Woods, waters and wildlife

Where the buffalo roam

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Nature is magnificent. Poets have extolled its virtues and idyllic refuge for centuries. But it’s akin to solitude, which has been said to sometimes be a disease and sometimes a cure, depending upon the dosage.

An overdose of anything is bad for you. A gentle summer breeze can be welcomed. Add too much wind and rain, and you have a hurricane. I’ve spent most of my life in or near nature and have overdosed more times than I want to admit.

Does that keep me from seeking it still? May it never be! But I like to think I’ve gotten wiser through experience. It’s said that good judgment comes from experience, and most experience comes from bad judgment. I stand guilty.

There are things in nature that should be avoided, and things that you guard against to enhance nature’s enjoyment.

Take, for instance, sitting out in the yard about sundown as the day cools down and Texas is taken out of the oven for the evening. But, then, the mosquito nation gets up for another night of hunting -- and you’re the quarry. Unless we’re locked in a drought without a drop of rain and most of the mosquito habitat has dried up, those pesky little … uh, devils -- can make life miserable.

Diseases like encephalitis, malaria, dengue fever, and the two most recently publicized public enemies – the Zika Virus and West Nile Virus – are spread primarily by mosquito bites. Zika rarely causes death, but who takes comfort in having a disease that stops short of death if it still makes you sick! Pregnant women can pass it on to their yet unborn, possibly resulting in birth defects. Infected men can pass it during intimacy.

West Nile Virus has a menu of unpleasant symptoms, and there is no vaccine or antiviral treatment. On top of that, it’s fatal to 40% of the horses that get infected. If it’ll kill a horse, do you want to chance it?

And just the sound of Dengue Fever and Chikungunya Virus gives me chills -- and I’m usually no germ freak. Knowing about these mosquito-bite possibilities makes spraying with OFF a cheap alternative to convalescence. Treating your yard with yard guard or a thermacell device helps, too. And don’t sit near flower beds, thick vegetation, and any kind of standing water, especially untreated bird baths.

The risk of Lyme disease possibly affecting 300,000 Americans each year is relatively unpublicized. It’s contracted by tick bites. Me, too. And when two bites developed bullseye appearances and wouldn’t heal, I saw my doctor. His tests confirmed Lyme both times. Early treatment prevented both from becoming debilitating. Treating clothing with DEET beforehand helps.

Rabies is horrible, but usually avoidable. Just stay away from any animal that acts strangely – especially dogs, cats, coons, and foxes. And don’t go anywhere near bats -- dead or alive! In many areas, they are the primary carriers after unvaccinated dogs and cats.

Remember “Old Yeller”?

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