The first law of ecology is that everything is related to everything else.
– Barry Commoner
Nature comes at me in waves.
The first few years we lived in our house, it was snakes. They seemed to slither up from the creek out back, occasionally sunning themselves on the patio.
My wife, who proclaims to be deathly afraid of such reptiles, still managed to break more than one garden hoe ridding our property of serpents. She must have made her point (or the word hissed out), because we haven’t seen a snake in a decade.
The turtles replaced them.
I liked the turtles. They don’t move very fast and don’t cause any harm.
But for a two-year period they kept working their way up the hill through the backyard and – for some mysterious reason – into our garage.
Sometimes we found them, but sometimes we didn’t, and let me tell you, backing an SUV over a turtle creates a mess.
But that was not as bad as the squirrels, who came next. They figured out how to slip into the attic, and you know what a joy that can be. They stole food from the bird feeder; they provoked whining irritation among the household dog staff and inspired numerous columns by yours truly disapproving of their existence, including one last fall that noted they had apparently quit the neighborhood, moving on to someone else’s house. (Many of you wrote to thank me for sending them your way.)
Well, they have been replaced by the latest addition to our metro menagerie.
My wife noticed them first. One night she came back inside after escorting the pups outside for their nightly doggie duty and reported seeing several small “mystery” animals near the road.
It was very dark and she didn’t have her glasses, so we had to guess what they were.
“Raccoons?” I suggested. “Possums?”
She said no. Something smaller that stood on its hind legs and moved quietly. Oh, and there were several of them.
I thought she might be making it up, but then I started walking around the far back part of the yard looking for signs. Down near the creek where the snakes used to thrive, I came across a strange little pile of animal poop that I had not noticed before.
I went to the Internet (yes, you can find everything), found a thorough Web page on animal poop profiles and proudly reported to my wife that what she saw was probably “Sylvilagus floridanus.”
“I told you it was something weird,” she said.
“No, dear,” I responded, that’s the scientific name for a rabbit – the Eastern cottontail, to be specific. “It likes to get out at night. That’s probably what you saw.”
It probably was because within two days I saw two bouncing across the yard in daylight.
Within a week my rabbit census was up to six, and the other day a little baby bunny was sitting in the middle of the yard when I came home, apparently hoping no one would notice.
I pretended I didn’t.
I’ll take bunnies over snakes any day.