April 25, 2021

If you love our wild world and the creatures you share it with, you’re not alone – just listen to what some Defenders members like you had to say! 

We recently asked our supporters to share their favorite stories about what wildlife means to them, and we were so inspired and touched by the responses. Across the country, Defenders of all ages and backgrounds shared tales of wild encounters and the memories that highlight how much nature and wildlife matter. 

As we pause to reflect on occasions like Earth Day, and to mark Defenders’ anniversary, we wanted to share just a few of our favorite stories from Defenders across the country. We hope you enjoy these stories as much as we did, and we hope they remind you of all the reasons wildlife is so important and worth protecting! 

Kristin K. from Iowa City, IA (Wildlife Legacy Society):

An early memory of my love of wildlife goes back to being maybe seven years old, in the early 1970’s, and seeing a double-page spread in a nature magazine of my dad's that showed this stunning array of all these species of animals displayed across the pages. I was so young, and didn’t understand the context for the display, yet I was captivated, gazing and absorbing the diversity of these creatures that filled me with wonder, appreciation and I think love. I asked my mom why all these wonderful animals were on the two pages together. And she said, “These are endangered species.” (The Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, which I think was likely why this was in the magazine.) I didn’t know what that meant and asked her what the word endangered was. When she told me that all these animals were in danger of becoming extinct, of being destroyed to the point of literally no longer existing on our planet, I was in shock. What? How could that be? How could people let that happen? I felt betrayed and devastated. It drove my early activism and awareness about how humans harm wildlife and wild habitat, and how we have a response-ability to act differently. Today, that love has expanded and deepened into a love for ALL life on our planet: animals, plants, insects, microorganisms, the elements and entire ecosystems. Everyone is connected, to everyone and everything.

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Appalachian Elktoe Mussels
Image Credit
FWS
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Green fern in light
Image Credit
Megan Joyce/Defenders of Wildlife
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Pileated woodpecker family in a tree
Image Credit
Lee Cordner
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Black bear cub in a tree
Image Credit
Orsulak/USFWS

Jennie R. from Santa Barbara, CA:

During the pandemic, I’ve been alone the whole time. I see a few friends outside, distanced with masks on, but I live alone and my family is far away. I hike and love taking photos, so the wildlife I see and can take pictures of has given me so much this year - something to look forward to, and also photos to share with friends and family. I’ve especially fallen in love with taking photos of tidepools and the snowy egrets and white herons there, as well as the anemones which are so colorful and unique. Taking pictures of nature and wildlife has really saved me this year.

Snowy Egret wading with flying birds in background
David Krantz

Cathy A. from Derby, CT:

Ever since I was little, wolves have held a special place in my heart. For to me, they epitomize the wilderness with their beautiful wolf music. I've only gotten to know them through documentaries and several books written by experts who have studied them in their natural habitat. They've been ruthlessly persecuted for just being themselves and trying to raise their pups. I admire the family dynamic of the pack. We humans can learn much from them, especially in how we treat each other. Also, wolves are extremely vital to a healthy ecosystem. Yellowstone is a prime example. Every living thing, from saplings to beaver to elk, benefit from their presence. I love and respect all animals, and they all deserve our protection. Listening to the song of Canis lupus is hearing the very heart and soul of nature.

gray wolf howling in lamar valley
Hank Perry

Jennifer A. from Bryan, TX:

In nature I have always found inspiration, insight and calm. Being by myself in wild spaces, fields, woods or gardens, I found relief from anxiety and a holistic perspective that I could apply to every area of life. It is also a source of purpose and creativity. In stories based on a similar appreciation of Nature, I also found role models. Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind had a profound impact on me when I was 10 years old. Miyazaki's works continue to reflect and inspire my own paths. My career and personal life all revolve around nurturing and being nurtured by nature.

The Appalachian Trail at Gravel Springs Shenandoah National Park
N. Lewis/NPS

Patricia P. from Albuquerque, NM:

I have always loved animals, but I did not know much about wildlife and the effect that the activities of people could have on them. I learned of the difficulty bluebirds were having in finding cavities to nest in due to loss of habitat and competition from non-native birds, especially house sparrows. This led to the installation of bluebird houses in my backyard. More importantly, I began to learn everything I could about the environment, our planet and the amazing animals who inhabit it. I woke up to the difficulties these animals face, the efforts being made to help them and the necessity to stop those who would harm them for economic gain, or just plain cruelty. I do what I can to support wildlife organizations and continue to provide for their needs as much as possible at home.

Eastern Bluebird
N. Lewis/NPS

Janice P. from Warren, OH (Wildlife Guardian):

In the middle of a neighborhood of grass lawns and suburban homes, I have turned my backyard into a woodland with numerous trees that attract many different birds. I have been rewarded by seeing young raccoons and possums. A pair of adult possums sometimes grub around at dawn. I have a small frog pond and I love hearing the spring peepers. I have even had monarch caterpillars on my milkweed plants. I love being a little country in the city.

monarch butterfly caterpillar on milkweed
Cyric

Suzanne L. from Bend, OR (Wildlife Guardian):

Before I moved to Bend in my mid 60's, my views of wildlife were formed by a childhood in an agricultural county where all wildlife was viewed as potentially threatening and a nuisance. I remember listening to ranchers and farmers at church barbecues share their recipes for poisons. It was routine to poison wildlife, especially varmints - and most wildlife were considered to be varmints of one species or another. During my adult years in an urban environment, only the names of wildlife were left. We lived near Grizzly Peak Blvd. Cougar Reservoir. Then, I retired and moved to Bend, Oregon where over a course of years I would become an advocate for wildlife, viewing them as sentient beings, innocent and dependent on humans to give them a chance of survival through habitat restoration, connectivity and reduction of barriers to safe passage. 

Great blue heron in pond
Margaret Waterman

Michela C. from Baltimore, MD:

I have limited my search for wildlife to my neighborhood, but I am fortunate enough to live in a place that has several ponds. In mid-January 2021, a blue heron appeared. The heron was remarkable and its utter stillness as it scanned the water for food was unique. Standing on one foot, the heron focused all of its attention. Over a period of a week, I photographed the heron and felt a sense of good fortune that such a beautiful creature would grace our ponds. There are many children in our area, and even they were excited 'to see such a big bird'. Then the weather turned much colder and the heron was gone. I told friends who knew of my engagement with the heron that, “it flew to a gentler climate where the fishing was better.” Yesterday, the heron reappeared. Once again, the heron chose to come to our ponds. It was an hour for reflection and gratitude that this wild creature came to Baltimore and to our neighborhood. In this dark period dominated by the pandemic, death and tragedy, the heron was an important reminder that there is a world outside of sorrow, a place where wild creatures exist. They give our lives meaning and a richness that cannot be measured.

*Note: Some stories edited lightly for length and clarity.

Share your own wildlife stories with us in the comments! What is your favorite wildlife memory? Why do you support Defenders of Wildlife? 

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