Monday, December 28, 2009

Week of Dec 21 2009 : Ethics

(Here is the most recent creature to visit the valley, an Eastern Timberwolf. Also roaming out there is a black cat, named Corn Kitty because last summer it patrolled our sweet corn fields. C.K. does not run too fast on 3 and 1/2 legs but so far has managed to evade E.T.).

A recent timber wolf sighting made me ponder the ethics associated with agriculture and responsible land stewardship. For example, we are all familiar with the genetically modified organisms debate. Should humans introduce artificial traits into the food supply? But the ethics associated with a wolf fall into a grayer area.

The valley has everything an animal could need or want. The river provides water. The hills provide a shady respite on summer days. The tall trees provide a forest. The open fields provide green forage. And the varying combinations of these features make the valley an inviting place to animals including us humans.

And agriculture and responsible land stewardship only increase the appeal. Two summers ago my sorghum sudan grass cover crop attracted a female ring necked pheasant. Last summer my buckwheat was home to 3 wood chucks. But what happens when a predator accepts the invitation?

A wolf may not sound so bad. He probably would not be interested in vegetable crops but would prey on my enemies. Wood chucks. Raccoons. Canadian Geese. The wolf would help me solve many problems and not introduce any more. Except maybe personal safety.

A single male wolf will not be single for long. First a den, then a mate, then the pups. Suddenly there is a pack with aggressive hunting techniques. Humans are an unlikely but possible target.

Now I am forced to think very critically about responsible land stewardship. Stewardship is good, but it too must be balanced. So what are our obligations to a predator?

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