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Hey Buddy, Can You Spare a Nut? Wildlife in the City

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I live in a suburb. But our house is on an alley near some busy intersections, so the only wildlife around are sparrows and feral cats. Oh, and once I saw a flock of wild parrots. I work nearby in an office park that is a sea of concrete next to a huge shopping center. Imagine my surprise recently when someone came into the office and insisted, “Elise, you'd better come outside. Your truck is full of raccoons.” Sure enough, a mother and her babies were hanging out in the bed of the truck. I didn’t see any harm in it, and I was once attacked by a pack of wild raccoons while camping so I left them alone. Later, as I was leaving they were going to town on the flowerbeds.

So how did I get attacked by raccoons? I had made the mistake of carrying a bag of trail mix around and about 30 mean raccoons surrounded me. I jumped over one and ran. They came after me, so I locked myself in my friend’s truck. They swarmed the cab, pounding on the windows and scratching at the doors like in a horror movie. My friend yelled, “Get out of my truck! They’re ruining the paint!” I was like, “Fuck you! You’re not the one they want!” Seriously, the ranger had to come and rescue me. He told me that they had bitten off a little boy’s thumb the day before.

Back to the city. This morning my neighbor was hammering on the cinderblock wall under my bedroom window at 9am. I went out on the porch to ask him politely if there were any other chores he needed to do that didn’t involve hammering under my window at 9am. I looked down and there was a little squirrel standing at my feet. So I walked over to the neighbor, and the squirrel followed me. I asked the neighbor if he thought it was tame or rabid, because that was really unusual, even for a park squirrel. He didn’t know. It was eyeing my toes in a suspicious way and begging so aggressively I thought it was going to start cleaning my windshield with newspaper. I know you’re not supposed to feed wildlife and make them dependent on people. But we’ve already upset the balance of nature here. And this critter was following me around trying to climb up my legs, so I got a little plate of nuts and bowl of water. I set the food away from the house, so it wouldn’t relate the two, and because we have bees in the mailbox (Yes, I was attacked by raccoons and I have bees in my mailbox. Don’t even get me started on eels).

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Then the crows started flocking to the trees and caawing like crazy. By now a little old lady had stopped to watch the squirrel, who was busy burying the nuts all over my yard. I asked her, “Do crows attack squirrels? Or are they coming for the nuts?” She didn’t know either. I realized I really don’t know anything. As I was walking back in the house, I noticed dead bees and a rock-candy looking substance on the porch. Shit. My husband must have called the exterminators to get the bees out of the mailbox. Was the poison sweet? Had that attracted the squirrel? Was it acting weird because it was high on poison? Is bee poison even strong enough to kill a squirrel? Now that it’s buried nuts does it live here and I am going to have squirrel-crow wars in my yard every morning? Maybe I shouldn't have given it the almonds.

So what do you do about hungry wild animals? The Griffith Park fire (and our encroachment on their natural habitat) is sending all kinds of animals into the city. Do you feed them or let natural selection take over? Is there even natural selection any more? Maybe natural selection now involves the ability to scavenge off of people.

Photo by Elise Thompson