A New Neighbor

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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46 Responses

  1. Vikram Bath says:

    Do snakes count? I think snakes are both cool and interesting in an abstract sense, but in a lives-in-your-backyard sense, they are highly undesirable. My parents have given up on venturing into their backyard entirely because of them.
    Up here, the most interesting thing we’ve seen around are skunks, but I haven’t located where their burrows are, so I can’t say they’ve taken up residence right by us.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      Skunks! Egads. Keep a can of tomato juice in your household inventory, just in case!Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Tomato juice apparently doesn’t actually work. There are some skunk shampoos and skunk sprays that do though. My avatar unfortunately got away from me and caught one late one night on a walk maybe six months ago. He thoroughly killed it and got sprayed somewhere on his face.
        It rattled the wife more than me, I think. He had blood on his face, and he was so…proud. It was so obvious that he thought he did such a great thing, and we couldn’t convince him otherwise. The Malamutes of Alaska supposedly bred these dogs to both sled and to help with their hunts, so I guess he thought he was making his contribution to our family. It’s hard to explain to a dog that that isn’t really how we get our food though, and in any case we don’t eat skunk.Report

    • Murali in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      I live in an area which was until recently fairly undeveloped. About 10 years ago (good god has it been that long?) I had a large python crawl out through the toilet bowl.Report

  2. Let’s try this again…

    We have a woodpecker in the neighbourhood. Interestingly, it seems to prefer telephone poles to actual trees. In the summer, the canal plays host to ducks and geese, and the nearby river has swans and loons.

    And we have a skunk. That’s less fun. Thankfully, the dog has not yet encountered it.Report

  3. Chris says:

    Where I live now is ringed by a creek with trees on both sides, and there’s an owl that lives in there. I think he must be returning home at the same time that I’m leaving. He flies really low (maybe 6′ off the ground), and it’s not uncommon for me to see a large shape moving towards my head very fast, only to have it veer up at the last moment. The first time this happened, it was rather disturbing.

    In my last place, which was bordered by a creek with a wooded stretch, there were deer and really, really brazen raccoons. It was not uncommon for me to find myself between a raccoon that I’d startled out of the dumpster and the woods to which it was attempting to retreat. We’d have a little standoff. And there were rattlesnakes (I know because a homeless guy was bitten) and coral snakes (I know because my neighbor caught one) in them woods. In the creek where I work, it’s not uncommon to see water moccasins, right smack dab in the middle of Austin.

    I grew up with woods and two creeks behind my house, so we had turtles, fish, crawfish, owls, pileated woodpeckers, hawks, buzzards, groundhogs, skunks, possums, raccoons, foxes (though I’m not sure what they say), bobcats, and all manner of slithering and crawly things (my favorite of which were the praying mantises). We had to relocate snapping turtles and alligator snapping turtles, water moccasins, and copperheads pretty regularly when it was warm out, and rattlesnakes occasionally. There were always black widows in the wood pile and in the little hole that contained the water meter out front, and the rocks in the creek bed, when it dried, always had brown recluses under them. Oh, and the moles! The moles were really, really annoying. Oh, and the whipoorwills, which kept me up at night. Ah, I miss Tennessee.Report

    • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Chris says:

      Where I live now is ringed by a creek

      Most academics just have an ivory tower, but not Chris, no, he’s got a castle with a moat!Report

      • Chris in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        I do. It’s awesome. Except that homeless people like to sleep down in the creek, which doesn’t bother me except that the damn thing rises in minutes when it rains, so if I hear a drop I start to worry.Report

  4. J@m3z Aitch says:

    That’s awesome, Burt. I love owls.

    As for interesting critters, we had a groundhog living under our shed for several years (but I haven’t seen him in quite a while, so I suspect he’s “moved on”), and this spring we had a baby snapping turtle take up residence in our pond for about a week. I was sort of sad to see him/her leave, but at the same time I was thinking “what the hell do I do if I have a full grown snapping turtle in my tiny little pond?

    I’d trade both those critters for an owl, though.Report

  5. NewDealer says:

    “What’s the coolest or most interesting animal you’ve had set up shop near your home?”

