Guest article provided by: LeBrick FamilyContinue reading “Outdoor Vision Board”
Fishing is a wonderful pastime. It’s a calming but exciting way to spend more time in nature — after all, any fisher would be hard pressed to find the words to describe the thrill of reeling in a big catch. Still, it’s important for us humans to take great care any time we enter habitats where plants and animals thrive, and taking a fishing trip to the lake, stream, or ocean is no exception. It’s actually really easy to be kind to the environment as a fisher, and there are a lot of ways to keep the experience a positive one for you, the environment, and all of the wildlife living in it.
Follow Local Fishing Laws and Ordinances
While it may not be ideal for there to be restrictions on when, where, and what you can fish, these limiting laws are in place to protect human, environmental, and wildlife health. Some parks check each fisher’s bounty before letting them leave the area to make sure they followed all legal guidelines (in many cases, handing out hefty fines to those who don’t), but many areas rely on the honor system, so it’s important to abide.
There are all kinds of reasons these types of guidelines are in place, and each should inspire you to do the right thing. For example:
- In order to keep certain species from being overfished, you may be limited in the size or number of at-risk populations you’re allowed to catch.
- If certain species have been known to be diseased, you may be banned from catching them.
- It may be dangerous to be around the water during certain events or times of the year, and fishing will be banned. For example, during algae outbreaks like red tides, beach access may be completely prohibited. Not only is this important for human health, it also prevents excess debris from impacting the coastline as well as the animals that live there.
Mind Your Boat’s Carbon Footprint
Oil use in boats is just as big of an environmental problem as with land and air vehicles. While you don’t have to trade in your motorboat for a paddle-powered rower, there are things you can do to reduce air emissions and prevent harmful chemicals from leaching into the water and ground:
- Only turn on your engine when necessary. Try not to keep gas-powered boats in idle when you don’t truly need to.
- Stay up to date on boat maintenance. Vessels that are in disrepair can leak oil and other substances, which can poison water and land habitats.
- Avoid spilling at sea by only opening chemical containers and refilling your boat’s fluids ashore, preferably in an area away from the water.
- If harmful chemicals are spilled onboard, sop them up immediately, but clean or dispose of the rags you use to absorb it only after you reach land.
- Recycle used oil as well as any containers that have held it. Never rinse oil from your boat or another object into the environment.
- Keep the outside of your vessel clean. The more build-up that’s accumulated on your hull, the harder it is for your boat to move through the water, and the less energy-efficient its gas usage.
- If you set sail on a windy day, travel with, not against, the airstream in order to maximize your boat’s energy efficiency.
Avoid Using Contaminants in Vessel Maintenance
Many boat owners use antifouling paint on their ship’s hull to prevent algae, barnacles, and mold (known as fouling marine organisms) from taking up residence there. However, these substances are ecologically detrimental both to wildlife and humans. That’s because they bioaccumulate, meaning they’re absorbed by small organisms, which are then eaten by larger and larger organisms — including humans. Unfortunately, antifouling paint can be hard to avoid, but there are strategies for reducing your need for it, such as opting for regular paint with a coat of protective wax and then storing your boat on land rather than in the water.
Additionally, use non-toxic cleaning materials as much as possible on the inside and outside of your boat. Poisonous chemicals used on the exterior of your boat will release into the water, while those used on the interior are easily tracked into the environment via passengers. You can even make your own eco-friendly cleaning solutions that will keep your vessel sparkling from top to bottom without risking harm to surrounding nature.
Don’t Pump Raw Sewage into the Water
Not only is this illegal in most regions (and just plain gross!), it’s harmful to land and water wildlife as well as any people who enjoy taking a dip in the area. Human and animal waste may contain diseases or carry antibiotics that can have severe impacts on natural habitats, so if your boat has a toilet, dispose of waste in accordance with local laws.
Travel Slowly in Water with Vulnerable Wildlife
If you’re driving a motor boat, you need to be careful of hitting manatees, dolphins, seals, and other large marine life, especially in the ocean or other bodies of salt water. There are usually speed limits in areas where these types of creatures are at risk, so be sure to obey them. Even after you’ve reached more open waters, be sure to slow down if you spot one of these animals.
Be Kind when Catching and Releasing
If you plan to catch and release any of the fish you catch, do so mindfully. Handle them gently, avoiding touching their gills and eyes as much as possible. Be careful when removing them from hooks, and return them to the water as quickly as you can so they have the best chance of survival.
