By Jack McShane

Is the natural world always fair as we humans define fairness? Here are two examples of where I think it is appearing unfair. You decide. There is a plucky species of a water beetle called Regimbartia attenuata which I will call Regie for short, that has developed a cunning survival strategy when swallowed whole by a frog. Regie is captured, swallowed, but now finds its way through the frog’s gut unscathed; the frog poops and Regie safely makes its exit alive—and well. Some might tag it a Houdini act. Another example of this unusual escape act is a similar journey by some fish eggs gobbled by a duck that can exit unharmed in the duck’s poop. If you find all this hard to believe check it out in Science News. The ducky one shows one way that water birds may disperse fish, including invasive species such as carp. It also might explain how certain species of fish wind up in isolated water bodies. A lot of scientific fact in these two realities which confirm my mindset that there is much going on here that is not fair. Think of it this way: The little frog has probably made a number of attempts, many failing, to capture those bugs in order to garner sustenance to survive, and is using precious energy and calories only to be cheated out of some of his successful captures. And consider the duck’s energy spent dabbling for fish eggs, and at times, being cheated out of the food value of the eggs. So, does all this confirm my premise that the natural world is, at times, quite unfair to some inhabitants? As I said, you decide.

Last month I reported on my son’s loss of his ten chickens due to the coop invasion and predation by a fisher. Now there has been a continuation of the saga. Bordering Kris’s property, a young couple manage a small farm that included one hundred chickens raised for their meat value. This small farm has been working on a tight budget and very sadly lost ninety-one of their chickens in one night, a week after Kris’s loss of his ten. It is presumed to be another killing spree by a fisher and probably the same one that, after killing his chickens, he live-trapped and released on site. When, and if, the young farmers find out will they remain friends and on good neighborly terms with Kris? It remains to be seen. Had he taken my advice to release the fisher in a remote area where he hikes—although breaking the law—it probably would have saved these neighbor farmers a very substantial blow by this local and voracious predator. This I feel is a perfect example of when it comes to the enforcement of the law. There must be, as our own Stanley Fish has written, an understanding that what may be just (following the law as written) and what in certain circumstances is right are two different things. It begs the question: Would a game warden, upon catching Kris releasing the fisher at a remote location, summon him even after an explanation by Kris? Begs the question.

Excuse a brief interruption: As I am writing this on October 1, I just received a phone call from Kris. Success! He just got his first deer of the season, and on opening morning, no less. The McShanes will not starve for lack of gourmet venison.

And now some bad news about deer. The DEC has just released a press notice about a disease called Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD), with over 450 likely deer mortalities in Putnam, Orange, Ulster, Rockland, and Westchester counties. EHD is a virus carried by biting midges. Once infected, the deer usually die within 36 hours. It cannot be contracted by humans, is not spread from deer to deer, and dead deer do not serve as a source of infection for other animals. A deer infected with EHD may appear lame or dehydrated and may succumb near a water source. The first hard frost kills the midges that transmit the disease, ending the EHD outbreak. Although no cases have been reported in Delaware County, please report a sighting of a sick or dying deer to the DEC Regional Office or a DEC officer.

And finally, on the local front, my trail cam on what we call our lower pond caught at mid-day a bobcat approaching the water’s edge with approximately 16 wood ducks swimming over for a close-up look at the feline predator. It was like a meet-and-greet between mortal enemies where in reality there could be no benevolent connection between these two disparate species.

“Nature impacts the human psyche, we are a visual species, we derive a lot of health and happiness from our relationship with the natural world.” Dacher Keltner, psychology professor @ University of California, Berkley.~