Category Archives: God’s Earth

Foxes, Skunks, Coyotes, & Raccoons, Oh My!


Although the Common Raccoon is often thought of as a “pest”, a family of raccoons is fun to watch.“Mom” peeks out from a wildlife box (about 30 feet from the author’s kitchen door) that has often been used by screech owls. The sow’s two kits were playing on top. (Photo credit: Marlene A. Condon)

By Marlene A. Condon
November, 2015

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the cattle according to their kinds, and everything that creeps upon the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. [Genesis 1:24-1:25]

But man does not necessarily agree. In fact, he finds many of God’s creations to be so pestiferous, especially if they go after his livestock, that he has coined a word to describe them: “vermin.”

Even our state wildlife department refers to some kinds of mammals as “nuisance and problem wildlife,” even though part of its mission statement reads that this agency exists “to provide educational outreach programs and materials that foster an awareness of and appreciation for Virginia’s fish and wildlife resources [and] their habitats.”

Indeed, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) should not be employing words, such as “nuisance” and “problem wildlife” that carry the connotation that certain animals exist solely to vex mankind. On the contrary, God created every living organism on Earth to support mankind’s very existence!

You can know this statement is true by simply examining the order in which God brought about his creations. Everything came before mankind, which makes sense.

So why does man insult his Creator by implying that some of the Lord’s creations are anything but “good”? Usually this attitude is the result of a lack of knowledge regarding the functions of wildlife in the natural world.

For example, consider the red and the gray fox, as well as the eastern coyote. These mammals will take chickens and/or their eggs, and lambs if they can get to them.

Predators exist for the express purpose of limiting the populations of other kinds of animals. By doing so, they make possible the perpetuation of all species of life (including plants) on Earth by not allowing one particular kind to overwhelm the limited resources of the environment.

Predators were not given the ability to comprehend that man’s farm animals are off-limits to them. Man is the one who was endowed with the ability to think about how to coexist with the other critters that share this planet.

Additionally, he was given the proper anatomy to be able to physically act upon whatever actions his thought processes tell him he must perform—humans have opposable thumbs.

Opposable thumbs allow people to grasp objects so they can build the structures necessary to keep out predators and keep in their vulnerable animals. In other words, chickens and their eggs, and sheep giving birth, need to be inside structures that protect them from predation.

The problem is that even though people have the brains and the thumbs to keep farm animals safe, their initiative to take action falls far short of the motivation of predators to go after livestock. Thus they often take the easy route of just killing off predators, something DGIF currently and wrong-headedly encourages with coyotes.

Instead, VDGIF should educate farmers about the necessity of predators in the environment. For example, it’s precisely because we lack large predators that we have overpopulations of White-tailed Deer and Canada Geese.

If farmers own too many animals to protect by way of structures, an alternative is to employ large guard dogs or llamas to protect their livestock. In fact, llamas are a common sight now in Highland County, Virginia, where I hear there are more sheep than people!

And it should go without saying that babies, young children, cats, and small dogs should never be left alone where predators—including the human kind—roam.

The striped skunk (found in the eastern half of Virginia) and the common raccoon are often considered “nuisance and problem wildlife.” Because skunks and raccoons feed upon ground-nesting birds and their eggs in the wild, they will also feed upon chickens and their eggs if the farmer hasn’t taken the proper precautions to keep his fowl safe.

But in addition to their role of limiting the numbers of birds in the wild, skunks and raccoons also fulfill other important roles in nature, such as preying upon insects or their larvae, such as grubs, which are the immature forms of beetles.

The function of a grub is to feed upon dead plant roots that need to be recycled so they don’t take up precious space that another plant could use. But if the number of grubs becomes too high, the grubs will run out of dead roots and by necessity start feeding upon the roots of living plants in order to survive. This kind of feeding could be harmful to live plants.

By digging up grubs in the soil, skunks and raccoons limit their numbers so that the immature beetles don’t run out of their preferred food. Thus the mammals help the plants to remain healthy so they can perpetuate themselves.

