Growing up on the farm brought us a reverse safari of animals; they came to us, wild and not-so-wild. Skunks scented the air and once peeked in at our kitchen window. My mother woke me late at night to see him. Luckily he was a baby and hadn’t been to a scent seminar. Deer wandered in the wheat fields; laid down and barely escaped going through the combine. A few elk plodded indiscriminately, not caring if they smashed the barley. Errant neighbor’s cattle left huge soggy imprints in my mother’s carefully tended lawn. Horses whinnied in the pasture. Cats appeared from nowhere and the neighbors, making me the happiest of cat aficionados. Mice aplenty rounded out our menagerie; I remember seeing a string moving next to the refrigerator and stepping on it I heard a squeak. My mother dispatched him with a big spoon, perhaps the same one used to encourage us to better behavior.
When we came to live in the city I thought myself free of bothersome critters. Not so. Cats and dogs go unmentioned, unless a catfight interrupts my sleep or the dog next door barks at…but wait! What could he be barking at?
Any number of animals. Perhaps a deer family. They are merciless, rapacious predators of roses and all things tasty. I have seen one pawing at our big dog. No longer do I admire their swift sleekness. Another animal? Perhaps a skunk. Why does a skunk family, the grandchildren now as well, find on Google Maps that our yard is the best route to the next waterhole? Next come the raccoons. For years they have been my husband’s personal enemies. It does disturb us when a group of them have vocal confabs and even fight on our roof at night. It does disturb us that they eat the grapes the night before we plan to harvest them. It does disturb us when the mama crawls up to the humming bird feeder and tips it over for a delicious snack for four, yes four, babies down below. It does disturb us when they menacingly advance though we are four times as big as they are.
The raccoons are gone now; decimated by a plague, a distemper epidemic.
We have had bear sightings near by, and a mountain lion was caught six houses away. We have seen coyotes lurking in the tall grass by the high school. Are they stalking a short freshman for dinner?
Baby Fox visits us
Last spring our neighbor called excitedly. “Come over and see our cute fox babies?!" We grabbed our four-year-old granddaughter; we watched four dear fuzzy babies cavort, jump, roll, bite, play just like kittens on the back deck. Our neighbor just couldn’t shoo them away. Would I have? I don’t know. But knowing what I know now? Oh my. Those little fox kits had the nerve to become wild teenagers that stayed out late at night decorating our yard inappropriately, smashing bushes, scattering decorative bark, leaving their scent all over the driveway, leaving remains of squirrels and birds and even part of a chicken on our front porch right beside our front door, stealing garden gloves and knee pads. We almost despaired. But it is several months later now, and the teenagers have turned into young adults roving far and wide to fill their tummies. We see them perhaps twice a week. We watch them disappear into their den up high in our back yard, and they love to escape the heat by laying under our summer squash or peony shade. Mama Fox still strolls through our back yard even in the daylight. How long do foxes live? Are they territorial? Where will Mama’s grandchildren be born? And perhaps even more important, who next will invade our back yard?