caro thinks

date 2000-10-19:19:11
wildlife Sitting out in the office, staring into the leaves as I contemplated the mysteries of table data, I saw a thread swinging from the hibiscus in the breeze. I followed it down to the end to f ind the spider, but found instead a small slug. The thread was not spider-webbing, but the slug's gooey lubricant. No doubt it had slipped off the leaf, and the goo was just viscous enough to hold it up. But not having the requisite spinnerets, it could o nly spin gently there and wave its antennae about, feeling for a foothold. As I watched, the thread stretched ever-so-slowly, until the slug was about 6 inches from the ground. I considered idly whether I should assist the slug. But the thread broke sudde nly, and the slug hit the ground head first, twisted gracefully upright, and started on its way. I'll probably kill it when I see it again; the only way to keep the population down (except for the rats' assistance) is to pick them off individually when th ey appear. But for now I let it escape, unable to destroy it after what must have been a fairly intimate interaction for a slug.
And two days ago, a flying thing crossed my path so slowly and so close that I had to get a closer look. It seemed to fin d something interesting on the ground, but I saw nothing out of the ordinary on the clean deck of the pool. It descended in a circling pattern, and rolled over several times when it landed. My curiosity overcame my general preference for being at some dis tance from fuzzy buzzy things. I stooped to see what it was doing. It had spotted a pill-bug from the air, and now was attempting to roll it up. Finally it wrapped all its legs around the bug-ball, and slowly rose again, unsteadily at first. I stared, ope n-mouthed, as the yellow jacket flew away to some horrid den with its prey. I had no idea they did such things.
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After dark, coyotes descend from the steep hills to do battle with rats between the cars in the parking lot. The closest I've ever been to one, to my knowledge, was about 10 feet. I heard the commotion around 9:30p, and looked out the kitchen window expecting to see mating cats. Instead, two long ears and a bushy tail trotted out from under my window and walked casually up the driveway as though it were a dog who owned this territory. I clicked my tongue at it and it stopped and looked right into my window. I spoke, and in response it met my eyes for a moment, ears pricked, one paw poised in the air. Then it sauntered up the wi nding driveway without looking back. A creature trapped in a box is no threat.

They howl in the hillsides surrounding this canyon. 'Howl' isn't quite the right word, though. They yip, first one, then two, then more--then they all join in with th eir own version of the song. It is a terrible sound of excitement and triumph: they've found something to kill, and have summoned each others' assistance, and now they're working together, calling out positions and instructions and confusing their prey. T he sounds echo all over the canyon until it sounds like there are hundreds, everywhere. And after a few minutes, an even more terrible silence falls.

In an "urban" area with houses so densely packed on the hilltops and in the bottoms of the cany ons that landscaping becomes an extreme challenge, it is incredible that the land can sustain packs of wild predators that most of us never even see. These are my coyotes, for I am the one who puts effort into discerning them, I am the one who loves them.

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