To a nomad’s pace I am pressing onward through another pocket of safety, relative security, a disconnected piece of my home, unaware and unsure of its new boundaries and edges where the wild blends and then ceases altogether, where the incomparably easy prey linger and taunt, crossing over and back in privilege and impunity, whether in courage, carelessness, naivety – no matter. I must ever remind myself that the wilder, the natural prey, the fast, the skillful, those hunts which carry the seventy percent rate of failure, the exhausting, draining drawn-out stalk and sprint on a days-empty stomach – these may carry such sharp risk of failure, pain, and energy expended with no prize of food with which to recover, these may require such profound patience, time, and undocked concentration, but for all the ease with which more than a meagre meal could be acquired beyond the certified wild, in those areas where it blends and ceases altogether, these wild and natural prey bring no wrath, they do not trigger in the hearts and minds of those that miss them a vengeance, of a kind and with a skill and a power that can spell ecological collapse and disaster through the pursuit of the individual culprit. Giving in to that temptation of taking unwild prey brings repercussions reaching beyond merely my own death.
And there it is. At the same instant a sound and a smell, and I know I am caught. This is where it blends and blurs. I am, then, where I cannot be. It is not one of the domesticated creatures… it is one of them. Only one. And that is why I am caught. I can hear the highly pitched and carefree call it makes to itself and to nobody else in particular, and by the fall of the footsteps and the response of the ground I know that it is small. Young. For the taking. I am caught because I cannot commission myself to take the harder path, to move on from here and accept only the wilder, challenging, increasingly rare prey. I am starving and she is there, here. I have sight of her now.
Even as I lower and settle, even as every part of me, clear of hesitation, begins the setting up, the routine, the ritual, the inevitable future plays out in my mind: I hear the grief, the cries born of the soul-shock that devastates them every time that staple of the wild life they long-ago escaped, infant mortality by way of predation, creeps back up on them; I hear the fury, hear them crashing through the boundary and into the wild; I sense the failure of those who try to temper and calm, who try to make my case for me; I see the bait laced with poison and the first victims of that poison, the collateral damage in the hunt for the man-eater, myself, victims now laying primed to pass the poison on, and on; I feel the dwindling of my own population, they have skinned each that they have come across and claimed that each was me.
I am in position now, as is she, ignorant of that though she may be. If I take her, I give them yet more reason. They do not need us. So surpassed as we have been, and so long has it been coming – why have we been allowed to linger on so long? Moments from now I am to reinforce the position of those who see no profit from coexistence, those who would sooner have peace of mind. Can we, the apex predators, overseers of our respective ecological webs, in positions of power and control, yet integrated and answerable, can we exist alongside the super predator, singular, apart, and dangerously detached, not answerable, integrated only by nothing more than a few stretched, tattered, and vulnerable threads. A bipolar creature: now benevolent caretaker, now second comet of mass extinction.
Their cattle, their pets, their children…. such lifelines in the short term, so ultimately ruinous. To turn away then. To let this little primate, this fledgling omnipotence, pass by unharmed, and to do the same on every occasion subsequent. To take only those whom exist with me this side of the confusion where the wild blends and then ceases altogether. To return and take only the wilder prey.
But I won’t. I have, for so long now, found so little wild, so few pockets without their shadow, and so few of the wilder, natural prey. They are not within my grasp.
And she is.
(Originally written as part of blog post for Trek-Eco Adventures, here.)