Wolf Kills Are Good for Other Living Things; Beaver Population Up 10%

Certain unreported events in the natural world have at least as much effect on my spiritual well-being as the solipsistic concerns of the cannibals in Washington or the public masturbators in Los Angeles. With 22 minutes to describe reality, Katie Couric thinks that I give a shit whether Senator Fred Thompson is still dating Lorrie Morgan. The local "news" broadcast in Kalamazoo includes movie clips and "Survivor" updates. Everyone except Mika Brzezinski insists on telling me the affairs of a drunken heiress I've never met. The networks keep entertaining themselves, their audience share is mysteriously dropping, we have a talking chimp for a president, and children want to be celebrities instead of doctors or firemen.

This might be why Thoreau tells us to read not the times, but the eternities. The BBC, NPR and the Daily Show keep me informed of human affairs, leaving us sadder and afraid but not wiser. CBS' Sunday Morning broadcast is one of the few to acknowledge a larger reality outside our concerns, by broadcasting nature scenes every week without narration. This is a blessing to us all, and might restore the nation if practiced more widely. Dick Cheney grunts and frets his hour upon the stage, and we all pray for a defective microwave-- but meanwhile, in spite of his efforts, grizzlies go on fishing in a river somewhere with the water rushing past them and neither gives a shit about Donald Trump. Honeybee hive collapse is an important story. Tuvalu sinking is an important story. Ask me for local news, and I'll tell you about the feral cat in my backyard, the raccoon family schedule, or the osprey I saw taking a fish in the Allegan forest.

Anderson Cooper continues to score points around here by including regular reports on animals: not just the stars of the moment, like Butterstick the DC panda or Knute the polar bear, but endangered animals in Bangkok markets and stray dogs in New Orleans. The video clip here includes an unexpected side effect (unexpected by me, anyway) from the introduction of wolves into Yellowstone. Wolves keep elk on their toes; with a big predator in the area, elk don't eat up all the young willow and birch. More willow stands, more cover for smaller wildlife of all kinds, and an increase in the number of beaver families that keep the landscape engineered and irrigated-- and I do love the beavers.

I heard about a Sicilian immigrant who thought that the woods around his daughter's house weren't really a forest until the arrival of a black bear in the neighborhood: now the patch of trees had attained wildness, some of the ancient magic. For some people it's wolves or cougars. For me it's the arrival of beavers and all that they represent in a happy landscape. News comes from New York City that an adolescent beaver has started building in the Bronx, the first beaver on John Jacob Astor's island in more than 200 years.

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