Thursday, June 08, 2017

1. Mammalian fauna

When I first moved to Florida late last century, I was fascinated by the animals, more specifically by the reptilian-type animals. When I was a kid roaming the western Kentucky forests with my cousins, I’d see lots of water moccasins, even an occasional rattler, and of course the garden-variety black garden snakes. In my parents’ home in Tennessee, there was the occasional blue-bellied salamander. But nothing compared to the scaled denizens of south Florida: snakes, all manner of lizards—from tiny gecko-like things, to curly-tailed fist-sized bruisers, to the vast and intimidating iguanas that hung around the fringes of campus at Our Fair University.
Wild mammals were rarer: lots of raccoons and squirrels, of course, and an occasional feral cat. And plenty of possums (yes, marsupials, I know, but furry...). One of the pleasures of moving northeast has been becoming reacquainted with mammalian wildlife. We have the raccoons and squirrels of course, but there’s more. Just in our yard, on an almost daily basis we’re visited by an extremely shy woodchuck (he lives somewhere out back, I think) and an extremely cute rabbit. I’ve caught sight, on a number of occasions, of hasty pairs of chipmunks.
The other night, on one of my late night walks—probably around 11.30 or so—I was glancing down at my phone as I walked down the sidewalk (dark, not many streetlamps, but plenty of light for walking). I heard the rustle of a heavy body a few feet from me and froze—I’d almost walked into a dark-clad late-night runner the week before—and there, in the corner of the yard I was passing, not eight feet from me, was a fully-grown doe, no doubt browsing at someone’s landscaping. We stared at each other for a moment—no, not at all a James Wright moment—and then she bustled off.
(The chipmunks scampered across the driveway as I was typing that last sentence.)

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