Wildlife of Wakefield-- 05/28/02

I've always been amazed and fascinated by the way wildlife seems to have accommodated to the world of humans. Hmmm, let me modify that statement just a bit, so that it refers primarily to our fellow warm-blooded mammalian creatures. We will always have microscopic organisms around us... and on us... and in us... but although that certainly is fascinating (in a PBS Nova presentation or perhaps on the Discovery Channel), most of us can't quite relate to microbes, nor, for that matter, to insects.

When we were kids my brother and I planted butternut trees in our backyard; there had always been a number of squirrels in the neighborhood, but once those trees began to bear fruit, our yard became a very popular supermarket for those furry tree rodents.... and the sounds of scampering squirrels on the roof over my bedroom became all too familiar.

When Nancy and I had first moved into our house in upstate New York -- more than two decades ago -- I associated the noises we sometimes heard as being squirrels running across our roof. We eventually learned that it was not just squirrels on the roof; they were also getting into the attic. Some roof work and new windows in the attic dormers, etc., put an end to squirrels invading our home (although they still scampered across the roof) but although that discouraged the tree rodents, it did nothing to deter flying rodents -- die fleidermouse -- bats. We eventually became accustomed to finding a bat flying around inside once or twice a year and became quite adept at calmly evicting the intruder with neither violence nor injury inflicted upon it.

Fortunately we have not had to deal with bats in our house here in Rhode Island, although they can be seen flitting about at twilight, doing their bit to reduce the flying insect population. By the way, given the threat posed by mosquito-borne diseases (see my 1996 entry The Mosquito Coast) I'm quite grateful to them.

We do, however, tend to have tiny field mice popping up inside our house at this time of year. This isn't a fall problem or a winter problem -- I don't know why that is, because I would have thought that would be when they would be looking for a cozy spot to wait out the colder months. Instead, we seem to find them in April and May and June... Perhaps a pair does winter over in our garage, hibernating away behind a pile of garden tools, then springtime fecundity produces a population explosion, a few members of which attempt to forage inside our house? I've written about Tiger's experiences with mice -- Predator -- 06/13/00.

Well, our fearless feline has been at it again. On Saturday he had cornered a mouse in our kitchen -- I transported the mouse outside. A short while later I went out front and saw the mouse sitting on the walkway leading from our front porch to the driveway. He hadn't seemed injured by his encounter with Tiger, but seeing him motionless there I thought perhaps he had shuffled off this mortal coil... but the moment I approached him he took off into the plantings in front of our porch. An hour or so later I returned from an errand and just caught a glimpse of a tiny spot dashing off into the ground cover just as I passed by. And later that afternoon I was telling Jennifer about this and as we stepped out onto the front porch we saw a tiny mouse sitting in the middle of the walk, but he again dashed for cover as we approached.

I've mentioned our Neighborhood Rabbits and their cousins who inhabit the border of bushes and trees around the parking lots that surround my office. I've not seen a rabbit in our yard yet this year, although I have seen them elsewhere in the neighborhood. A few days ago I took a quick stroll around the parking lot at work during lunchtime and spotted three members of that rabbit tribe.

Yesterday morning Nancy and I went for a long walk around our neighborhood and as we returned along the pedestrian path that leads through a clump of woods that separates our neighborhood from another I thought at first that there was a gray dog standing on the path and then I realized that it was a fox, a good-sized healthy-looking fox. He calmly stared at us for a moment and then disappeared into the woods. Not only are there foxes around, there have also been a number of reports of coyotes having moved into this area of Rhode Island. (Two years ago I blamed a dog for the death of our family's pet rabbit, but people in this neighborhood just don't let their dogs wander around and I've been wondering for sometime if a fox or coyote could have been responsible.)

Early this morning -- about quarter to six -- Nancy and I were watching Tiger crouched on our kitchen floor, staring intently at the narrow space beneath the stove. Nancy was just saying something about Tiger not really being a predator when she gasped and pointed as Tiger came proudly trotting into the dining room to show us the mouse dangling from his mouth. He dropped the mouse on the floor and before he could pounce on it again, I took it outside -- but instead of setting it free in our front yard (I don't think it was the same mouse but neither one was wearing a name tag) I carried it across the street and set it free at the edge of the woods.

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