With a flit and a rustle, wildlife keeps its distance

Scorpions weren't what I had in mind when my wife and I were wishing we had more wildlife on our mountain property, but that's what came scuttling across the floor of a shed I was cleaning out, its tail arched menacingly overhead.

The first time we drove up to the property with the Realtor, hawks circled overhead and gray squirrels dashed across the road. As we approached the drive, a family of deer darted across and about two dozen quail trotted for cover. The dusty driveway was peppered with animal tracks. I recognized mountain lion, bobcat, deer and what I thought might be bear (although a neighbor swears those were the tracks of his Rottweiler).

All of these live on our mountain and are seen by those who live here full time but seldom by us. I haven't even seen the native dusky-footed wood rats that have made such a mess of an old train car and shed that came with the property.

What we mostly see are rapidly retreating animals. When they spot us, they take off running as fast as they can. I saw a beautiful native fox but mostly his bushy gray and red tail. We have a chipmunk living under the shed, but all I see is it disappearing into its hole.

The big gray native squirrels aren't the least bit neighborly. They don't sit and beg for food as the red squirrels do back in the city.

We have seen a spotted bobcat twice, briefly, as it zoomed by on long legs. It was much bigger than I expected, and it could be one reason we don't see many small animals. We've yet to see the mountain lion that one neighbor has told us about, but that's OK with me.

We haven't even seen many birds, though a flock of red-capped acorn woodpeckers that lives near us is a notable exception. So were the Western bluebirds that appeared briefly in the spring. Even the quail and the top-knotted Steller's jays are more often heard than seen. I guess the "wild" in wildlife means they prefer not to hang out with us humans.

-- Robert Smaus

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