DEAR DR. FOX: I am a tremendous fan of your column and support your truths regarding treatment of animals. I live in a development in Naples, Florida, on a one-third acre plot on one of five lakes that are joined together and ultimately go out to the bay. When I purchased my house in 2004, there were no restrictions on feeding wildlife, but the association revised the rules. The covenants now prohibit the feeding of wildlife.
In the past, I have occasionally given some wild bird seed and corn to some of the resident ducks, particularly if a female duck has ducklings, as they have been on the nest with little food for some time. As we are all required to have our lawns neatly mown and with no weeds, there is little for the ducks to feed on.
We have fewer and fewer ducks, as the association intended, as they claimed that the ducks were fouling up the lakes and leading to excessive algae. I find this ridiculous because the lakes are also retention ponds, and all the runoff of fertilizers, weedkillers, etc. -- plus all the runoff from the roads and nearby strip mall -- go into these lakes.
My question is whether you think the ducks' feces caused the algae in the lakes? The residents particularly loathe the Muscovy ducks as they are nonindigenous, but we have other varieties as well (although very few now). -- K.C., Naples, Florida
DEAR K.C.: You have my sympathy and support, living in this "perfect lawn" stipulating enclave. (For more on this topic, see my post "Lawns Be Gone" on drfoxonehealth.com.) Lawns are an ecological abomination, with their need to be watered constantly in most areas (and now with water shortages in many regions), along with the application of herbicides and chemical fertilizers. These harm not only aquatic life from the runoff into lakes and streams, but get into our drinking water, dust and rain -- harming us, our companion animals and children, especially those playing on treated lawns and parklands. The fertilizers are a major cause of algal blooms in lakes, aggravated by warming climate and water temperatures, some kinds being toxic to wildlife, dogs and other domestic animals, and also to people.
Your community should accept wildlife feeding and bird poop on private property, which should be reseeded with indigenous varieties of plants. At least have such plantings around the lakes to reduce lawn chemical runoff and give the waterbirds some natural habitat.
DEAR DR. FOX: Here in Cape Coral, Florida, we are celebrating the preservation and protection of our wildlife. Our Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife and CC Wildlife Trust have bought 44 lots, and counting, with gopher tortoises and burrowing owls along with other wildlife on them. We need more donations to buy lots. Please see CCfriendsofwildlife.org.
We need land donations ASAP because we are one of the fastest-growing towns in the U.S., and lot prices are spiraling out of control. We also put artificial starter burrows on people's lawns and even on vacant lots. We have a butterfly compound and are releasing butterflies in the wild, some of which are rare. We also provide gourds for purple martins and have fledged hundreds over the years. We fight the good fight to protect eagles, stop fertilizer pollution, fight for clean water and stop global warming.
I think your categorizing animals as a race is so neat. I even look at our wildlife in a different higher light. And to top that, you called the people who exploit our fauna for financial or political gain racists. What a unique way of thinking.
For the last 20 years, after I retired from teaching and the military, I have garnered 11 awards for my work in saving the environment for everyone. I took a page out of your book and added this to my sign-off: I speak for all the wild animals of all races and creeds. -- Carl Veaux, Cape Coral, Florida
DEAR C.V.: I have included your appeal for donations in this column because many readers are concerned about the staggering loss of wildlife and habitat due to human encroachment. Community efforts like yours are commendable and exemplify what true democracy means, including consideration of the rights and interests of indigenous species.
One correction: I do not use the term "racism" in reference to the mistreatment and indifference toward other animals, but rather, "speciesism."
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 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 DrFoxOneHealth.com.)