Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Wildlife: Going, Going, Gone


Last updated 3/6/2023 at 10:14am

One of the things people love about living in or visiting Borrego Springs is the wildlife, the experience of encountering unfettered and uncaged nature. Confronting a Bighorn Sheep; finding the prints of an elusive Bob Cat on the patio; hearing the quiet hoo of Horned Owl; the shrill hunting cry of the Red-tailed Hawk; the swoosh of twilight bats; the flutter of Hummingbird wings; the nightly the chorus of mating toads; the guttural bark of the Road Runner; and the conversation chitter of Quail families, calling to each other as they search for food.

In urban environments, these, along with the encounters, have vanished as buildings and streets destroyed their habitat. Or, where they still exist, their voices are smothered by noise pollution. It’s the silence in the desert, when the wind is calm, that provides the space to hear the voices of our four-footed, winged, aquatic and gilled brothers and sisters.

Many people that live in Borrego, left the urban chaos, sick of the roar and tangles of automobiles, sirens that forecast danger and death, and the suffocating light pollution, for the authentic voices and contact with the natural world.

Wild ones add song and dance to the Deserts’ stark beauty and colorful palette of clouds and the changing shades of the mountains that ring the community of Borrego Springs. Without the wild creatures, the night sky would still be beautiful, and vivid sunrises and sunsets would still come. But, beyond human endeavors, the desert could not sing or speak.

Yet, of all of Borrego’s assets, wild life has yet to find its protectors and heroes.

In Borrego, we are fortunate. We benefit from, and depend on generous hours of volunteerism, and large numbers of small and large philanthropists. We have organizations to protect and nurture our water; clubs to care for women, children and seniors; associations to promote the esthetics of the town; a land planning advisory group; and an active chamber of commerce to grow the economy. There’s a citrus growers’ association; an organization for entertainment and performances; and a minister’s association to care for the needs of the human body and soul. There are golfing, hiking groups, cycling groups, rock and archeological clubs.

Yet one of the most valuable and endangered assets to our lifestyle is the shared experience with wildlife. Why is there no group of individuals organized to be educated, educate, raise funds and fight for the survival of the desert’s precious non-human population?

Species of everything from large mammals like whales, and elephants, to tiny bees and bats are endangered with as many as 40 % of the earth’s species already extinct. Scientists say, others may not exist on the planet 30 to 40 years from now.

Miss the horned owl that lived in the tree above your patio? He died by ingesting rat poison.

Why worry about bees and bats? They populate the desert, live in caves, under roofs, and in the skirts of palm trees. They aren’t attractive, and an ungrateful bat bite or bee sting can be painful. Yet 80% of the fruits and vegetables humans eat depend on these tiny pollinating machines. All nature is not beautiful or enjoyable to be sure.

Snakes, spiders, scorpions and other creepy crawlers stoke panic in some individuals, yet they serve nature’s delicate and complicated chain of birth, death and rebirth; and are as important in the book of life as the beautiful, emerald-hatted hummers, monarch butterflies and scarlet tanagers.

Rachel Carson warned in the first book ever written about a crisis for wild species, when she wrote Silent Spring, in 1962.

Recognized as the first environmental call to action, the subject was the large losses of bird life, and danger to human health, resulting from the use of deadly chemical substances in agriculture. She was humiliated and destroyed by the scientific community and corporate chemical interests.

Yet today, her words still ring true. “What if one morning, the world awoke to silence without the thrill of one bird?” she asked. Silent Spring challenges the thinking that nature is to serve people and is to be controlled, and implies our moral responsibility to nature, that “We must not cause unnecessary loss of non-human or natural life and reminds us we share the same environment.”

Why don’t Borrego’s experts on wildlife and those that appreciate and enjoy their company, unite to create an association to nurture and protect Borrego’s wildlife. Daily, more mornings come with fewer song birds, jumping jack rabbits, singing toads, mountain lions, bobcats, and yes, even coyotes.

Some residents find the coyotes, intimidating, annoying and definite threats to their beloved pets, and wish them banished. Yet, the coyote, like the badlands, washes and canyons, echoes the evolution and past of the desert with its song.

The first inhabitants of this desert honored the wild things with songs and stories. Besides food, they used products of local animals, fish and reptiles, as well as indigenous plant life for clothing, winter coats, blankets, and moccasins. They followed the voice of ravens in hunting games; and used bones of snakes and fish for jewelry; sewing and cooking. Like the animals and fish, they used and worshiped native plants from which they made soap, food, extra water when needed, medicines, reed/ocotillo huts; and woven reed baskets that held water.

The difference between the original desert people and modern desert people, is that they understood that for everything killed, young and new generations must be nurtured. They honored and prayed over the animals for the sacrifice made on their behalf. The Creator, they believed, like Rachel Carson, did not create wild life just for the benefit of man, although that was a much-praised gift. Nature to Native People was a living thing, and as such, it was sacred with a soul, a spirit, and value beyond human needs.

They were called backward and primitive. Yet, desert natives survived, living as partners with the natural world for more than 10,000 years. We have been in the desert less than 500 years; and depleting its natural resources at such an unnatural speed, it may soon be inhabitable.

Surely, there are people in Borrego Springs willing to give nature the respect and value it deserves by organizing to nurture and protect it.

We are dependent on the chain of the desert’s living forms, from trees, plants, and mammals, reptiles, and insects, in ways, Native People understood, and modern science is just beginning to understand.

Still, we are willing to ignore this truth, and sacrifice the living resource to the immediate needs and short-range plans of humans, in ways that foretell the destruction of Borrego’s wildlife. Today, our wildlife faces many tangible threats, in addition to the changes brought on by a heating planet.

There’s the Drought, extreme and expanding summer heat events, where the ground temperature becomes so hot, they cannot survive. Then, the county wants to remove native habitat by removing the skirts of palm trees, which provide a damp and dark escape from the killing heat. Additionally, the state and county plan to reduce the human created carbon footprint by 100 % by 2045. The plan is called the Regional Decarbonization Framework, and it targets Borrego as the source for massive Solar projects, serving the rest of the county. This plan would turn this living desert town into a dead industrial region, killing all wildlife.

Borrego has much to lose, besides the experience of sharing our home with nature’s creatures. Maybe, our souls are at stake when we choose to ignore the plight of wildlife, and sacrifice the other, authentic nonhuman voices and spirits that occupy the desert.

Yet, there is an opportunity for people of will, motivation, and creative initiative to come together to protect the future for our non-human brothers and sisters, and the future of our community. There isn’t much time folks. Who will be the first to volunteer?