By Victoria Taylor Sluder, Western District Interpretive Services Supervisor
The Metroparks hike/bike paths provide access to beautiful scenery and often lead to fine natural vistas. So why don’t we call these “nature” trails? Simply, in the eyes of wildlife, some areas have more nature than others. Designated nature trails in the Metroparks are located in areas that are managed for high quality wild habitat. These are areas that preserve the natural surroundings as much as possible to provide the wildlife a space of their own with limited exposure to human activity. Why is this important?
- Most animals need privacy and secrecy to raise their babies.
- Some predators require large undisturbed areas for successful hunting behavior.
- Many songbirds and small mammals won’t cross wide open spaces that don’t provide enough natural cover. (This is why nature trails are narrower, with less mowed space.)
- Pregnant or nesting wildlife and newborn animals do not have the energy reserves to repeatedly expend in avoiding people or their dogs.
Because of these reasons, often just the sight of a fast-moving human or the smell of a dog can affect the survival of sensitive wild populations. So what can you do on a nature trail?
- Walk, don’t run.
- Stay quiet, stay on the trails and keep your distance from the wildlife you encounter.
- If you have dogs, bikes, or sporting equipment with you, go enjoy the other areas of the park. Come back another time when you will be able to fully enjoy the nature trails.
The reward for respecting the special qualities of a nature trail is all the healthy, happy wildlife you will have the opportunity to see each time you visit.