DEAR DR. FOX: Although I love the outdoors and I am sympathetic to wildlife and the environment, I disagree with your recent statements regarding "re-wilding" public lands. The reason for my objection is not made to support trappers, hunters or mining concerns, but to maintain some of these areas so that my grandkids and I can hike or camp without fear of attack or death from one of a few deadly predators that are being reintroduced. My thoughts on a couple of the issues usually mentioned:
1. Putting things back as they were: This can be completed with or without adding deadly predators in the mix. The environment must be fixed in a variety of ways -- regardless of if the predators are there.
2. No need to worry because bears, wolves and cougars are afraid of people, and if we don't bother them, we'll be safe: blatantly false. Cougars and bears already kill a few people each year, and any fear they have will rapidly vanish, as bears in state parks prove over and over again. -- J.P., St. Charles, Missouri
DEAR J.P.: Many people share your fear and concerns over human safety in those parts of our National Park System of public lands designated as national parks and wildlife refuges. Remember that state and federal agencies have waged war on natural predators for decades, their extermination causing great harm to these ecosystems. Their natural recovery or carefully conducted reintroduction is much needed. These lands are not our lands, but theirs; they are only "ours" in sacred trust as good stewards.
Already, our national parks are suffering from the impact of too many tourists. More people are injured and killed by falling trees, snakes, lightning and climbing accidents as well as by their own dogs, cattle and horses on home-base than ever by wolves, lions and bears.
Despite the general impressions that human deaths are regular and imminent, this is not true. I recently corresponded with Will Stolzenburg, author of "Heart of a Lion." He said:
"The last person killed by a mountain lion was in 2008. And in fact, a recent study showed that people's lives are actually being saved by mountain lions, by preventing fatal vehicle collisions with deer (which now kill about 200 people each year). The study further estimates that if mountain lions were allowed to return to the eastern forests, they could save upwards of 155 people over the next 30 years.
"Another point: Many of the aggressive encounters between people and bears or lions stem from our hunting of the animals, by wounding and incapacitating otherwise healthy, well-behaved animals, and by orphaning cubs and kittens who grow desperate. Or, in the particular case of bears, our ill-advised feeding of them primes the possibility for bad encounters. Again, our fault."
So hikers and campers beware; take along a can of pepper spray, keep dogs on the leash -- children, too; and let's give equal consideration to the endangered children of other species who have no less a right to be than we, as I emphasize in my book "Animals and Nature First."
STATE OF COMPANION ANIMAL HEALTH IN THE U.S.
Two reports provide some insight into cat and dog health, and alert owners to discuss preventive measures with their veterinarians.
There were 67.6 cases of diabetes mellitus per 10,000 cats and 23.6 cases per 10,000 dogs. Dental disease continues to be the most common disorder among cats and dogs, affecting 68 percent of cats and 76 percent of dogs in 2015. For more details, see stateofpethealth.com.
In another report, 58 percent of cats and 54 percent of dogs were reported as being overweight or obese. See more at PetObesityPrevention.org.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.net.)