    College Students and HipstersReport

  6. Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    At my house in Wisconsin (where my father still lives), the DNR started returning the farmland in the area back to wetlands (as farmers put their land up for sale, the DNR would claim right of first on it). This resulted in the back few acres of the property flooding back to swampland as the surrounding fields had their irrigation dikes removed, and a family of Sandhill Cranes moved in. My mother, being ever the naturalist, was over the moon, and made “friends” with the large birds, so much so that they felt perfectly comfortable wandering through the yard while my parents sat outside during the summer. When they started having chicks, I thought my mom would explode with joy.

    It was a nice thing for her to have during the last few years of her life.Report

  7. greginak says:

    We had a mom moose and baby in a yard last winter. Not for a long time, just a few hours, since they eat most of what can be eaten pretty quick. But they would check back every week or so. I’ve seen some more moose tracks this year.Report

    • Chris in reply to greginak says:

      OK, now I want to live next to moose. And grizzly bears.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Chris says:

        No, you don’t, not really.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Chris says:

        What MRS said, with the qualifier, “unless you’re willing to seriously structure your life around their presence.” If there are moose and grizzlies, there are other predators around. Standard joke amongst my friends who live up in the foothills (with moose, elk, black bear, mountain lions, and lots of coyotes): “What do you call a pet dog or cat accidentally left out after dark? Hors d’oeuvres.”Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        I am willing to so structure it, but I’m weird like that. I have never encountered a moose, and the only bears I’ve ever encountered are the relatively small and timid black bears in Appalachia, though, so maybe I’d be singing a different tune when stuck in doors because there’s a moose on the front lawn. Though I have actually been stuck inside because of a longhorn bull before.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Chris says:

        When I was an idiot teenager, I once approached a small group of bison across open countryside (from downwind). At some point I got close enough that it was clear they had finally noticed me, and I realized just how stupid I was being. Sometimes I think it’s a miracle (or perhaps several) that I survived to adulthood.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Chris says:

        Most of the time, moose are pretty docile, but a bull moose during mating season, or a cow with young, are awesome (& terrifying).

        Grizzlies, hell, any brown bear, are not like Gentle Ben. They are Apex predators who eat meat, and whoa! Would you look at that, you are made of meat. Bears are one of the reasons I carry a gun when I go hiking in the wilderness. 90% of the time, they’ll leave people alone. But they are not even remotely afraid of humans, & if they decide to come after you, your only hope is to kill it before it reaches you (and even with a large gun, the odds are not in my favor, just more so in my favor than without).

        No, you really DO NOT want any variant of brown bear near your home. Ideally they should be miles away & quite happy to stay there.Report

      • Kim in reply to Chris says:

        Chris is near enough to wild boar to be dangerous.
        Moose may be ornery enough to go through the electric fence,
        but boar are more likely to kill you, I figure.

        I’ve been 20 feet from a bear before. Still didn’t need a gun
        (and I figure if I had had the gun, I’d probably be dead anyhow.)Report

      • greginak in reply to Chris says:

        Moose are cool to see and almost never a danger. I’ve seen moose easily hundreds of times. I see them regularly when skiing or biking and i’ve only been charged once. Of course that one charge was somewhat tense and not a lot of fun. Moose can be dangerous actually so you don’t want to mess with them even though its pretty easy to have them around. Bears are and should be considered scary. Black bears, the kind in the Appalachian’s, can be very nasty and aggressive. There is a definite joy of living in a complete ecosystem with all the predators but there is no way around the fact that it isn’t also scary at times.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Chris says:

        I’ve been 20 feet from a bear before. Still didn’t need a gun

        Obviously the bear was not interested in you. Like I said, most of the time, they are not interested in humans. Not sure what your point is.

        I remember reading about a tragic case where a person was encouraging bears into their yard, and then watching the bears from within a steel cage. Worked great, let the person be mere feet from the bears for a long time, until the day one of the bears decided to see what the meaty thing in the metal cage was all about. Then it went through the steel like it was tinsel.Report

  8. Burt Likko says:

    FTR, Natasha was cool with the owl hanging around, even after discussing that this meant the owl would be preying upon other critters near the house. The circle of life and all that. Apparently, owls are cute. (Baby owls are cute. It’s the eyes, really.)Report

  9. Maribou says:

    We have a skunk living in our backyard.

    He’s polite (I see him once a month or less), he’s never tried to spray us or the cats (even when the cats are yelling at him through the open window), and he keeps the raccoons, dogs, and stray cats out. And we weren’t using it anyway.