Yet instead of accepting the free assistance of skunks and raccoons, people usually complain about their digging, even though the dug-out soil is easy to push back into the holes the animals made. When folks refuse to let these mammals do their job, they cause the grubs to increase in number and thus become problematic for their plants. Then people spend time and money to apply pesticides that are quite harmful to the environment, unlike the skunks and raccoons whose “harm” is only aesthetic and temporary in nature.

Even organic pesticides, such as Bt and Milky Spore Disease, are detrimental to the proper functioning of the environment. In addition to killing the nonnative grubs of Japanese beetles that are a big concern for folks, these pesticides also kill native scarab beetles that are closely related to Japanese beetles.

The purpose of pesticides is to kill as many animals as possible, but it’s never appropriate to wipe out native animals of any sort—they are here for a reason! This statement is true even if you believe all species are the result of evolution instead of God. No matter the origin of life, every wild critter fulfills several functions.

It’s important to recognize this truism, especially if you do believe in God. Otherwise, you insult your Maker by implying that you know better than He does about how the environment should function, and you show disrespect by destroying his creatures instead of coexisting with them when you should.

“Should” refers to situations in which the animals are not really causing harm, such as when skunks and raccoons make holes in the lawn or garden, or when you are responsible for creating an attractive nuisance, such as by allowing easy access to chickens and lambs to animals that are very hungry.

Yes, sometimes there may be collateral damage, such as a plant being dug up that you didn’t want harmed. But you should keep in mind that you could have lost more plants than the one if the skunk/raccoon hadn’t done its job and limited the number of grubs in that location for you.

To paraphrase the ancient Greek philosopher, Zeno, the goal of life should be to live in agreement with nature.

Blue Ridge Naturalist: Foxes, Skunks, Coyotes, & Raccoons, Oh My!

God created “very good water”

“God created ‘very good’ water”, published 09/24/2009, The Hook

By Marlene Condon
Published online 7:00am Thursday Sep 24th, 2009
and in print issue #0838 dated Thursday Sep 24th, 2009

Duane Snow is a likeable soul, so I regret having to use his words, but they make a very important point. [August 14 news: “Snow softens: Only Fenwick is jonesin’ for dredging”
Mr. Snow’s comment that NASA technology for recycling urine into drinking water “may be great for members of the Sierra Club, but [he’s] not excited about it” illustrates the necessity of limiting human population.
Hard as it is to believe these days, water used to be drinkable right out of streams. When we didn’t have so many humans and so many concentrated sources of farm animals and plants to feed them, streams weren’t contaminated by an overabundance of animal waste, pesticides, and soil runoff.
But nowadays they are. Consequently, public-water supplies require purification via technology that is far inferior to the natural cleansing the Earth is capable of performing. That’s why folks on wells tend to have tasty water whereas folks on many public water-supply systems suffer with the taste of chlorine.
All of our environmental woes boil down to human overpopulation. In the Bible, God didn’t tell only humans to go forth and multiply; He said that all of His creatures should do this. We know what happens whenever there’s an overpopulation of other kinds of critters: they eat themselves out of house and home and then they start to die of disease. Even if technology could save us from this same fate, the quality of our lives is negatively impacted— as should already be obvious to all.
Limiting the number of humans is not about abortion. It’s about folks choosing to bring fewer children into the world for the benefit of all. People know how to do this; they are obviously already practicing birth control. Otherwise healthy, sexually active women would be giving birth to upwards of a dozen children by the time they reached the end of their childbearing years.
Christians who argue in favor of not limiting population growth often say that environmentalists worship the creation instead of the Creator. They argue that God granted man dominion (i.e. ruling power) and, in so doing, granted man the authority to degrade the creation.
But permission to rule is not permission to destroy. In Genesis 1:4-31, God declares seven times that everything He had created was either “good” or “very good.” It’s hard to understand how anyone who worships God could consider harming, if not totally destroying, that which his God considers good.

Harming Eden

“Harming Eden: Become an environmentalist, for the love of God”, published 11/11/2010, The Hook

By Marlene A. Condon |
Published online 8:00am Thursday Nov 11th, 2010
and in print issue #0945 dated Thursday Nov 11th, 2010

Conservative religious talk-show hosts and many of their followers often assert that environmentalists worship the creation instead of the creator. The implication is that people concerned about maintaining the integrity— and thus functionality— of the environment are misguided. Yet there is no logical reason for anyone to believe that God created paradise solely for man to destroy it.

