Woman feeds an orphaned vole with a syringe

A Vole, A Bear, and a Berry Pie

The Vole It’s true that we serve bears, wolves, and other large, dramatic animals that capture our imagination. But from an ethical perspective, Life is owed a deep...

Beaver eating leaves in a pond

Beavers are charming and fascinating creatures. Dr. Donald Griffin, the father of animal cognition, notes, "When we think of the kinds of animal behavior that suggest conscious thinking, the beaver comes naturally to mind." They perform their incredible engineering feats not just through instinct, but through imitation and experience. But even more than that they are incredibly important ecologically, a fact we have belatedly recognized. Called nature’s finest wetland engineer, professional human water engineers study them for water management. Beavers reliably, and economically, maintain wetlands that sponge up floodwaters, alleviate droughts and floods, lessen erosion, raise the water...

Close up of bear feet

— by Susan Eirich, Ph.D. — There are places in Yellowstone National Park where alternating grizzly bear footsteps are worn deep into the earth, forming trails that lead to very specific sites at geothermal vents. These footsteps are almost sculpted into the ground as each bear places its foot precisely into the tracks of its predecessor, rubbing its feet sideways in each track. Arriving at the site, the bears begin to eat the soil, high in potassium and sulfur. One theory is that the sulfur helps rejuvenate their digestive system after the long inactivity of hibernation, and they may be low in potassium after their winter’s fast. How do they know to go there? Does each bear...

Cactus in a tiny pot

— by Susan Eirich, Ph.D. — I don’t quite know how to explain it. Maybe it is normal, but that little cactus I rescued from a souvenir shop (see The Cactus) is blooming again. It started blooming just before Easter (I thought of it as a thank you) and continued, bloom after huge bloom on this tiny plant, for three months before it went dormant. Then a few days ago I went to water it---and it was blooming again! As if it stopped just long enough to gather more strength and then burst forth once more. It not only burst into bloom, but the magnet glued to the pot---the very same magnet that was supposed to attach it to a refrigerator as a curiosity---had broken off, along with part of...

Tiny blooming cactus

— by Susan Eirich, Ph.D. — I saw it on a dark counter at a camping store. There were a couple of dozen little cactuses in tiny painted pots with a magnet attached. They were being sold as curiosities, to be placed on a refrigerator. They had been forced in a greenhouse (climate conditions manipulated to time their blooming) , and brought for sale just as they were starting to bloom. Life, raised for human’s frivolous and momentary pleasure. The chances of survival were slim, as their destiny was to be placed as a magnet on some appliance. It made me mad and sad and I bought one as a plant “rescue.” I didn’t know if it would survive a dark Idaho winter but at least I was giving...

Coyote standing in a grassy field

— by Susan Eirich, Ph.D. — An Attempt at Translation and Interpretation Between Species with Some Kernels of Truth To It Small animals are as important as big ones. Definitely in their own minds, and in actuality, too. (In fact, the most important life forms that support the earth are the tiniest---it is only we who are more impressed by the big.) The small animals of Earthfire have asked me to set the record straight. They are very, very, very important and wonderful. We humans are just too preoccupied and out of it to know it. Definitely our loss. They are not too thrilled with my own orientation that ALL life forms are important---they do think, as we do, that they are special,...

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