Ours is a town of causes and we’re often asked to contribute, sometimes by buying a chance on a raffle. This time my friend won a three-day stay in a cabin in Big Bear Lake and invited me and two other women to enjoy this mountain get-away. Quiet in this off-season after the snow and before the summer influx, the area offered lesser-known points of interest to explore. One of them was the Moon Ridge Animal Park and Wildlife Center where injured wildlife is cared for and where animals that cannot be released into the wild are housed and available for visitors to observe.
Three mule deer roamed inside the chain link enclosure looking soft and lovable. The docent explained the double chain link fencing. The second fence, paralleling the first about three feet away, is to keep visitors from petting the deer through the fence. “If a visitor gets nipped by one of the deer, the health department would make us euthanize all of them, so we have to make extra sure we are keeping people from touching these friendly animals.”
Killing all three deer over a minor offense seems excessive, but it made me think about how differently we consider the value of other living beings compared to ourselves. The deer are disposable based on an arcane rule. Their lives are in our hands.
My thoughts returned to Laguna and the rules we often face. I am told large mature Torrey pines are being slated for removal at Mission Hospital Laguna Beach because there is a rule; they are too close to where the hospital stores oxygen. Has it been considered to move the oxygen? Or to investigate the validity, the scientific basis for the rule? Has it been appropriately applied in this situation?
Then there’s another tree that hasn’t been maintained for years. It lost a limb that fell on someone’s car. There’s a plan afoot to remove that tree too. Killing a tree because of a natural event that could have been prevented by proper maintenance seems also to be an over-reaction. Lightening the load on the branches with judicious pruning of limbs will make it possible for the tree to live on and for people to be safe.
With thoughtfulness and sympathy there are ways we can all live together. We can adjust to other living beings, and help them adjust to us rather than doing away with them over minor incidents or imagined possibilities.
The beauty and benefits of living with nature, even managed nature, even nature we ourselves have put in place, are valuable aspects of our lives. Plants and animals, in fitting and adapting to their surroundings, provide lessons we can consider.
Rather than using our power to dispose of life over inconveniences, we can broaden our own lives to include these other forms of life. In adapting and appreciating we become more humane.
We left the wildlife center grateful for the animals that were protected there, and for people who cared enough to fit them into their lives.
Ann Christoph is a landscape architect and former mayor of Laguna Beach.