Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Many Faces of Wildlife Harassment

I realize now, why, when going to Harlem Meer, I usually go at night.
Yesterday, however, I decided to go during the afternoon -- a decision that would later be regretted.
I went during the day primarily because I wanted to verify if the same low number of waterfowl I was seeing at night was also the case during the day.  (I had wondered and hoped that perhaps most of the geese and mallards were flying somewhere else at night?)
To my disappointment, it is the same (and even more) desolate scene during the day as at night.
Only two geese, Bozo and Bonnie were present on the entire lake yesterday and less than a handfull of mallards.
Meanwhile (for one of the extremely rare occasions one sees these two ducks separated), Brad was cautiously swimming on the water while Angelina remained back under the protected Willow tree near the Dana Discovery Center.
I tossed some crack corn to Angelina which she ate. Afterwards, she went to settle under the tree again.  She seemed to have no interest in going into the water which seemed very strange to me.
I then went to see if I could offer any treats to Brad who was swimming aimlessly towards the east side of the Meer.
Unfortunately, that was the same area where several fisherman were casting long lines over the water.
At one point, Brad saw me and started swimming towards the embankment. 
But, then one of the fisherman cast out a line and Brad hastily and nervously retreated.
He and the other three mallards in the same area, quickly changed directions and started darting away from the fishing lines.
For a duck who is usually so calm, collected and confident (even in the face of frigid winters and snow storms), it was surprising to see Brad behave in such fearful, jumpy manner.
In fact, all the few remaining waterfowl at the Meer these days appear more "nervous" than normal.
Bozo and Bonnie were not in their usual open spot, intimidating dogs that come into the park.  Rather, they were behind one of the fenced and protected grassy embankments. Two mallards appeared to be hanging out with them, presumably for feeling of safety.  (See photo.)
Like, Angelina, all four birds chose not to be in the water at that time.
The lake appears so empty, dull and lifeless with the absence of waterfowl on it.
It is ironic and (to me) despairing and out of place, to see more fisherman at the water than waterfowl.
As I was mulling over the disconcerting scene, suddenly one of the fisherman pulled a small fish out of the water.
The fish was desperately flopping and jumping around on the grass.  
In a flash, I was suddenly transported back to an unpleasant childhood memory:
I am 8-years old.   My uncle has taken me out on the dock at Fire Island Bay to show me fishing.  He pulls a smallish fish out of the water and it is flopping frantically on the wooden dock, the sun catching and highlighting its glistening and struggling body. I let out a loud scream, turn around and run back to the cottage a short distance away and where my Grandmother is. I am crying and hysterical thinking about the fish struggling for breath and dying before my eyes.  My Grandmother tries to console me, but I don't hear what she says. My uncle later tries to comfort me, but his words go past my ears.
I loved my uncle and Grandmother who were otherwise, animal lovers.  I loved Fire Island when my aunt and uncle were kind and thoughtful enough to invite us there.  But, I did not love the fishing nor did I believe whatever rationalizations I was offered for it.  ("They're only fish?")
We never spoke about that incident again in my family, nor did it effect my relationship with my beloved relatives.
But, yesterday, I was suddenly transported back to that memory when seeing the struggling little fish squirming and flopping on the grass at Harlem Meer.  And I experienced the same  feeling.
Only this time, I could not run home crying to my Grandmother.
Instead, I quickly turned my head and left the park.
Walking home, I wondered if there is something wrong with me?
I have always thought that I derived my love for animals from my family, particularly, my kindly and generous Grandmother (God rest her soul.)
And yet, my family accepted fishing and occasionally practiced it.
Why was I so repulsed by it?
Perhaps because I imagine being hooked on something and pulled into the water and drowned.  I imagine that can't be pleasant for any living being trying to gasp for breath and escape.
Others will of course say, "Fish aren't human and don't experience the same as we do."
Then again, who among us has ever been a fish?
Nevertheless, yesterday made me realize something:
That is, that apparently one's feelings and attitudes towards animals don't entirely come from one's family.  Perhaps some of us are born "different."  Perhaps our divert  paths are set before us from the moment we are born.
I realized something else, too. -- The reason I usually go to Harlem Meer at night:
I hate seeing the few remaining ducks and geese nervously dodging fishing lines and I hate seeing the fishing itself -- especially where it is allowed and one has no means of protest.
Part of me now believes that "harassment" has definitely been used against the geese and other waterfowl at Central Park even though, so far, no one has admitted to that.
Evidence to that now not only seems to be the low numbers of ducks and geese in Central Park, but even more so, the remaining birds' nervous, guarded and unusual behavior.
But, maybe again, that has more to do with the fishing than actual and paid-for "harassment?"
Perhaps, the fishing IS harassment in and of itself for ALL the animals on the lake, whether of fin or wing. 
There appear to be many faces of wildlife and nature harassment, whether paid for or otherwise.  -- PCA

No comments: