Saturday, September 7, 2013

Bully is back and other wild encounters

Thanks to the hanta virus (which thankfully has not been reported in our area), my severe snake-phobia has melted away and left behind a stranger who delights to see a snake outside our house provided it doesn’t have a rattle. Now I say, go snake go and eat those mice! Both Bully (our former reptilian house guest) and his heavyweight mother/father were recently spotted near our front door on sunny afternoons. One time the kids were with me and we all enjoyed the enchanting swish, swish, swish as he slithered away into the grass. Another time we found a fresh snake skin on some branches. What a fascinating souvenir these friends leave for us to find.

There was, however, one stressful reptile encounter back at the start of the summer. I went out to check on Erik and the kids’ progress cleaning the front porch. Just on the edge of all the action I was startled to see this little guy lying unnoticed.

It can be hard to tell if small snakes have a rattle or not, so we followed our standard questionable snake protocol and took a photo to check the pupil shape via zoom. And… AAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!! Vertical slits! Venomous. The only venomous snakes listed in our local fauna book are dangerous rattlers.

I started to despair. We were overrun. The rattlesnakes were at our door, waiting to storm our home. Pack now! Where’s the ‘for sale’ sign? Load the car!! But truly the little guy seemed to lack the aggressive temperament associated with rattlesnakes. We sent off photos to a friend, a bona fide NM wildlife authority. To our great relief we quickly heard back that the snake is poisonous but not dangerous to people because his venom is mild and he’s rear-fanged: a night snake. They’re seldom seen because they only come out at night and are extremely shy, but this one was injured and trapped on our porch. My sympathy was stirred and I pitied the poor little guy.

Snakes aren’t the only local resident that’s more active in the warmer months. The past few weeks we’ve heard numerous reports from neighbors about the garbage and birdseed seeking antics of a local black bear. These were all benign but there was one startling bear encounter earlier this summer in our neighborhood. A young black bear pushed in a single-pane window and entered a house in search of food -- an exceedingly rare incident. For some reason the owner confronted the bear (instead of leaving with the doors open), and he suffered a bite on the hand as a result. We have yet to see a bear, but we do hope that they stay in the mountains to avoid execution by the NM animal control units!

Other wildlife encounters from our first year at Wild Oak include Eleanor’s favorite: ‘deers’ munching right outside her window during bedtime stories. Luke and I were awestruck by a gorgeously striped and whiskered bobcat striding down our porch in the middle of the afternoon. Then there are the endless bunnies and hummingbirds, frequent hawks, occasional quail coveys, and a returning roadrunner in the backyard.

I’m still not a fan of scorpion season, but my abhorrence has dimmed a bit as time has passed. Upon close examination the variety that we’ve seen seems to be one whose sting is on par with a bee. All in all, a small price to pay to live in a city-side nature oasis.

I’ll be back to post soon on the three wildlife species that the kids recently adopted as pets: Rustle, Climber, and Froggies!

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