Saturday, September 06, 2014

Leave No Trace Behind

(Column orginally published in the Merritt Herald - Othmar Vohringer - The Outdoorsman)
© Othmar Vohringer

When we return from our trips in the wilderness we should make sure that we leave no trace of our visits behind. Yet it seems as the years pass I see more and more people leaving refuse in the bush. Sometimes it is just a few beverage cans but more and more often I am finding discarded tarps, tents a, bags of household garbage, motor oil canisters, broken buckets, roles of wire, plastic bags, ropes…the list of human civilization's waste could go on for the rest of this column.

Not only is it a criminal offense in the eyes of the law to pollute nature with garbage it is also a deadly hazard to wildlife. Many years ago when I lived in Illinois, USA, I was a volunteer for the Illinois DNR (Department of Natural Resources) and in this position I assisted in more wildlife rescues than I care to remember. Most times the rescues involved freeing the animal from some human caused predicament. Most vividly in my memory are two cases:

The first involved a deer that got its head stuck in a bucket. Nobody knew for how long the deer was in this pitiful state but judging by its haggard condition and the cuts and bruises on its legs it is very likely that the deer was staggering around blindly for several days, unable to eat or rest until it was reported. We had to tranquilize the deer obviously in order to cut the bucket away.

In the other case we spent over an hour freeing a whitetail deer buck that had somehow managed to tangle himself into a carelessly discarded rope. His front feet, head, neck and antlers were bound so tightly to the point that he was close to strangling himself. He too required tranquilization in order for us to remove the rope that had cut deeply into his flesh. There is no telling how many animals we could not get too in similar situations and because of that died a long and agonizing death.

Most wildlife are very curious animals that like to investigate and are often attracted by human garbage, especially if they smell something edible like a chocolate wrapper or a plastic bag that was used to take food into the camp. Items like this are often found carelessly thrown in the bush. Deer, moose, bears and other animals are attracted to plastic bags and wrappers and will eat them. Plastic is indigestible and will cause a blockage in the animals’ intestines which in turn kills the animal slowly over a period of days, suffering great agony.

Over the years I found that the worst days of nature pollution occur during long weekends holidays when everybody heads out in the wilderness to camp, hike, bike and fish. It puzzles my mind that outdoor visitors don’t mind carting all their supplies into the camp but are too lazy to bring the garbage back out again. If you can bring it with you then you can take it out again too. Nature is the home of the wild animals and it is our responsibility to make sure that their home remains free of civilisation’s refuse. This coming long weekend holiday, and of course at every other time too, be a conservationist and take your garbage, tents, tarps, glass bottles, drink cans and everything else you brought into the wilderness home and discard it in the proper manner.

Enjoy your outdoor activities to your hearts content but when you go home leave no trace behind of your visit so that others too can enjoy unspoiled nature and wildlife does not have to suffer because of irresponsible actions. If you witness environment pollution in progress make notes of the people involved, write down, or take a picture with your cellphone of the vehicle licence plate and call the RAPP-Line (Report All Poachers and Polluters) 1-877-952-RAPP (7277) Cellular Dial - #7277. Let’s all get a handle on trash dumping in our great outdoors.

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