Wednesday, March 12, 2008

How Much Should We Fear Mountain Lions, Rattlesnakes, and Wildland Fires?

Burr Williams, of the Midland Reporter-Telegram in Texas, has some interesting thoughts comparing mountain lions, rattlesnakes, and wildland fires. Here is a brief excerpt:
"Mountain lions, grassfires and rattlesnakes are part of our landscape. We cannot prevent all wildfires nor can we kill every mountain lion or rattlesnake. We can learn how to behave if we run into a mountain lion (stand tall, wave your arms and yell). If we run, the lion will think we are food. In mountain lion habitat, we learn not to jog at daybreak or at sundown, because their prey (deer) often feed at that time. To avoid being bitten by a rattlesnake, we can learn to walk through pastures with respect, always putting our feet down where we can see them, and reach to the ground with our hands only after looking first.

During the month of February grassfires burned over a half-million acres of West Texas, prompting evacuations, killing livestock, destroying fencing and destroying buildings. Our semi-arid prairie brushland has adapted to fire over the centuries. Every rainy period will be followed by a dry year, and either lightning or man will sooner or later burn the dried-out litter left after the rainy times. Fire keeps our ecosystem healthy, according to ecologists. We can learn never to toss a cigarette out the window or to weld on a windy day without wetting the ground or to pull onto a grassy shoulder on the highway where a hot catalytic converter can start a fire."

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