don't understand people's 'need' to own a wild animal. Intellectually I understand the psychology (basically, a power trip or innocent curiosity), but I'm adamantly opposed to it for several reasons. Many of the felines at the Sanctuary were rescued from drug ring raids. Many had been disfigured and traumatized by their 'owners'. Many just abandoned.

While at Oregon State University I had a student intern for three years who had two wolf/dog hybrids, a male and female, and they were a constant headache for her. Granted, she rescued them as abandoned pups, but the natural instinct of the wolf reigned. She was not prepared for the special demands the two canines presented; they are not domesticated dogs. She finally had to take them to a wolf refuge/sanctuary in Washington.

I think, or more correctly, hypothesize, that wild animals tend to be more comfortable -less fearful, perhaps more trusting- on ranches and, as in my case in Maine, remote human habitations because the people who generally live there have a different attitude for wildlife. Not all, mind you, but a good percentage.

That attitude is usually one of respect. Animals can sense it. Even smell it. They smell our fear, our anger and anxieties. Anyone that has lived with animals and paid attention knows or has sensed that they are capable of 'reading' us. If we attentive and observe closely, we can do the same with them. The animal behaviorist at the sanctuary studies this in the felines. We were told that one of the male lions is considered what we would call 'autistic'. He displays no emotional body language. Not even facial features, and is mostly indifferent to everything.

My Dad learned to talk 'dog talk' and I grew up with at least one dog in the house (and I brought home all kinds of critters). Our dogs were trained to respond to single word (usually single syllable) cues with voice inflection. He also knew and used body language. I learned the same techniques when raising/training my horse, Shadow. And, excuse me for saying so, but these techniques (mostly the psychology) are also applicable to raising children. It's funny (aka ironic) to me that as adults we lose these abilities to 'read' others, including each other. I wonder how much an influence technology has had on that. Or we just don't care anymore.

At the cabin in Maine, for three years a mink would come to live 'with' me. It slept on the porch of the cabin and hunted the woods around it. I never tried to go near it; I let it come near me as I sat in the snow or on a tree stump, sat still, patiently, and watched it. And it watched me. We learned that we could trust each other. Eventually it often came up on the porch to sleep for a few hours where it was sheltered from winds and hard rain. I would watch it outside the windows overlooking the porch and smile. It was a tacit trust. Once it followed me to the outhouse and sat down on the trail while I watched it with the door open. It was a beautiful male and I suspect he eventually found a mate and established a den somewhere.

A Russian biologist experimented with a mating pair of wild fox to see how many generations it took to achieve domestication (at the level of our dogs). It took only six. When animals are very young, from the moment of birth on, they are more plastic to establishing close relationships to others than their own kind. My dog nursed a litter of kittens when the mother was killed (by a raccoon). A bummer lamb (bottle fed from first hour; the ewe tried to kill her) bonded to me and followed me around the ranch closer than the dog did. She even went to work with me.

Most horse breeders use a bonding technique called 'imprinting' where the colts/fillies are handled shortly after birth and become comfortable with human interaction. But not all animals are as easily adaptable; aka their natural instinct of human distrust and self-preservation overridden. Nor should it be because there is always the bad apple human that will kill or abuse them in a moment.

Any one further interested might enjoy the book Don Coyote by Dayton O. Hyde, a cattle rancher in Oregon who learned several valuable lessons about animals, himself, and other humans when he befriended a coyote pair and their six pups.

When confronting a wild animal, like these exotic felines, think about how you would like to be treated if you were in their paws.

"Walk a mile in my paws."



posted by Macrobe
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