Use Green Fishing Gear
Look for fishing equipment that’s free of toxic materials, such as lead, which is sometimes found in sinkers. You can also opt for one or more of these eco-friendly tools:
- Eco-friendly line
- Biodegradable lures
- Glass rigs
- Items made from recycled materials
Also be sure to recycle these items as much as possible. For example, fishing line is often made of reusable material, and poles’ plastic and metal parts can usually be taken apart and recycled.
Be Wary of Feeding Wildlife
It’s fun to feed birds, critters, and fish when you’re spending the day surrounded by nature, but proceed with caution. Not all human food is safe for animals to eat, especially if it contains sugar, chocolate, or spices like pepper. Plus, depending on where you’re fishing, you could attract unwanted company by sharing your picnic basket. If you’re in a wooded area, it’s possible to lure out a bear if it sees you passing out snacks, and throwing meat into the ocean could draw the attention of dangerous shark species.
Leave the Area the Way You Found It
Whatever you bring to your fishing expedition needs to be taken with you when you return home. This includes your gear, food, and beverages, but it also goes for any waste that you produce, like food packaging and discarded hooks.
Go the Extra Mile
Leaving the area as clean as it was when you arrived is common courtesy for wildlife, the environment, and your fellow fishermen. Of course, if others haven’t been as kind, why not go the extra mile by picking up any litter you notice in the water and on the shore? In addition to making an immediate difference, you may also give your peers a gentle nudge about taking care of the water, coastline, and the area’s inhabitants.
For fishers, there’s nothing better than a day spent in the water or onshore reeling in catch after catch. However, it’s extremely important to be responsible in caring for the environment while doing so. After all, the way you treat these habitats affects the health of the animals living there — including the fish you catch and eat, meaning your actions have a direct impact on your own wellness. By following local laws and being mindful of your behavior while in the great outdoors, you can be sure to make a lasting positive impact with each fishing expedition.
Finding ill, injured, or abandoned wildlife is heartbreaking. Animals bring so much beauty to the world, so it’s easy for our nurturing instincts to kick in when we find a creature that’s in danger. Helping a wild animal isn’t as simple as picking it up, taking it home, and nursing it back to health, but there are a lot of actions you can take to come to the rescue of species both great and small. Our guide explains everything you need to know about rescuing and rehabilitating wildlife.
Assess if You Should Intervene
It’s important to be very discerning when deciding if the animal you’ve discovered truly needs your help. You’ll probably do more harm than good by trying to save an animal that doesn’t need to be rescued. Some look ill or injured, but will ultimately heal on their own. Cuts and scrapes on a raccoon could indicate it got into a harmless tussle with another critter, while a young bird with feathers starting to come in may have been nudged out of the nest by a mother bird who knows her offspring is hours away from flight.
It’s also critical to know that many mother animals have to leave their young behind for stretches of time in order to bring back food. For example, rabbits leave their nests twice a day (usually just after sunrise and just before sunset) to get food for their little ones, so finding a few babies doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve been abandoned.
With that in mind, there are signs an animal’s life is in danger:
- It is crying or howling
- It has an open wound, especially one that looks fresh and/or infected
- It is bleeding
- It appears to have a broken limb
- It shows signs of heat stress, such as heavy panting
- It shows signs of low body temperature, such as shivering
- It has trouble moving, including difficulty sitting and laying down, getting up, and walking
- It appears to be dizzy
- It is very young, especially if its eyes aren’t open or its fur or feathers haven’t come in
- There is a dead animal nearby, especially if it appears to be the ill or injured animal’s parent
- The animal has been in or near the same area for hours, especially if it continues to show one or more of the above signs of distress
If you notice one or more of these signs, you should call for immediate help from experienced wildlife rehabilitators.
Call the Professionals
Unless you have extensive experience with rehabilitating wildlife, the first thing you should do is call a local professional agency. Do an online search specific to your area and the type of animal you’re trying to help. You can also call your local animal control agency. They may be able to directly assist you or put you in touch with specialists. If you can’t get in touch with wildlife specialists, try contacting a local veterinarian, or better yet, an emergency animal hospital. They often have doctors that are trained in veterinary medicine for critters other than common household pets, so they may be able to advise you on what you can do on the spot or at home, and they may even be able to send help to you.
Once you’ve found the organization that can assist you, be prepared to answer questions about:
- Where you found the animal
- Its size and approximate age; you likely won’t know its exact age, so you’ll be asked specific questions depending on the species to help the expert determine how old it is
- The animal’s apparent health condition
- The animal’s demeanor, especially in regards to aggressive behavior
- If you can safely move the animal out of harm’s way; depending on the species, this will include questions about any safety equipment you have on hand (like gloves) as well as your ability to transport a large animal (such as a baby deer) in your vehicle
After you’ve gone over these details, you’ll receive specific information about what you can do to help. Wildlife advocates may volunteer to meet you to provide emergency aid to the animal. For small creatures that are unlikely to threaten human safety — such as amphibians, reptiles, small birds, and baby species of small mammals, including deer, rodents, and rabbits — they may even suggest ways for you to help the animal recover from your home.
