Friday, August 31, 2012

I Feel So Guilty

People who live in the desert (or anywhere, actually) have to learn to live in harmony with a number of animals that are considered dangerous. Of course, the term “dangerous animal” is like the term “weed” – the definition changes according to one's outlook or circumstances. Animals are usually not dangerous unless you provoke them by threatening their lives, food, or offspring. Humans are often dangerous for reasons that are less comprehensible.
spiders: I see "cute", others see "scary". source

Hawks and owls are an integral part of our ecosystem and a common sight here, yet some people have the urge to shoot them on sight.
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis. source

Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus. source
Coyotes have adapted to living in towns and cities all over the US. We have a small pack living nearby, and occasionally one of them visits us for an afternoon.
Coyote Canis latrans, relaxing under a tree
Many people find this worrisome, but in spite of a few highly publicized incidents it is rare for a coyote to attack a human. They will eat your dog or cat if it is convenient, so just use common sense and don’t allow your small pets to roam freely if you are fortunate enough to share your property with wildlife.

We have a seemingly infinite array of critters that slither and crawl. I generally don’t care for bitey things, while I strongly support those that help pollinate plants, and those that gobble up the other crawlies that can hurt me.
I love the pretty snakes

Love the cute bees

Centipedes are kind of yucky, but they would be okay if they would just stay outside!

Which is why I had extreme mixed feelings about this lovely creature:
She is, of course, a Black Widow spider. We have lots of them here, mostly living in the tall brick wall that surrounds the back of the property. They hide in little crevices during the day and come out on their long, sticky webs at night, looking for the flies and mosquitoes and beetles that got stuck. I am happy to have them since they stay out of the way and do a lot of pest control work for me.

Unfortunately, they recently started a new colony on the patio furniture. I saw this lady one night, with her huge web stretched across the legs of one of the chairs. I worried about what to do, since the Piemaker sits out there with his coffee and paper each morning before work, one of his few pleasures on a workday. I had just about worked up enough courage to try to catch her and move her to another location, when I noticed there were webs like hers on the other chairs, the table, and a bench, as well as one on the grill.
At that point I felt the whole situation had gone way beyond my capacity, and with a very heavy heart, I called the pest company. Yesterday morning they came out to the house, and killed my Black Widow spiders.

I keep telling myself that if it was between the Piemaker and the spiders, I made the right decision, but that is just oversimplifying. There was probably another answer and I just didn’t work hard enough to find it.

I feel very, very guilty.

Do find yourself in conflict with wildlife? How do you resolve it?



  1. Pete says he used to kill them with a long screwdriver when he moved into his school workshop in the Bahamas. The students could never settle with the "peggy" lurking in the shutters.
    Over here we don't have much dangerous wildlife, only adders and 56 million humans.
    The gamekeepers on the local moorland shoot anything with a hooked beak including highly protected endangered harriers.

    1. Yes it seems so ridiculous to call anything else dangerous, when the humans are out there destroying entire species.

  2. Oh, you are a kind person, and you have me thinking. I love wildlife: we've seen hawks, coyotes, owls, turkeys, deer and even black bears in our yard. But I don't like creepy crawlies, and when something of the creepy-crawly, non-mammal variety has the potential to crawl on, bite or sting me, I'm afraid that I'm quite willing to kill.

    Case in point: Enormous football-sized hornets' nest. Hanging right near our front door. Unnoticed during the early building stages, all summer, until suddenly we were dive-bombed when leaving the house and noticed it. My husband gassed the hell out of it, and I'm afraid we would do it again. We also hired an exterminator, awhile back, to kill the mice who'd taken up permanent residence in our walls and kitchen.

    Black widows are poisonous, aren't they? I think you did what you had to do.

    1. I've spent so much time and energy trying to rescue or protect wild critters that I have trouble changing my mindset when it is time to defend my own boundaries. Especially if the creepy crawly in question hasn't actually hurt anyone *yet*.
      But in your example of the attack-hornets, I am not very tolerant of hornet stings and I'm sure I'd have to get rid of them in the quickest way possible.

  3. I find myself in the same thought... but my husband gets spray happy... I don't blame him though, he is a Floridian native and the crawlies are incredibly creepy and invading there, so he acts out here... no bugs allowed around the boundaries of the house, it worries me, we have little geckos and good bug eating friends hanging about... Currently we have a pigeon problem and I am getting tired of cleaning pooh off of my sidewalk... guilty feel? yes... Not sure what to do though...

    1. We had a huge pigeon problem until we finally got rid of their food source - the neighbors were feeding them!!! It was just unbelievable to me that someone would do that. It was a horrible poopy mess around here until they (the pigeons) decided no more seeds were coming their way and they left for a friendlier neighborhood (hopefully not yours!).
      And I should have mentioned, I have no problem removing tomato hormworms and squash bugs from my vegetable garden. They just infuriate me so much I go into a murderous rage!

  4. Katrina, I draw the line at poisonous spiders and feel sure you did the right thing. Can't have a family member bitten by one while enjoying morning coffee. We have them in our garage too - and spray. Once a year we have exterminator spray around the perimeter of the house. When we're going to be gone for an extended period, we have those plug in sound/sonar things that send spiders and mice running. Perhaps that's more humane? doesn't kill them but they won't hang around. Just the pictures of the black widow made my skin crawl. Beautiful - but spiders make me cringe.

    1. I would draw a line if it weren't for the fact that representatives of almost every group here is poisonous: lizards, snakes, spiders, scorpions... they all seem to be carrying around a little chemical arsenal. (Fits right in with Arizona's gun laws.)
      The sonar thing sounds like the perfect solution - too bad we never leave the house!
      I do wish there was a less lethal way to discourage them, but I realize it's up to me to be vigilant and not let them colonize our living quarters like that again.