Ground squirrels are among the small critters affected by big development projects.

Ground squirrels are among the small critters affected by big development projects.

I understand the need for building homes, shopping areas, common areas, schools, churches, parks, etc. on land that was previously undeveloped. We’ve been doing that since the collective “we” began settling this planet and 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 related issues. But there is a gaping hole in our considerations that just gnaws at my heart.

If you have been reading my columns, you know me well enough to know I am a critter person. My question is: What can we do about wild critter displacement?

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

My question isn’t just about mountain lions, bears, deer and other large animals which usually leave an area once heavy construction equipment begins working the land. Some of the mid-size animals — coyote, for example — do not 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 large development projects on new land, such as the developments between Patterson Avenue and San Jose Creek, for the sake of the critters? I believe this is a responsibility that should accompany the rights to develop new land from a natural state to a human habitation or commercial state.

What are the viable options that will actually work?  For starters, we can make sure that initial working of the land does not 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 can also expand or incorporate construction of adjacent open area habitats and make sure they are adequate to provide habitat for critters displaced by construction. Any other ideas?

It seems unrealistic to expect 100 percent mitigation, or an acre for an acre. Yet, 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 nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Capt. David Bacon, Noozhawk Columnist

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.