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Did you know that a chipmunk can throw its voice? Or that Wisconsin has a venomous mammal? What about the answer to the question: can porcupines throw their quills?Every Monday on WXPR at 7:45 a.m. and 5:45 p.m., the Masked Biologist answers questions just like these about living here in the Northwoods.You can keep track of Wildlife Matters and all of WXPR's local features on the WXPR Local Features podcast, wherever you get your podcasts.

The Masked Biologist's New Years Resolutions

Image by Geralt on Pixabay.com

With the arrival of New Years Day comes new resolutions. Have you made yours? The Masked Biologist has, and it is the subject of this week’s Wildlife Matters.

We kick off 2020 the same way we kick off most new years—with resolutions. I think it is human nature to overreach on trying to improve ourselves, especially when we take our families into consideration. Each year, some of the most common resolutions include getting exercise, quitting smoking, losing weight, and something financial (cutting spending, better at paying bills, and the like.) Statistics show that 25% of resolutions fail within a week, and almost half are broken within six months. Why is that? Do we overestimate our own abilities? Are we unwilling to make sacrifices and live without? There are probably multiple reasons why resolutions fail. For example, habits are extremely difficult to break—especially bad habits. Growing up, I was always told it took thirty consecutive days to break a habit. I don’t know where Mom got that, or whether its even based in science, but I have to agree that in most cases if I can avoid doing something for a month it is almost automatic to go without it and if I work hard at doing it for a month, it feels wrong to go without it. A month can seem like an eternity, though, especially in our instant gratification world.

Another reason resolutions probably fail is cravings. We crave caffeine. We crave chocolate. We crave salt. These cravings can be biological, like people with protein deficiencies craving beans or nuts, but they can also be hormonal. Eating chocolate releases serotonin and dopamine in the body, giving the same feeling as being in love. Who doesn’t want to feel loved? Not only are you getting a dose of sugar, flavor and texture but you are getting instant affection at the same time. Choosing to walk away from all of that is extremely difficult and makes kicking the habit almost impossible for the average person in a crowd.

I am an expert at breaking resolutions. I try, mind you, but I fail. I find that when I do succeed at changing a behavior, it is because I was singularly focused on what I was looking to gain, not dwelling on what I was giving up. Last New Year’s Day I don’t honestly think I even made a resolution. If I did, it wasn’t remarkable, because I can’t remember it. Every year, my wife and I come up with a motto or slogan for our family. One year, we borrowed a line from an animated Disney movie, Meet the Robinsons—KEEP MOVING FORWARD. That motto turned out to be surprisingly fitting in that year, and my wife and I would routinely state it to each other as one obstacle followed another. And as one year followed another, the motto stuck, as it was so appropriate. As we summitted one peak, another peak appeared in our path and onward we would go. This year, again, in 2020, I expect we are going to use KEEP MOVING FORWARD as our family motto.

I see big things on the horizon already, and we are going to have to tackle them as a team. As far as resolutions go, that part is easy this year. Having a near-fatal heart attack in 2019, my resolve since then has been to keep living. I think that will be my resolution in 2020, officially – keep living. Not just with my heart health, either. This year I could not hunt ducks, or grouse, in fact other than firearms deer I don’t think I hunted at all. I missed a month of my summer in recovery, so everything from berry picking to dog training was affected. In 2020, I resolve to keep living. Not only by cutting out fast food, or doing more exercise, because I have doctors, therapists, and a steadfast wife forcing me to do that already. No, I intend to keep living by getting back outside. Hopefully I can get in some rabbit hunting, but if not, my dog, the masked Labrador, is ready to help look for antler sheds as the snow recedes. And I am going to get to the range more, improving my shooting accuracy, so I can focus more on getting into my hunting seasons. And, while I barely survived last turkey season, I am going right back out this year and make the most of the hunting opportunities I have. Whatever your resolutions may be this year, remember to make them achievable and realistic, and don’t give up the first time you break them!

The Masked Biologist is a weekly commentator on WXPR talking about natural resources and wildlife in the Northwoods. He is anonymous so that he can separate his professional life as a biologist from his personal feelings about the natural world.
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