Wildlife sightings are bittersweet | ParkRecord.com

Wildlife sightings are bittersweet

Local wildlife representatives have been conducting their business in plain sight lately not by their own choosing.

A fox rummaged under a picnic table, a moose meandered on Main Street and a bear wandered through Pinebrook all in one otherwise unremarkable week.

The sightings are an increasingly common treat, a reminder of Summit County’s bounty of natural wonders, but their frequency does not bode well for the animals. Grisly roadside carcasses and near misses with small woodland creatures are becoming more frequent as well.

Last week, hundreds of drivers filed past a dead moose on the S.R. 248 shoulder that imparted a distinctly different message about our relationship with our surroundings.

It would be nice to kid ourselves into believing that the commingling of wild and human species in Summit County was the result of careful preservation of natural habitat and environmentally advanced planning, but that is not the case. There is simply no more room for the creatures to roam.

As they are squeezed between the advancing development along the Wasatch Back, the ever-expanding subdivisions in the Snyderville Basin and the East Side valleys, moose, deer, elk, bears, sand hill cranes, Canada geese and blue herons are making what may be their last stand in our once rural county.

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A few groups are helping to stave off the crisis, notably the Swaner Nature Preserve and Utah Open Lands. Their efforts to preserve habitat and migration routes, however, are facing a stiff challenge from both commercial and residential development throughout the county.

Unfortunately, most of the agencies charged with evaluating and protecting the state’s wildlife resources, have been unwilling or unable to sound the alarm. Too often their representatives give a nod of tacit approval to sprawling developments in critical habitat areas.

Furthermore, both state and local governments have failed to adopt regulations to preserve habitat or prohibit fences across migration routes.

Sadly, these most recent wildlife sightings may be a final spectacular farewell before they are gone forever.