    Plus he’s a GREAT excuse for me to never fix up the backyard landscaping. It’s an aspen jungle back there…Report

    • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Maribou says:

      Plus he’s a GREAT excuse for me to never fix up the backyard landscaping. It’s an aspen jungle back there…

      The fact that it’s an aspen jungle seems like sufficient excuse not to fix it up. It must be lovely in the fall.

      My father-in-law is Dr. Dolittle; animals love him. When working as a janitor at a reform school he fed the local wild critters, who would come running when they heard him coming. So one day he was on vacation, and his replacement pulled out his keys to unlock the gate, only to find a skunk running towards him. He froze, the skunk froze, and then each slowly backed away. After which father-in-law’s boss pleaded with him to please stop feeding the animals.

      So I guess the moral is treat your skunk well, and he’ll be your friend.Report

  10. We have a fox that lives next to the stream behind our house, which is kinda cool except for the fact that the sound it makes is about the creepiest noise I’ve ever heard and it always gets my dog totally freaked out and guarantees that said dog will want to go out every 30 minutes to go hunting for said fox. We heard an owl a lot last winter, but I never actually saw it. Other than that, we’ve got some woodpeckers that call our backyard home and will occasionally have some cardinals and goldfinches around. Also, we’re getting an awful lot of gigantic turkey vultures this year.Report

  11. kenB says:

    We have a couple of great horned owls that are frequent visitors. The hooting was very cool at first, but it got to be kind of an annoyance at the point that we wanted to actually sleep. Not a problem now that we’re in closed-window season. We keep hoping they’ll make a dent in the chipmunk population (which are slowly destroying our patio, but so far I haven’t been able to bring myself to take action to get rid of them).

    This Thanksgiving, a half-dozen wild turkeys waddled across our driveway — that provided some entertainment (and an opportunity for some obvious jokes) for our guests. A little while later we saw a fox in our woods — perhaps the timing wasn’t coincidental.

    A few years back we found a snapping turtle waiting for us on our back patio one day. This would’ve required his (her?) climbing four steps — pretty impressive for a turtle. As we were worrying and trying to figure out how to get him back to the pond (which is about a half-mile from us) without getting bitten, he wandered back on his own.

    Deer and skunks and raccoons and opossums are a common enough sight not to cause much excitement anymore (though the babies are awfully cute when we get a glimpse of them).Report

  12. Damon says:

    In the settlement pond….Report

  13. Michael Cain says:

    A pair of kestrels lived in our big locust tree in the backyard the year the neighbors put up a large bird-feeding station (and weren’t there the next year after the neighbors got tired of cleaning up dead bird remains and took down the station). I recall looking over there one morning and a kestrel was eating at one end of the station while the seed-eaters were eating at the other end. Guess it’s a matter of “Too bad about Bob, but the rest of us are safe while the kestrel’s busy.” Had to clean up after the kestrels a few times; when they get done, it looks like a small bird exploded. Don’t know if owls are any tidier :^)

    We’ve had fox, skunks, racoons and possums visit the back yard. In the open space a five minute walk away I’ve seen mule deer, coyotes, owls, any number of big hawks, and rattlesnakes. No prairie dogs in the immediate vicinity — thank goodness, since plague is endemic in the prairie dog population here. From the bicycle trails along the creeks I’ve seen a variety of herons, cranes, and muskrats. There are reportedly a handful of beavers living along the creeks, but I’ve never seen one. Both black bear and mountain lions have been sighted within a mile of us (they follow the railroad right-of-way the several miles down from the foothills) but I’ve never seen them. It is interesting to get an emergency alert from the city that says, “Such-and-such elementary school is locked down due to mountain lion sighting in the neighborhood.”

    When you consider that I live pretty much in the middle of an inner ring suburb with a population over 100,000, with Denver on one side of us and similar suburbs on almost all of the other sides, there’s a surprising variety of wildlife within a couple of miles of the house.Report

  14. rexknobus says:

    Last summer, while watering femrex’s flowers on a sweltering day (standing well back so that my “death to flowers” aura would not take effect), the mist-like shimmer of the gentle spray drew a few chickadees who perched nearby. I kept quite still and slowly panned the water from side to side and soon they got close enough that I could actually direct the water at the birds. For about ten minutes the little cuties perched on the tips of pine branches and flitted in and out of the spray, wings flapping, chirping excitedly. Some would land and look expectantly at me until I sprayed them. About as cute as anything I’ve ever seen.Report