Saturday, September 21, 2013

"Wildlife"

One of the strange things about life in New England these days is that our neighborhood in suburban Boston has more wildlife than our neighborhood in semi-rural Maine.

Now the wildlife in Massachusetts shows a substantial variety of wildness. At the bottom of the scale, more or less pets, are the mice and chipmunks that inhabit our house. Also, squirrels, which were discovered this week nesting somewhere in the second-story walls and which have now been lured into traps (one mother, five babies) and escorted into A Better Place. (Apparently, they gained access by climbing three stories up a metal drainpipe, according to our neighbor, then chewing out a board.) Somewhat higher up the wildness scale are birds, lots and lots of birds, which are becoming slowly pet-ified by the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of feeders in our town. Dramatically, bird species include turkeys, a flock of which sauntered out of our backyard in the late afternoon, pecked around under the big oak for bits of broken acorns dropped by squirrels or wind, and wandered down the street, appearing not just once, but three days running, and not just a few turkeys, but twelve. Deer have been seen in the neighborhood (but not for a while now). At the top of the scale a red-tailed hawk vies with a coyote for prominence. I give the edge to the coyote; the hawk seems to have adopted this area, while the coyote roams widely, despised and lonely and inhuman.

In Maine, we have maybe one mouse, a couple of chipmunks, and one little red squirrel, and none of them seen very often. There's usually a family of deer, relatively tame. There are quite a few birds, of course (just not the quantity), notably a glorious little flock of goldfinches, the occasional hummingbird, an impertinent crowd of crows, and show-off seagulls, all of which appreciate humans' feeders and lawns and flower beds and trash, and - now we get into the species that really don't give a hoot about us - a family of ducks, a loon trying to decide on leaving or staying for the winter, blue herons every once in a while, and more and more frequently, at the top of the scale, fly-bying bald eagles, who seem truly disdainful. The foxes too are still quite wild, and would do just as well without us as with us.

One can predict, however, that some day foxes will beg for scraps, Walmart will sell eagle feeders, the bears and lynx and moose will be driven into Canada, the truly wild animals of Africa will be extirpated, and all the rest of our animal species will live in a peaceable kingdom, sharing shelters and food and diseases in the new world we are making but don't really want.

We won't mention insects.

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