Thursday, July 24, 2008

Two-ton snakes

What is it about snakes?

Is it that they are legless and armless, so much different from our well-appendaged selves? Is it because they slither so low and we walk so tall?

Or is it just that we fear some rattler or copperhead will sink its fangs into a leg and send us to the Great Beyond?

Prejudice, pure and simple. The snake is a wonderful creature that spends its days making our lives better by gobbling up rats, mice, shrews, voles, and other vermin.

Fear not our snakes. Fear, instead, a real killer: the shiny, glittering, ordinary, everyday automobile.

Over the past century, cars have killed scores of people in my own little town. Not one person has died of snakebite – or even snake-fright.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Mousetrap in a tree

If you were to go walking in the woods on a moonlit night, a dog in a tree might watch you.

More likely, though, the gray fox would have slipped far away before you were anywhere near being seen by him. He would not have been pressed to run up a tree – a feat he can easily accomplish, unique among North American canines.

No, the fox would have heard you coming from a long distance off. Sensitive ears, able to detect a mouse squeak at 300 feet, help make him a valuable pest-control device. Vermin like rats and mice are among its favorite foods and, as disease and tick carriers, one of our least favorite visitors.

Early in the morning, in the pre-dawn light, you may spot the long, low form of a gray fox winding around your lawn, ears up, nose down, a four-footed mousetrap.