Living with Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest
November 4, 2013
Review By Lillian Ford
THE POPULARITY OF WILDLIFE, as idea and as icon, is near universal, but the presence ofwildlife in our yards, homes, and neighbourhoods provokes reactions as diverse as the species that we encounter and the places in which we find them. Responses spring from a variety of viewpoints: the Jane Good-alls among us (and within us) welcome opportunities to commune with fellow species, and the Elmer Fudds set up their traps. Misinformation abounds, and questions loom: What is the place of wildlife in our lives? How do we attract wild creatures while preserving their ecological integrity? How can we coexist with wildlife while protecting public health and safety? Or, simply, how do we get those bats out of the attic? Russell Link’s new book, Living with Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest, has information for everyone whose lives or research include these kinds of questions.
Packed with practical information for both attracting and excluding animals in rural, suburban, and urban environments, Living with Wildlife includes chapters on sixty-eight types of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians that inhabit British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. Each chapter contains a concise package of information, starting with a physical description and natural history, and followed by a more detailed section on the animal’s feeding habits, reproductive behaviour, mortality, denning, nesting and roosting sites, tracks, signs, calls, and use of the built environment. Prioritizing a positive perspective on wildlife encounters, each chapter discusses the animal’s beneficial characteristics and provides advice on viewing and attracting it before discussing conflicts and their prevention. Each chapter ends with information on public health concerns and the legal status of the animal under state, federal, and provincial jurisdictions. The volume also includes several appendices, offering technical specifications for devices discussed in the text, detailed information on trapping wildlife and evicting them from buildings, advice on hiring a wildlife damage control company, a discussion of the impacts of cats and dogs on wildlife, and lists of local agencies and resources that can provide further information.
Much of the text is presented in sidebars, boxes, or in a bulleted format, making the information easy to read and to dissect. Excellent illustrations bring the animals to life and detail techniques for providing habitat enhancements (such as feeders, roosting sites, and nest boxes) as well as various barriers, scare devices, traps, and structural reinforcements designed to keep unwanted animals away. The lively format successfully integrates the variety of information contained in each chapter.
Link is an urban wildlife biologist for the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, and he has a background in both wildlife biology and landscape architecture. Link’s experience in responding to wildlife complaints is evident in the book’s exhaustive inventory of conflict prevention methods, and his horticultural knowledge provides inventive landscape solutions for both attracting and discouraging wildlife. His extensive knowledge of regional wildlife, encompassing biology, ecology, history, and conservation, adds context and dimension to the text, making Living with Wildlife & resource for anyone exploring wildlife-related issues.
Link’s approach to human-wildlife conflicts is progressive and constructive. He emphasizes prevention of conflicts and attributes most problems to human activities that unintentionally provide food, shelter, or other attractions for unwanted animals. Link explores a variety of control methods, discussing the drawbacks of many traditional techniques while demonstrating the effectiveness of humane and ecological solutions. This approach seems just right for our times, when attitudes towards wildlife encounters are diverse but trending towards tolerance.
Other regional publications (including Link’s Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest) have addressed wildlife-friendly landscaping, natural history, and other wildlife-related subjects. Living with Wildlife however, is the first to combine such a wide range of topics in a single volume. Despite its encyclopaedic scope, the book has gaps, particularly regarding less common species. For instance, the chapter on hawks focuses on just three of the thirteen species of hawk found in this region, and it discusses peregrine falcons – one of the more fascinating species to take up urban life – only briefly. Nonetheless, given the enormous scope of his task, Link does a tremendous job of distilling the most important information and presenting it in a highly accessible format. The result is a valuable reference for those seeking to understand, and to act upon, the ways that wild animals inhabit the places that we call home.