That Thin Line

Face your fear: A Saturday program at FENCE wants you to warm up to the animals you think you hate.

Face your fear: A Saturday program at FENCE wants you to warm up to the animals you think you hate.

Instead of getting all warm and fuzzy for Valentine’s Day weekend, the folks at FENCE (The Foothills Equestrian Nature Center) in Tryon have decided to focus on creatures that freak people out — and unfairly so, they say. Borrowing naturalist Carlton Burke from the Muddy Sneakers environmental-education nonprofit in Brevard, FENCE will host “Animals We Love to Hate” this Saturday, February 13.

Snakes, cockroaches, possums, vultures — “typically I bring several animals that are very popular to dislike,” says Burke. Folks get the willies because they perceive these creatures, loaded with many millennia of cultural baggage, as ugly, or slithery, or even evil.

However, “the goal of the program is to get people to understand, in a fun way, that every living creature has a purpose, a place, a role to play in the web of life — and often what that creature does for a living, so to speak, makes major impacts on the world around us,” says Burke.

Take roaches. Arguably the most reviled of the above-mentioned creatures, this invertebrate, explains the naturalist, “scavenges on the organic remains of plants and animals, recycling the nutrients and chemical compounds in them into other forms to be taken up by other living things. Many of these ‘organic debris recyclers,’ as I refer to them, literally turn the organic matter they consume into soil from which plants grow. And plants, being a basic component in all food chains, give off oxygen for living creatures, including people, to breathe.”

While it’s all well and good to shoo a possum from the henhouse or keep an eye out for snakes on the trail, Burke reminds us: “Without many of these unappreciated creatures, life as we know it now would cease to exist.”

“Animals We Love to Hate,” 2-3:30pm. 3381 Hunting Country Road, Tryon. 828-859-9021.

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