How to Help Rehabilitate Wildlife at Home
It’s important to note that you should only bring an animal onto your property and into your home with the approval of a wildlife specialist or vet. You also need to be sure you have a concrete plan of action from a professional, regardless of whether you’re providing temporary or long-term shelter.
Once you know exactly what your expert-approved care plan looks like, there are a few general guidelines you should follow no matter what species you’re saving:
- Keep wild animals away from your pets. If they come into contact with one another, each risks illness and injury.
- Keep critters away from very young children, elderly family members, and anyone who may be immunocompromised. Although the wildlife experts you work with will most likely advise you not to take animals home that are known to pose health threats to humans, err on the side of caution by keeping them away from anyone who can’t risk getting sick.
- Keep it in an area where you’ll be able to check on it regularly. Even if it will only be in your care for a few hours, it will be helpful for professional wildlife rehabilitators to know about any changes you’ve noticed since first discovering it.
The care you provide should directly follow the guidelines given to you by the wildlife specialists you’re working with. If you’ll be taking care of the animal long term, they will advise you on health and safety information, including:
- What to feed the animal, and how often to feed it
- The ideal temperature it should be kept in
- The appropriate container to keep it in and what to put in it, such as wood chips, newspaper, or cloth
- How to bathe it
- How to treat wounds or injuries as well as how often to attend to them
If you’ll only be harboring the creature for a short time, such as overnight until a professional rescue team can come pick it up, your only focus will be to keep it out of harm’s way until help arrives. You shouldn’t feed, bathe, or medically treat the animal if it won’t remain in your care unless you’re specifically asked to. It may be tempting to feed a baby critter because it feels cruel not to, but if you’re advised to take no action other than to keep it alive until the experts arrive, heed the advice.
Other Ways to Advocate for Ill, Injured, and Abandoned Wildlife
It’s important to know that there are heartbreaking cases where there simply isn’t anything you can do to help the animal. However, you can learn from your experience and still make a difference by advocating for wildlife in other ways. For example:
- If there is a busy road in your community where a lot of animals are injured or killed in traffic, you can contact your city council about adding improved safety measures. You may consider suggesting additional stop signs, lowered speed limits, or street lighting or road reflectors that make it easier for cars to see critters in the road.
- Post on your neighborhood or other community website about your experience, and inform the readers who to call in your area should someone else encounter a similar situation.
- Check for wildlife in your yard before using a lawn mower, using a weed whacker, adding pest control treatments, and letting your dogs outside.
- Keep large pets fenced in your yard. Most dogs — even small breeds — go after small animals they find outdoors, sometimes with tragic results. Although a fence may not keep every species out of your yard, you’ll be able to spare a lot of animals by preventing them from entering.
- Keep cats indoors. Although some felines enjoy the freedom of going outside, they are natural predators that kill small animals whenever given the opportunity.
- Avoid using rat poison. Although eliminating rats and mice from your home is an important health measure, rats are prey for other animals, including foxes, coyotes, and predatory birds. Animals who eat a poisoned rat often die, because they also ingest the toxic substance. (If you’re looking for a humane option to rid your home of these pests, you can buy humane traps and use peanut butter as bait to lure rodents in, or you can create your own using simple materials like buckets and plastic bottles. Once caught, you can release them far away from your home. Keep in mind you’ll need to regularly check these traps so they don’t die of starvation or dehydration.)
- Clean hummingbird feeders regularly. Especially when the temperature rises outside, it’s critical to thoroughly clean hummingbird feeders about every three days, although if you live in a tropical climate or the temperature is over 90 degrees, you should wash them and refill them every other day. Mold and mildew that forms in the sun-exposed sugar water in these feeders poisons the birds, and once this happens, it’s very hard to revive them.
- Clean out seed feeders at least once a month. Keep in mind you should wash them any time you notice a lot of avian activity in your yard, and when the weather is warm, it’s recommended you thoroughly clean them once a week.
- Keep bird baths and man-made ponds clean. Both of these water sources can develop mold and bacteria if the water is dirty, which can cause animals that drink from them to become ill. Standing water can also be a breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes, which threaten the health of humans and animals alike. Clean your bird bath at least once every couple of weeks (or any time you notice mold or algae growth), and clean your pond whenever it looks or smells stagnant.
- Give animals a way to get out of any pools and artificial ponds in your yard. There are several inexpensive and effective ways to give animals of all sizes a way to escape the water.
