Sanctimonious, smug, self-important, self-aggrandizing.

Not very appealing qualities. That’s why I want to write about animals. They don’t have or need such traits. Not that I am a naturalist, not by a very, very long shot. But I do like most animals, except for spiders, ticks, centipedes, mosquitoes, slugs and cave crickets, to name a few.

On my 9 a.m. morning walk along the Musconetcong River I came across a white-tailed deer standing on the trail about 60 feet from me. I can guess the distance because that’s how far home plate is from the pitcher’s mound.

We stared at each other, one two-legged beast and a four-legged creature, as we both stood motionless. It was a standoff. I assume the deer wanted to make sure I was not a predator. That was intelligence tailored to his need for self-preservation.

I watched him because he is so elegant and graceful. And then with a flick of his ears, no doubt swatting away some annoying insect that had hoped to settle in, he was gone, as he bounded into the wooded area, his white tail bobbing as he left. That took a type of intelligence also.

I returned to my walk, listening and watching. Toward the end of my two-mile, morning jaunt, I saw a red tailed fox up ahead. He was walking fast, like a canter, not quite running. Whether he saw me, I don’t know. Just like with the deer, I froze in my tracks to see what the fox was doing. The fox soon picked up the pace and turned right and scampered into the woods, vanishing before me as he was evidently on assignment to collect food for his brood or something. And in his own way, thinking all the time.

I believe intelligence is misunderstood. The deer and the fox have the level of intelligence that they need to survive in a very dangerous world. They have enough brains to gather food, escape dangers, procreate, sleep and who knows what else goes on in their minds. They don’t need to be smart enough to read a book or discuss current affairs. Their brains are perfectly perfect.

Stating the obvious, people build themselves up by putting animals down. There are many examples of animals exhibiting intelligence far superior to humans. Elephants are known to jump into raging waters to save a drowning baby. Birds fly thousands of miles to the exact same place every year, for food or procreation.

Dolphins have a vocabulary so extensive and nuanced that we are only beginning to understand. An octopus can change colors, squirt out poison, and exert a force greater than its own body weight. I call that pretty darn smart.

And there are millions of species living deep beneath the ocean that we don’t know about and that may have unique intelligence.

And that brings me back to sanctimonious, smug, self-important, self-aggrandizing.

As part of his longstanding, ongoing effort to reverse anything President Obama ever did, the Trump administration has overturned Obama-era hunting rules as a sop to big game trophy hunters, like his very own son, Donald Jr. So now, hunters can once again bait brown bears with doughnuts smothered in bacon grease and can take down swimming caribou from their motorboats.

I wouldn’t call that hunting, slaughter is a better word as “hunters” face dangers of unmentionable levels as they can now sneak up and enter the dens of sleeping cubs and their moms with slaughter on their mind.

And how’s this for barbarity: Hunters can use spotlights to blind black bear moms and cubs in their dens and then blast them to bits. All so they can cut off the bear heads and hang them on their mantles as proof of their manhood and intelligence and ability to win in the battle over animals.

Oh, and did I mention that hunters, spell it killers, will be allowed to kill wolves and coyotes, including pups, at a time of year when mothers are weaning their young. Talk about robbing and killing in the cradle.

Talk about cruelty. Trump is resurrecting barbaric methods that have long been attacked by animal rights groups so that humane barriers to hunting will be gone on millions of acres of Alaskan wilderness for the summer.

I can’t imagine President Bonespurs will be hunting; he’s known only to go after prey that is either already dead or badly injured so as not to put up any kind of fight and if there is any danger, he could just retreat to the underground bunker at the White House claiming he was on a housekeeping adventure.

But Trump’s son loves to hunt, especially really big animals as long as he has enough firepower and technology to make it virtually impossible not to miss his target. Most recently, junior joined in a “dream hunt” in Alaska sponsored by Safari Club International.

And don’t forget when junior ventured deep in the wilds of Mongolia to hunt a protected, rare breed of sheep last August. Sheep can be vicious. They have been known to self-shear their wool and then to weave it into deadly lengths that can be used to strangle aggressors like junior. And by the way, junior’s trip cost $76,859.36 so the Secret Service could protect him from flesh-eating sheep.

The latest reversal of hunting rules comes after the Trump administration loosened Obama-era restrictions on importing elephant and lion trophies from some African countries.

Previously, Trump’s first interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, also signed an order to expand hunting and fishing on public lands. Evidence of his love of the interior, Zinke had a stuffed bear in his D.C. office.

So if the latest presidential actions are an indication of superior intelligence I would rather live with the deer and the fox. At least they don’t hang their victims on the walls of their dens or kill them with doughnuts and bacon.

Journalist for 40 years and now a creative writer