In fact, He created it to provide man with everything necessary for his survival. That is why God did not create man first; He created the environment that man would be dependent upon.
In Genesis 1:4-31, as God adds to his creation, he declares seven times that everything He had created was either “good” or “very good.” To argue that man has the right to pollute the land and water, totally transform landscapes, and exterminate many of God’s creatures is to insinuate that God was wrong in His assessment of how good His creation really was. Inherent in such a contention is that man knows better than God what he needs to survive; in other words, religious conservatives are worshipping Man instead of God.
But “woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes…” [Isaiah 5:21] “Seeist thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him.” [Proverbs 26:12] “For if a man think himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” [Galatians 6:3]
A major reason for man’s delusions lies in his misinterpretation of the word “dominion.” Arguing that God gave man dominion over all animals on the Earth, some people insist that He implied man could do whatever he wished to God’s other creatures.
Although dominion implies ruling power, with that power comes responsibility for the welfare of the ruled. Man was actually being given permission only to make use of animals to help him survive, such as when oxen are employed to plow a field in order that man could grow food. But the oxen were to be taken care of properly, which is why God instructed man to give animals a day of rest. “Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your ass may have rest…” [Exodus 23:12]
Nowadays, we have factory farming which— to provide food for humans— confines animals with barely enough room to move. And worse, because it is perpetrated solely in the name of vanity, oysters are subjected to surgical trauma of their gonads (testes or ovaries) so they can provide inexpensive cultured pearls. Yet the Bible tells us that “A righteous man has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.” [Proverbs 12:10]
Holy Scripture does not support extreme modification of our environment or God’s organisms. “You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seeds…” [Leviticus 19:19]
Indeed, we are experiencing the drawbacks to such practices, as illustrated by the current state of the agricultural and horticultural industries. Over the years, hybridization has given us strawberries that are delectable to the eye but tasteless to the palate and roses that lack the sweet scent that made them so divine. We can now buy beautiful flowers that are so perfect that they look artificial— which they may as well be, as they often possess little, if any, nectar and pollen to nourish insects and other species– even though one of the main reasons plants exist is feeding animals.
Some people scoff at the idea that each creature fulfills a necessary function in the environment, as if God would frivolously create organisms for no particular purpose. Somehow these folks seem to have overlooked God’s instruction to Noah: “You shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.” [Genesis 6:19]
God was making sure that each animal’s lineage would continue to exist following the flood. This point was crucial because all kinds of creatures are required for the environment to function properly, especially those critters that constitute the natural system of checks and balances which prevent the overpopulation of any one kind of plant or animal, including man.
An overabundance of any organism creates an imbalance that, if not corrected, dominoes throughout the environment. This domino effect can bring about a collapse of the natural order that was created to provide for mankind, resulting in an unstable environment that is unsustainable for people.
Because man has overpopulated the Earth in spite of having the intelligence to keep his own numbers in check, he has been forced to alter the environment in numerous ways, and such alterations end up creating yet more problems that must be addressed— troubles that, over the long run, become ever more difficult to tackle. “A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not; but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth.” [Proverbs 14:6]
We need to understand that we should embrace the natural, i.e., Godly, environment that we were given instead of constantly trying to “improve” it. We also need to recognize that man must adhere to the same biological laws that govern all life forms.
God gave man everything he needed in Eden so he could focus on worshipping Him. However, when man partook of the Tree of Knowledge against God’s instructions, he decided man knew better than God how to run the natural world. Man became his own god, exhibiting contempt for the Lord God’s supreme gifts by exploiting the environment to satisfy personal desires and ambitions.
The irony of Christians bashing environmentalists for worshipping only the creation is that they are bashing the very people attempting to ensure the habitability of this planet for all humans— in contrast to those Christians who obviously do not have faith in the wisdom of their own Creator.
“And God saw every thing he had made; and, behold, it was very good.” [Genesis 1:31]
Naturalist and writer Marlene A. Condon has been published in numerous newspapers and magazines and is the author/photographer of The Nature-friendly Garden (Stackpole Books). Her last essay for the Hook appeared August 12 on a similar topic.