Opinion Columns & Blogs

Why we should give thanks for wild animals

Most of us share our homes with animals, so we know that they provide us with companionship, teach us how to love unconditionally and help us enjoy the outdoors and get more exercise. But wild animals also quietly provide us with many other benefits that we rarely notice. As we count our blessings this Thanksgiving, let’s pause to consider the other species who share our planet and the many ways that they make our lives better.

Oysters, clams and mussels clean up the ocean. As these industrious little bivalves suck in ocean water to feed on bacteria and phytoplankton, they also ingest pollutants and other harmful chemicals and send the filtered water back into the sea.

Dolphins are do-gooders. There have been dozens of reports of humans and dogs who were rescued from drowning by dolphins. Scientists believe that since dolphins can recognize when other species are in danger and will work to save them.

Beavers are dam handy. By helping to regulate waterways with their dams, busy beavers help prevent floods and droughts and lessen the damage done by forest fires.

You’d be nuts not to respect squirrels. Trees and plants can rely on squirrels to help them reproduce. As squirrels bury nuts and seeds to stockpile for winter, they sometimes forget where some of them are buried. Thus, the nuts and seeds germinate, growing new trees and plants and sustaining a healthy ecosystem.

Birds are talented recyclers. They repurpose our trash, especially items such as string and paperclips, as they build their nests.

Wild horses protect the plains. Their digestive tract can’t break down seeds, so when they eat plants and then continue to roam, they deposit whole seeds on the ground in their feces. Later, the seeds germinate and keep plant populations strong.

Bats deserve a big pat on the back. Little brown bats can eat more than 600 mosquitoes in one hour, and also pollinate Agave tequilana, the plant that gives us tequila.

Animals improve our lives every day in countless important but little-known ways. Perhaps it’s time that we thanked and repaid them – simply by letting them live undisturbed and free.