Animals Among Us

Rick and I live in town.  It takes five to ten minutes to drive to the supermarket, the mall, post office, bank and hospital (a nice thing to know with the march of time and years).  One of the main boulevards people use to get from one side of town to the other is two blocks away.  Few seem to care about the posted 35-40 mph until John Law is on their tail flashing his or her red lights.  Cars aside, lots of people are out walking their dogs or by themselves.  Some are running or cycling up and down the hills, getting or staying in shape.  Even with all this human activity, there are a surprising number of wild animals among us.  

We had something (a raccoon, perhaps) that took up residence in our attic space until the local pest control set up a trap and said raccoon decided to vacate the premises.  We screened all possible entry points to prevent his/her return.  We’ve had woodland rats, a rattlesnake, and gophers, though the latter gave up because I couldn’t manage to grow anything good enough to eat.  Our neighbors have a red fox that uses their backyard as a thoroughfare to the woods. Deer are in abundance. One left his antlers in our front hedge. 

A gray squirrel loves to scamper across the roof and hang over the edge where Sarge, our German Shepherd, can see him from inside the windows.  Squirrel: Chit-chit-chit.  Sarge: Grrrrr, bark, bark.  Let me out, Mom.  Let me at him.  That squirrel just laughs as he hops down and scampers along the deck railing in full sight and out-of-reach.  He has a large nest high in the oaks, easy access to the thousands of acorns that drop in our yard every year. 

When I was a girl, there were cougars in the hills.  They killed cattle, and ranchers went to war, almost succeeding in driving the cougar to extinction in the East Bay Area hills.  Now that they’re protected, they are making a comeback.  Just up the hill, a friend keeps her eye out for the cougar that lives behind her neighbor’s fence.  The big cat had words with the neighbor’s dog.  Fortunately, the fence was too high and the hill too steep for the cougar to leap, or that dog would have been cat food.  Dogs are easy prey, humans (especially small ones) even more so.  We lack fangs and claws and can’t run as fast as a hungry cougar on the hunt.  (A few California joggers have tried and failed.)

My brother lives up in redwood country north of us. He said there is a movement among environmentalists to re-introduce grizzly bears to California.  He already has a black bear hanging out at his place.  It camps under his apple tree each year and stays until all the fruit has been eaten.  There might be an upside to bringing the grizzly back: they are omnivores, and Cartel members growing pot in the national forests might find themselves on the menu. 

I’d rather have the cute little gray fox that has taken up residence at the local Junior College.  He climbs a large oak tree near the Bertolini Student Center during classes and snoozes all day while hundreds of students pass by.  He’s become an unofficial mascot.