Tangled turf: Humans, critters collide over space

Man builds a big house in the hills. The birds continue to flock as they have always done. Man calls wildlife pathologists about noisy birds outside his window every morning.

It happens.

As do mice in kitchens, deer jettisoning over roadways to meet their maker at the business end of a sport utility vehicle, and a rabid fisher -- a relative of the weasel -- attacking a Glenville woman taking out the trash.

Other animals are looking down from the hills at the warm glow of predator-free, food-laden developments and are soon scratching a living in man's backyard. They are also moving into the green spaces and refuges many municipalities are setting aside as part of their comprehensive plans and development strategies.

The fact is, wildlife is growing accustomed to man, his machines, his homes and his sprawling housing neighborhoods, and as they do, they quickly get blacklisted as vermin, despite the fact that they were there first.

"When I was a boy in Columbia County in the late 1950s, I did a lot of work on farms. The crows were scared to death of people. They got out of there when confronted. Agriculture became less and less, people stopped shooting at them, and the crows went into areas inhabited by people," said Ward Stone, wildlife pathologist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

It's a trend that has taken place with many wildlife species, said Stone. Efforts to either control man's spread into open spaces or keep man out and the wildlife in, are repeatedly failing.

Spans of fields once used for farming or covered in dense forest are leveled and left partly paved and the rest sown with grass. Some species are driven from the habitats and some see the development as another, even better, habitat. And there are those animals that use the developed areas to pass through to untouched feeding or breeding grounds, said Stone.

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