The weather is finally starting to warm up and I’ve been feeling claustrophobic due to this quarantine, so I was standing in my doorway, gazing out into the back yard. Then a male Dark-Eyed Junko landed on the deck and kind of danced in front of me. He was quite agitated. I couldn’t imagine what I had done to garner so much attention. Then his female counterpart, heavily pregnant, came on the scene and gave me a stern talking-to.
Ah, so there must be a nest nearby. Good on them. I quietly left the area, and will do my best to not be an intrusive part of their lives in the next few months. Fortunately, we are rather isolated, and I’ve never seen a stray cat in our yard.
I’m not saying I dislike cats. I actually love them. If I weren’t so allergic to them, I’d probably have one. But I do have a problem with people who let their cats roam outside. According to this article, cats are responsible for the deaths of up to 3.7 billion (yes, with a b) birds in the continental US each year. When you consider that 1/3 of the bird species in the US are endangered, that’s a horrifying number. These same cats also kill up to 20.7 billion mammals annually.
Yes, I get it. These cats are doing what cats do. Nature is harsh. But here’s the thing. These are your pets. You are the responsible one. You can keep your cats indoors, or at least in a catio, at a bare minimum from Mid-April to the end of July, can’t you? Sure you can. You can also have your cats spayed and neutered to reduce the stray cat population. These are the actions of a responsible pet owner.
I know your cat wants to roam. But another thing to consider is that your cat, unsupervised, is in quite a lot of danger. The average stray cat only lives for 2 years. On a daily basis, outdoor cats have to survive cat fights, cars, dogs, coyotes, weather, and other predators. They are eating disease-carrying animals and spoiled food. Their stress level is always high. These factors reduce the lifespan of even beloved pets who only go out occasionally. So keeping them inside is also the kindest thing you can do for them.
Do the right thing this spring. Please be responsible. Keep your cats indoors.
I was standing in a big, dirty parking lot in the industrial part of town. Think concrete and gas fumes. It would be difficult to find a less natural setting. And it was raining, causing rivulets of polluted snowmelt to criss cross the pavement as far as the eye could see.
That’s when I spotted her. A coyote, running down the sidewalk as semi trucks blasted past. She looked mangy and emaciated. I’ve never seen anything that looked so feral in my life.
I was fascinated, but also glad that she hadn’t come too close. There was something surreal about seeing her there. It was almost like she was floating in outer space. This should not be her environment.
She was focused on her mission, whatever that may have been. She didn’t acknowledge me, although I’m sure she was acutely aware of my presence. Nothing was going to get in her way, not even an 18 wheeler. And she was quiet. If I hadn’t been looking that direction, I’d have never known she was there.
I had never come face to face with a coyote before. I know they’re around. I sometimes hear them howling in the park behind our house. It always gives me a frisson. And it makes me worry for my Dachshund.
But to see one is something else again. It’s like being confronted by the raw power of nature. Even in her weakened state, I had no doubt that she was stronger than me, and much more capable of surviving.
At the same time, I felt sorry for her, living on the ugliest, dirtiest fringes of human civilization. We have done this. We have encroached. She shouldn’t have to live like this.
It’s funny what you can come across on the internet when you go from link to link, allowing the cyber highway to take you where it will. It’s even funnier, apparently, what capers you can come up with when you are sitting in a hotel bar in a little town, population 8, in the back of beyond in Australia. And it just adds evidence to my theory that people will believe just about anything.
Hence, around Christmas, 1971, the Nullarbor Nymph was born. The press were told that several kangaroo hunters had seen a feral blonde woman running with the kangaroos, wearing next to nothing except some strategically placed kangaroo skins. It was a slow news week. The press ate it up.
Before they knew it, the little town of Eucla was besieged by both the international press and a swarm of tourists, all hoping to get a glimpse of this woman. Business had never been better! The glimpses were provided. Footprints. Grainy photographs. A girl running across the road just far enough away to be unidentifiable, but just close enough to be tantalizing. A potential campsite. People were entranced.
Far too soon, one of the hunters was in the bar with a tongue loosened by alcohol, and he unfortunately revealed the hoax. I say it’s unfortunate because the tourism potential for this story could have rivaled that of the Loch Ness Monster. Still, it is considered one of the best hoaxes in Australian history.
There are still postcards floating about, and statues, and in recent years, even a low budget movie. And I suspect that people still sit at the bar in Eucla and talk about the nymph. Their population has grown to 86 now. And they have to talk about something, don’t they?