This past week, there has been an interesting news story making the news rounds about Macquarie island (betweenÂ Australia and Antarctica) and their apparent, well, balancing issue. Like many places on the map that have borders onÂ the bright blue, they have a guest problem. Like many people with a guest problem, they figured that getting the guest to leave would fix the problem. Not so much, it seems.
The problem started out as simple. Too many cats. The cats were booted off ships passing the island, had multiplied like bunnies and had become a nuisance to the islanders (who are apparently raging dog people). Actually, when I say islanders, I really mean island birds. The cats had been playing a mean game of Sylvester and Tweety, except Tweety was not winning.
The solution seemed simple. Remove the cats and you remove the problem. Except that cats were not the only critters booted off passing ships. It seems that the cats did not live by birds alone. They had a healthy diet of bunny, rat and mouse as well. All of which were uninvited guests on the island too.
The real problem became apparent after the cats were gone,Â when the local bunnies started multiplying like the cats had (see the circle here?). The “cute wittle bunniesâ€ ravaged the vegetation where the local birds hid and well, the birds’ natural predators declared a local holiday and feasted on tasty and now stupid easy to catch local birds.
What lessons do we as gardeners learn here? One really important one. You don’t fuck with Mother Nature. Harsh language but absolutely appropriate.
Here in Cleveland, and in many places in the US, we have a similar issue. Whether it be suburbian expansion or unnatural selection, we have messed with Mother Nature’s balance and we have ended up with Mother Nature on PMS.
Deer come first to mind (really, I promise not to let this run into a deer rant). Funny thing is that the reason that people THINK we have a deer problem is not the real reason we have a deer problem. It is not a habitat issue. In the context of the island story, deer are the bunnies. So damn cute that it is not funny and their effects are devastating.
The deer population problem is a result of a previous culling. One not as much talked of since they are not as cute. Farmers, hunters and suburbanites have worked to eliminate the local coyote populations over several decades. The coyoteÂ hunt deer and any small animal (i.e. Fluffy and Rover) which makes them inconvenient. We killed the coyote and are now shocked when the bunny deer took over. I am now an avid, card carrying “Save the Coyoteâ€ fan. But I still get grief from those deer people. Apparently cute counts for more than natural.
We seem to think that just killing our way down the inconvenience chain will fix the problem. The herd of deer in my neighbor’s yard last week begs to differ. Of course, they are cute, so they have people on their side fighting for them (not me, I have a cross bow and a friend with a deer tag)
Enough with the deer (it is getting close to a rant). Let’s take this little mental foray even closer to our own home and garden.
“Those damn <insert local pest here>! Let’s kill ’em all. ”
Except what are you killing? Are you getting rid of a problem or are you inviting a bigger secondary problem? When planning your gardening assault for this upcoming spring, whether it be on beast or weed, give some very serious thought to what effect you will have on your own personal plot of land. I suppose the moral of this story is that, just like that cute little old lady song, simply going mafia on your problems and sending in bigger and bigger hit men just won’t fix the problem and could just make it worse (remember: she’s dead, of course).