<i>Editor’s Note: The Quackers are three awesome ducks from the canals of Venice who are on a mission to educate the community about the dangers of global warming and the importance of practicing sustainability, all while surfing the most gnarly waves possible.</i>

Breathless, Rusty came running into the house screaming for me to call 911. His eyes were wild, he was pale. I reached for the phone trying not to panic.

“Is Richard hurt?” I asked.

He answered, “No, its Ray! Hurry, Sidney, just call!” He ran back out. Quickly, I started dialing the phone and ran after him. Rusty yelled to our neighbor, “Ray’s been hit by a car!” I was ready to hit the last number when I realized he meant Ray, the raccoon. We might need a vet, but not 911.

I heard Rusty shout, “Check for a pulse!” Richard was staring down at the baby raccoon, his head bowed low. Sadness filled his voice as he said, “It’s too late Rusty. He’s gone.” 

Rusty cried out. “Move over. Let me try mouth to mouth. He can’t be gone. Help me with the chest compressions. It’s Ray, we have to try to save him.”

 We pulled Rusty away and sat him on the curb. Our neighbor, Mrs. Angeletti, brought him water and patted his shoulder while Richard carefully wrapped Ray in a towel and gently carried him into the yard.

Raccoons are not pets, just a different kind of neighbor. We noticed a mom and three babies one night from our balcony. We think they came by to look for snails and slugs in our garden or to sample our neighbor’s cat food. The smallest was our favorite. He always trailed behind the rest, stopping to sniff this or inspect that with great curiosity. Rusty dubbed him Ray.

We tried our best to comfort Rusty. We helped with the funeral arrangements. Richard carved a beautiful headstone and planted rosemary around it for remembrance. Still Rusty remained sad.

I made Rusty’s new favorite, fish tacos, for dinner. He just picked at them. Richard and I talked about the weather, then sports, but nothing interested Rusty until the topic of wildlife corridors came up.

We both read about the “Y2Y, Yellowstone to Yukon” Initiative. It is a joint, U.S. and Canadian, conservation effort to ensure the Yellowstone to Yukon region retains enough connected, well managed and good-quality wildlife habitat for animals to travel safely between protected areas, like national parks, as they roam in search of food and mates. Their vision is to have human communities and wildlife communities in that region coexist in a way that allows both to thrive. 

We read that housing, roads and other development are causing fragmentation and keeping wildlife from moving freely between suitable habitat and that these barriers are growing rapidly. Global warming is also playing a big part. Vegetation is moving upward in both latitude and altitude as the temperatures rise. A contiguous, suitable habitat would allow wildlife to follow these habitat shifts.

In some areas highways have already fragmented populations. In Banff National Park in Canada, 22 underpasses and two overpasses have been built to help moderate habitat fragmentation and adverse ecological conditions created by a highway. When we showed Rusty a picture of one of the overpasses and told him how it had cut wildlife mortality on that road by 80 percent, the sparkle returned to his eyes.

Rusty could barely contain his excitement. “We could do that here,” he said. “Let’s build underpasses and overpasses to help save our wildlife. Call the Mayor!”

I set up an appointment with the mayor. Richard continued to research the subject. Rusty circulated a petition supporting our proposal. With an air of importance, he told everyone he met. “I’m taking a meeting with the mayor.”

 The mayor listened intently as Rusty described his vision. The mayor was impressed by the number of signatures on the petition. He told Rusty, “I’m feelin’ you Rusty, but this must go before council. I’ll add it to next week’s agenda.”

Rusty’s heart was pounding and his voice quacked a little. That soon passed as he gained strength and courage by speaking from his heart. We stood by his side as he eloquently listed the reasons wildlife overpasses and underpasses should be part of the city’s Land use and Circulation Element that was currently in development. He also urged it be designated as a public benefit. The audience roared their approval. To the sound of thunderous applause we returned to our seats.

The council debate was long and heated. Voices were raised, comments were challenged. We cringed when we heard, “Have you Quackers gone crackers?” and “This is absolutely absurd.” We cheered when we heard, “Our hedges could be used to support tiny bridges creating an aerial corridor throughout the city.” And “I like the sound of that. It’s … so green.”

We tasted victory as the final vote was announced. Our proposal was on the way to the Planning Commission. We did it for you Ray.

For more information: www.y2y.net.

Phyllis and the Quackers can be reached at phyllis@phyllischavez.com

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