So many types of animals are all around us, especially here in the Shenandoah Valley. Domesticated pets, livestock and wild creatures are all part of our environment and often play important roles in our lives.

Being aware of those roles can help us make important decisions about how we choose to live our lives, sometimes on both personal and professional levels.

The American kestrel is the smallest falcon in North America and the population has been declining over the last 50 years, according to a Daily News-Record article in Saturday’s edition. Kestrels in the Valley have the potential to significantly impact our way of life, particularly in terms of agriculture.

The American kestrel helps farmers out as their diets primarily consists of small birds and mice, lizards and snakes, and insects such as grasshoppers that farmers typically fight off, according to a study by Michigan State University scientists as reported in the article. Lance Morrow, who is a volunteer studying the birds, says they are “valuable.”

It’s probably safe to say that many of us wouldn’t know an American kestrel if we saw one before reading a story like this, much less their impact on agricultural practices — a major industry in our area.

Familiarizing ourselves with wildlife and respecting and caring about all animals can benefit us in the long run. If we know the role an animal plays in our society, we can make better decisions about protecting its welfare.

People will, of course, have varying opinions on how much attention should be given to animal welfare on professional and even legislative areas. Those views can and should be influenced by a variety of factors including, but not limited to, one’s own ethics and how animals contribute to one’s way of life. But having as much knowledge as possible can help shape those views.

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