11 Jan The Apple Core Effect: How Your Apple Has Big Impacts for Wildlife
If you’re like me, you might have thought that discarding biodegradable waste like banana peels and apple cores out the car window or hiking path does little harm to the environment and wildlife. It’s literally food! As it turns out, throwing out old food is just as harmful as candy wrappers and bottles. If you are also like me, and you want to learn how your actions actually make a difference for the animals in your habitat, you take some of those ideas and run with them! It’s really cool to be able to hear from biologists that actions you take has a measurable impact on wildlife. With it being winter at the time this piece was written, many animals are taking to greater lengths to find food. This can mean that our daily habits can have a deeper influence on their survival. That being said, it’s always a good idea to think of what we put into the environment no matter what the season.
Beginner Level: Wildlife Admirer
The easiest place to start is by changing a simple habit. It hardly requires any extra effort even, just a little bit of thought. When we toss apple cores and other smelly food items out the car window, it encourages animals to forage at roadsides for their next meal. Imagine opossums, rodents, rabbits, and raccoons learning to search road shoulders for food and getting struck by cars. This in turn increases the risk in car strikes for scavengers like golden eagles, vultures, coyotes and fox. Our small habits can have a huge impact on wildlife. Instead of tossing an apple out to compost or be eaten “in the wild,” so to speak, bring it home or put it in a proper receptacle. This will keep that cycle from perpetuating.
Even if it keeps just small rodents like mice and rats on your urban street from foraging on it, this will protect hawks, owls, bobcats, and coyotes from being hit and killed.
Intermediate Level: Wildlife Enthusiast
Shout it from the rooftops! Sharing information is the best way to make sustainable changes. Find a way to repurpose your apple core. Got chickens? Neighborhood chickens? I’m guessing you wanted to toss your apple core because you probably were thinking of it not going into the landfill anyway. And this is a good start. Set up a little container in your refrigerator for scraps and offer them to somebirdy who will appreciate them! Share this good deed that you are doing! Toot your own horn! Most people want to do right by the animals and learn how we can help them.
Pro Level: Wildlife Warrior
Ready to take your commitment up a notch? Roadkill causes a lot of problems beyond the immediate death of the animal. A single roadkill animal can also result in the death or injury of many scavengers that come to feed on it due to car strikes when they try to avoid oncoming traffic. Consider keeping a kit of gloves you can disinfect (like the tall kitchen gloves), disposable gloves if you feel more comfortable, a collapsible box, and a small towel in your car. When we see roadkill, as long as it is in a location we can safely move it away from the traffic (that is very, VERY important. It is not worth risking your safety over!), we put on our gloves and haul it off from the shoulder to a safer, nearby location for the vultures and eagles. We usually just move it a few yards from the road. That way, when they come in, they are less likely to be hit by a car during incoming and lift off.
The towel and collapsible box are in case we find an injured animal and need to transport to a licensed wildlife rehabber. It’s incredible helpful to have these supplies on hand as well as the number of a wildlife rehabber so that you can contact them to make sure you are actually doing the right thing by collecting the animal. Keep in mind that as we approach nestling season, some baby birds are better off left alone! It’s those birds that are in dangerous, high traffic areas that need to be attended to as soon as possible.
No judgment here which level of effort you choose! Even just keeping an apple core to yourself can have profound effects, and we are always impressed and proud for those humans that learn a new and impactful habit.
If you want to learn even more incredible wonders about how important scavengers such as vultures are to the environment, come visit Huxley the Yellow Headed Vulture and Dallas the Turkey Vulture at the Avian Behavior Ranch in Escondido. You can meet them up close, face to face, and discover the unique beauty about these social, intelligent, and completely remarkable creatures. You can witness Huxley’s adorable flight style in an Ultimate Bird of Prey Experience, as well as the little pitter patter of his flat feet! We love sharing our favorite species with our guests.