Nature lovers do their part to protect the environment and all of the creatures that live in it, so it feels like a responsibility to help ill, injured, or abandoned wildlife. While it requires thoughtful planning and an expert’s help in most cases, there are a lot of ways we humans can rescue and even rehabilitate wildlife.
Photo Credit: Pexels
Due to the pandemic, children are becoming more removed from nature, with most of their playtime spent indoors in front of an electronic device. Exploring outdoors awakens your child’s sense of wonder, enthusiasm and joy. Author Richard Louv explains in his book “Last Child on the Woods” that children reap benefits by spending time in nature, including improved concentration and creativity, and preventing and managing ADHD and depression.
Even during the virus outbreak, you can get the whole family out in nature. Here are five measures you can take to help your child safely explore the outdoors.
Plan outdoor activities you can do together.
You can plan an at-home adventure by camping in your backyard; set up a campfire and mount tents on your lawn for a night. Plant a garden in your backyard and divide its responsibilities between you and the kids. Focus on beautiful flowers, as well as growing your own fruits and vegetables, then incorporating the produce into fun kid-friendly recipes.
Introduce your kids to bird watching in your backyard. There are all kinds of advantages to becoming a birder. To start, it’s an opportunity to learn about your immediate environment—exactly what kinds of birds live there. You and your kids can research bird species’ migratory patterns, what each of their calls sound like (as listening to them can sharpen your kids’ hearing) and how different birds have adapted to human presence.
When it’s safe to do so, you can take a family hike in the mountains near your home, go to the beach together, take an evening walk in nature, or go kayaking, canoeing or fishing.
Encourage outdoors play
Some games you can organize with your kids include scavenger hunt, soccer, and hide and seek. It is tempting to want to micromanage every step of your child’s play outdoors. Choose an environment that is safe for them and supervise from a distance.
Allow your child to get dirty
Unlike indoors play, outdoor play and adventure are messier. You can count on your child to get dirty. To make laundry cleaning easier, have them wear old clothes and save the fancy ones for the less messy activities. Dress them in darker colors and fabrics that are easy to clean.
Observe safety precautions
Your child will definitely encounter insects and animals in the course of their play. Although some insects are harmless, emphasize that they look out for spiders, bees and wasps, ticks, and mosquitoes. Similarly, some plants are poisonous, and it’s ideal to learn about them together. Teach them the basic first aid for insect stings, bites and other accidents.
Learn and read books about the outdoors
Visit your local library and check out books about nature and outdoor adventures. Depending on your child’s age, these could be pictorial books of plants, animals and landscapes, and adventure-themed storybooks for toddlers. Also, check out maps and books on first aid and safety, and backpacking guides for pre-teenagers and teenagers.
When you return to daily commutes to school, instead of having your child spend time on their phone, have them look outside and discuss various aspects of the environment. For instance, you could talk about the cloud patterns, the weather or spot different types of trees.
Kids learn about the world and life by observing their parents’ actions and attitudes. The best way to inspire curiosity about exploring the outdoors in your child is to be curious yourself. Express your awe for nature, commit to continually learning and exploring, and involve your child in it. Your excitement will be contagious, and your child will catch it.
Urban gardening: The term itself is a bit of an oxymoron. When you think urban, you think tall buildings, small spaces, and lots of concrete. And when you think gardening, open fields, dirt, and the color green come to mind. The two ideas couldn’t be more disconnected, it seems.
But one quick Google search will tell you that’s not the case. Urban gardening, also known as urban farming and urban agriculture, is a thing. People in cities big and small all across the United States are planting and tending gardens of all shapes and sizes on rooftops, in neighborhood parks, and even in their tiny apartments.
The flowers, herbs, and food they grow are being used to beautify cities, bring communities together, and feed the hungry. Even better, the act of gardening itself comes with its own benefits when it comes to the health and happiness of the people doing it. As the gardens grow, so does the gardener’s confidence, physical fitness level, and sense of self-worth. And the fresh, fragrant fruits of your labor (pun intended) are just an added bonus.
Gardening is and has always been one of the most beneficial hobbies for your physical and mental health. Way back when growing your own food was necessary for a family’s survival, our grandparents and great grandparents weren’t aware that the time they spent in the garden did more than just feed the family. In fact, all of that tilling, sowing, and watering of their backyard plots were also strengthening their hearts, toning their muscles, and sharpening their minds.
As food has become easier to access, gardening has fallen out of fashion. In fact, time spent outdoors in general is on the steep decline. Research shows that Americans are spending less and less time in nature and more and more time in front of screens. In fact, most people spend only five percent of their day outdoors.
