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Giving wildlife its space

I talk all the time about the natural treasures in West Virginia — and how often we take for granted the wonders in our own backyard when others travel from far and wide to see them. But news from the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources last week reminded me: There just really is nothing like this place.

Though I’m usually talking about the natural wonders, food, culture and people, it is true in another sense. There are plants and animals here that do not live anywhere else in the world. The new West Virginia Natural Areas Program has added its first two areas for protecting our rare flora and fauna — Bald Knob and the Canaan Valley wetlands, both within Canaan Valley Resort State Park.

“These two areas have the state’s highest concentration of federally listed species and species of greatest conservation need and this designation is going to give us the awareness and resources we need to make sure they are properly managed,” said Scott Warner, assistant chief of wildlife diversity for the WVDNR.

Within the two newly protected areas are more than 2,200 acres of rare conifer swamps and red spruce forest with more than 40 rare plants, 12 rare invertebrates and a variety of animals unique to the area. More than 200 acres at Bald Knob are protected under the program, as well as 2,000 acres in the Canaan Valley wetlands.

As officials take advantage of the resources made possible through this new designation, to mitigate potential environmental impacts, educate and encourage scientific study, it is a good reminder to all of that we should be gentle in enjoying this wild, wonderful state, even if we are not in officially protected areas.

Leave no trace, but also don’t give in to the temptation to take souvenirs such as picked wildflowers. Give wildlife their space. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been enjoying a gorgeous hike when I look down and see a plastic bottle or candy wrapper that was carelessly tossed by the trail, instead of being carried out for proper disposal. If it annoys me, imagine what such thoughtlessness must mean for the animals who actually live there.

It is good to know at least a couple of spots in the Mountain State will have better protection (from us), and that the list should only grow.

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It has been brought to my attention that October is National Pit Bull Awareness Month. Any excuse to celebrate the types of dogs lumped into the “pit bull” category is all I need. I and a co-worker both have pit bull-type dogs adopted from animal shelters … and they are awesome dogs who in no way resemble the bad reputation that clings to those breeds.

Mine is a cuddly lump who loves to tug and lets my niece and nephew play with him as though he is a large furry doll. He herds the cat sometimes (yes it’s possible), but that’s about as close as he comes to getting aggressive.

Twice he has barked and growled at a stranger in a way that made me wonder whether I should alert the authorities that my dog had called out a person he didn’t trust — if the dog says this is a bad guy, I believe him. But even in those instances all the dog did was make a lot of noise.

He is gentle, goofy … not always the brightest creature … well behaved and ridiculously loyal.

Is he representatives of his “breed?” Nope. But then again, neither is the nasty, snappy, paranoid beagle mix my friend is desperately trying to train a representative of the beagle breed.

As dogtime.com put it, “When dogs of any makeup get the right training, care, and socialization, chances are they will grow up to be confident, gentle animals.”

Of course, young children and anyone who is a stranger to the dog must be taught how to approach safely and gain its trust. We can’t just turn off our guard completely because we love “pit bulls” or any other kind of dog. It’s common sense.

But if you are looking to bring a new dog into your family, and have the means to do so and will to stick with its training, don’t ignore the “pit bull” type dogs at animal shelters. Give one a chance. They deserve it.

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at cmyer@newsandsentinel.com

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