Las Vegas Sun

June 12, 2021

Currently: 98° — Complete forecast

GUEST COLUMN:

Mount Charleston should be treated with care

Editor’s note: The following open letter to the community was signed by a group of more than three dozen full- and part-time residents of Mount Charleston. Their names are printed below.

Fox corpses. Mutilated squirrels. Suffering jackrabbits. Raging wildfires.

Many of us visit and reside in the Spring Mountains because we are inspired and humbled by the natural world — a world where native plants and animals haven’t been wholly displaced in the name of urbanization. A number of Mount Charleston residents and visitors are thus becoming increasingly saddened to witness so many free-roaming animals harmed at the hands of humans. Too often, we have seen the lives of wildlife on our mountain needlessly taken by careless drivers, reckless construction practices and downright illegal activity, such as littering or violating the fire restrictions in the Spring Mountains.

Each May, Mount Charleston volunteers collect over 10,000 pounds of winter trash that is left behind. When you leave behind leftover food, discarded diapers and other human waste on the mountain, animals often mistake your trash for food. These animals often choke or endure painful bowel obstructions that will ultimately lead to their death. Moreover, the more that food waste is littered around the area, the more animals become dependent on humans to supply food, leading to unpleasant interactions and potentially deadly consequences for both humans and animals. Intentionally feeding animals, too, also leads to dependence on humans. This can cause them to starve in the winter and it encourages them to enter roadways in search of food.

When you permit your dogs to run off leash and chase wildlife, you cause significant stress to free-roaming animals. And when you fail to clean up your dog’s feces, you risk introducing new diseases to wildlife. Because dog feces contain chemicals from processed foods, it can contaminate local water sources on which wildlife rely.

When you speed or drive recklessly on mountain roads, you increase the chances of hurting our endemic bobcats, burros, chipmunks, deer, elk, horses, jackrabbits, mountain lions and turtles. These animals often must cross the road to find food and shelter, yet they are too often tragically mauled by motor vehicles when trying to do so.

When you violate the fire restrictions in the Spring Mountains, you threaten the lives of countless mountain animals, who are often severely injured or burned alive during wildfires. Those lucky enough to escape are left without adequate shelter, as their habitats have been significantly modified by the fires or altogether burned to the ground.

And it’s not just members of the public who endanger the lives of wildlife. Recently, Mount Charleston residents discovered open toilet vaults at Hilltop Campground managed by the United States Forest Service that were full of the corpses of numerous animals. Foxes, chipmunks and deer mice fell into the vaults that were full of melted snow. Some of them starved to death while others drowned when the vault filled with water. The footprints of small children were near the open vaults — anyone could have fallen in.

We share this mountain with the animals. The least we can do is take simple precautions to ensure that our behavior does not hurt these wonderful creatures or each other.

We thus ask of those who visit Mount Charleston: While you enjoy all of the natural wonders and beauty of the area, leave it as you found it. Do not kill animals with your vehicles and your trash. Drive cautiously on mountain roads and clean up after yourselves and your dogs. Familiarize yourselves with and adhere to fire restrictions.

And we ask of those who work at the United States Forest Service: Follow through with and enforce your own policies to protect free-roaming animals from bearing the lethal effects of human expansion into their habitats. When you devise construction plans at campgrounds, follow through with your own construction regulations to minimize, if not eliminate, the harmful impacts on wildlife and health and human safety. Close off construction areas and cover open vaults to protect the lives of animals and children.

It takes only a few minutes of your time to spare the lives of our mountain animals.

Signed, Cheryl Abbate, Jimmy Alderson, Mindy Blackburn, Cap D’Amato, Cheryl D’Amato, Kris Boucher, Shara Di Valerio, Maria Diener, Robi Dunn, Misty Epstein, Madeleine Gaid, Misty Haji-Sheikh, Pam Hiu, Julie Johnson-Hiu, Katy Johnson, Kim Koster, Laura Lockwood, Robert Lockwood, Frank Mancino, Nina Mancino, Joyce Malone, Debra Mazza, John Morgan, Beth Pedersen, Bob Pribyl, Traci Pribyl, Brenda Reeh, Shannon Reeh, Addy Seymour, Mark Shepherd, Courtney Snider, Tina Taylor, Caroline Thomas-Jenson, Bruce Trampler, Laura Trampler, Brian Vicuna, Mylene Vicuna, Chris Wills, LaRita Wills, Debbie Zois