As you might imagine, spending less time in nature has some negative consequences. People who previously spent time outside regularly but no longer do might suffer from nature withdrawal, a condition that causes an individual to feel disoriented, overwhelmed, and depressed.
Another potential side effect of not spending enough time outdoors is nature-deficit disorder. Children and adults alike might experience dulled senses, attention problems, and obesity. People with nature-deficit disorder may experience more emotional and physical illnesses. This disorder may also contribute to broader societal issues like ecological illiteracy, lack of environmental stewardship, and the decline of independent play among children.
As dismal as these conditions sound, most experts believe a solution exists. As a society, we just have to spend more time outside. And one of the easiest, most affordable, most accessible ways to do that is — you guessed it! — gardening. You probably also figured out that the hobby of old is going to look considerably different moving forward than it ever has.
The trick to accomplishing this just might be a little oxymoronic in and of itself. We can use the same technology and urbanization that has pulled us away from nature to draw us back. Even if you’re stuck in a tiny apartment with no opportunity to cultivate a garden outdoors — whether because you are ill, have a disability, or don’t have access to a balcony, patio, or even windowsill — there are ways to surround yourself with more natural elements. Here’s how.
Learn as You Go
In the past several decades, a generational shift has occurred. As food became more of a commodity than an experience, the traditional knowledge and skills associated first with growing your own food, then with gardening as a hobby, ceased to be passed down from generation to generation. In other words, no one snaps green beans on the porch with grandma anymore.
As a result, many of today’s younger generations don’t possess the green thumb that older age groups nurtured from childhood on. This is especially true for those who have grown up in urban environments where green space is at a minimum. Luckily, technology can provide the resources an urbanite needs to bridge the educational gap.
From free gardening guides for beginners to in-depth online courses, you can learn anything and everything you need to know about horticulture from the comfort of your home. As a general rule, you should start with gardening basics, like what to plant when and how much sunlight, water, and room for growth each plant needs.
Many first-time gardeners start small with an herb garden. Others select a single variety of fruit or vegetable. It’s important to remember that no matter which route you choose, there will likely be some failures along the way. Not every plant will live, and not every tree will produce fruit. But with proper care and attention, you will get better. Your gardening ventures will begin to thrive, and your proverbial thumb will begin to turn green.
Tools of the Trade
Aside from the knowledge you need to care for a living, breathing plant, there are some special tools a gardener needs. Unfortunately, the closer you get to a city center, hardware and big box stores are fewer and farther between. Not to mention, it might be difficult to get a cart full of gardening accessories home via public transportation.
But where there’s a will, there’s a way. Thanks to online shopping, just about any supply you need can be purchased from your smartphone and shipped to you within a few days. From seed kits and gardening gloves to window boxes and organic soil, a gardener’s catalog is both broader and more affordable than it has ever been.
Technology has been especially kind to urban gardeners. Not only has internet access made the tools of the trade easier to acquire, new tools are being developed to combat the unique challenges associated with gardening in the city. For instance, vertical wall planters maximize space while also serving as a modern, chic design element.
Make It Social
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of incorporating new technology into one of the world’s oldest hobbies is the potential to revive and modernize the “garden club.” This new version looks a little different than those of the past. Instead of old ladies in fancy hats sipping sweet tea on the lawn, it’s men, women, and children all over the world convening via social media to share photos and live feeds of their gardening victories and defeats.
Another key element of urban gardening, the community garden, doesn’t just provide pockets of green in an otherwise grey city. These oases give neighbors an opportunity to provide for one another’s most basic needs while developing new bonds and forging new friendships.
All the while, people who typically spend only a few minutes a day outdoors are reconnecting with nature. As the hobby develops, they are consistently and voluntarily choosing time outside, where they are doing rewarding work, learning new skills, and making meaningful connections. Before you know it, a new habit has developed, and as a result, they are reaping the emotional and physical benefits that sunshine, fresh air, and movement provide.
Though the rise of technology and the fall of time spent in nature are undeniably connected, one is not the fault of the other. Given our current levels of dependence upon technology, it is unreasonable to expect members of our society to abandon modern life entirely and revert back to nature. In order for city dwellers to start spending less time in front of screens and surrounded by concrete, and more time in nature cultivating their green thumbs, we must find some common ground between the two.
Camping is a great way to explore the great outdoors and bond as a family. You can have a wonderful adventure with minimal costs, and there is always another park to explore on your next outing. However, it is important to ensure that everybody in the family stays safe, especially when it comes to hiking, water, and campfires. A few simple strategies and rules can have a significant impact on making sure that the trip is a positive and secure one for everybody involved.