Welcoming Wildness Home

Last spring, when the east bank of the river between the Broadway and 25th Street bridges cratered and fell away, this tooth suddenly appeared in the dirt of the wood-chip trail.

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“That’s a bison tooth,” an archaeologist friend told us, when we asked what it might be. “Can’t tell you exactly how old, but very old, certainly.” And that identification also applied to the pieces of bone that emerged from the ground in succeeding days. Some are shattered fragments, but a few are intact.  One is broader than my forearm, another as massive as my thigh.

Thousands of cars cross those bridges each day. And in the midst of this roar and bustle, the land quietly holds the memory of its own magnificent life. The prairie that lies around is stupendous and wild.

 This photo of an adult burrowing owl with two fluffy chicks was taken forty years ago, not far from Saskatoon. I remember how exciting and hilarious it was to watch them bopping in and out of their nest hole.  Since then, however, the population of burrowing owls and most other grassland-dependent birds has suffered a calamitous fall, with several species plunging toward extinction. These days, you’d have to drive for hours to see a burrowing owl.  The main cause of the declines has been, and continues to be, the destruction of habitat by industry and urban sprawl. For instance, the pasture where this owl family once nested has been converted to cropland. These losses are happening before our very eyes, and they are intolerable.

This photo of an adult burrowing owl with two fluffy chicks was taken forty years ago, not far from Saskatoon. I remember how exciting and hilarious it was to watch them bopping in and out of their nest hole.

Since then, however, the population of burrowing owls and most other grassland-dependent birds has suffered a calamitous fall, with several species plunging toward extinction. These days, you’d have to drive for hours to see a burrowing owl.

The main cause of the declines has been, and continues to be, the destruction of habitat by industry and urban sprawl. For instance, the pasture where this owl family once nested has been converted to cropland. These losses are happening before our very eyes, and they are intolerable.

 If there was ever a time when conservation could be relegated to some imagined far-away wilderness, that moment is long past. These days, we need to protect the beauty and abundance of life wherever we are and in whatever ways we can.  Happily – and I do mean  happily  -- there are countless small and enjoyable ways to show our compassion for Mother Earth. For instance, simply digging up a patch of grass and planting it to local wildflowers creates habitat for pollinating insects in the summer and welcomes in wildness all year long. I can’t tell you how glad we were to to see that a jackrabbit had made tracks across what used to be a scruffy bit of lawn.  The city is full of life, and where there’s life, there’s hope. That’s why I am an enthusiastic supporter of the NatureCity Festival, May 22-27.  Please come out and join in the excitement.

If there was ever a time when conservation could be relegated to some imagined far-away wilderness, that moment is long past. These days, we need to protect the beauty and abundance of life wherever we are and in whatever ways we can.

Happily – and I do mean happily -- there are countless small and enjoyable ways to show our compassion for Mother Earth. For instance, simply digging up a patch of grass and planting it to local wildflowers creates habitat for pollinating insects in the summer and welcomes in wildness all year long. I can’t tell you how glad we were to to see that a jackrabbit had made tracks across what used to be a scruffy bit of lawn.

The city is full of life, and where there’s life, there’s hope. That’s why I am an enthusiastic supporter of the NatureCity Festival, May 22-27.  Please come out and join in the excitement.

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Candace Savage is a Saskatoon author and the chair of Wild about Saskatoon