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Captain’s Log: Animals Bear Heavy Burden During Construction

Critters should be taken into consideration in planning and development to minimize their displacement.

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Capt. David Bacon shows kindness to a few little critters. Animals large and small need us to mitigate the effects of construction projects. (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)

I don’t mind the building of homes, shopping areas, common areas, schools, parks, etc., on new land. How can I? We’ve been doing that since the collective “we” began settling this country. Yes, we need to manage growth in a sensible manner, and I am heartened to see ongoing discourse and special-interest representation around the important relative issues. But there is a gaping hole in our considerations that just gnaws at my heart.

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Capt. David Bacon (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)
You know me well enough to know that I am a critter person. My question is, What can we do about critter displacement?

I’m not one who feels we should halt all construction because a critter of a curious nature lives nearby. But I do believe we need to include critter displacement in our planning and development.

My question is not just about mountain lions, bears, deer and other large animals that usually leave an area once the heavy construction equipment begins working the land. Some of the midsize animals — coyote, for example — don’t even need to leave. They can work around people and equipment while maintaining their wild nature. I have a deep respect for coyotes. Many raptors can similarly adapt to our presence and even recognize temporary opportunities resulting from our activities.

My question is more about smaller animals — ground squirrels, field mice, gophers, rabbits, lizards, frogs, toads, skunks, snakes, possums and myriad other critters (how many critters can you add to the list?).

How can we mitigate the effects of a large development project on new land, such as the Santa Barbara Ranch project, for the sake of the critters? This is a responsibility that should accompany the rights to develop new land from a natural state to a human habitation state.

What are the viable options that would actually work? For starters, we can make sure that initial working of the land doesn’t begin during the common nesting and baby-rearing period of spring and early summer. Critters would have a tough time uprooting and relocating during this time. Before the work on the land begins, we could bait, trap and relocate many of the critters listed above. We also could incorporate construction of some habitats into common areas.

Any other ideas?

It seems unrealistic to expect 100 percent mitigation. That wouldn’t even be possible because the critters have some tricks that we never seem prepared to deal with. I would like to see planning, oversight and adequate execution of an approved plan, resulting in substantial mitigation. I care about the critters we share land with.

Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a new nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need.

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