We bought a zoo

Before I start, I’d like to frame this post by telling you that I love wildlife. I’m not at all squeamish about bugs or lizards or even spiders. I love wildlife and the environment, and when I was a kid, my best friend and I started a club called “Who Says You Can’t Save The Earth?” and in 1995 I wrote a letter to President Bill Clinton, urging him to consider making the environment a priority.

President Clinton must have been busy that day, because he forwarded the letter to Al Gore, who wrote me back and thanked me for my passionate letter. Since my heads up, he has been the world’s most renowned crusader on climate change. While Al was busy inventing the internet, I was the whistle-blower on environmental policy.

Now that I think about it, that story might not be relevant, but I’m going to take this opportunity to remind you to recycle.

When we moved, we moved out of the city and into the county — but we didn’t move that far. Like our old house, our new house has neighbors on all sides and we can walk to the grocery store. We didn’t move to the outback. But still, something is different here. The wildlife is different.

When we lived in the city, we dealt with a certain amount of wildlife, but it was mostly stuff like squirrels and chipmunks and the occasional possum. (Actually, now that I think about it, I did have to call animal control three times while I lived there.)

Here, something is different. And not even being the co-founder of WSYCSTE prepared me for suburban wildlife.

It started with woodland animals. Fun, Snow White type animals. Deer wander through our yard all the time, and we found this turtle in our driveway.

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After a big storm, we found a bunch of frogs in our pool.

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We’ve found four chipmunks in the pool, too.

And then one day, this happened.

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Mary Virginia interpreted this as a message from the Lord, and if you ask her about the time ducks came to her pool she will respond, “It was a TRUE miracle.”

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There are more, ahem, sinister animals, too. Like the time Thomas was playing in the backyard and kept screaming. When I finally took him inside I found more than 10 bites from one single black ant.

Last weekend David stepped on a bee.

And there’s this guy.

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The first time I saw him, I grabbed my camera and took a bunch of frantic pictures because I was sure we’d never see him again. Now he comes so often that we named him Boggy.

Once he even let David hold him.

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What kind of bird is this? Falcon? Eagle? Those are my wrong guesses. The bigger question is, why is he here? What’s he doing in my backyard? Will he try to carry off one of my babies? Or maybe he eats snakes?


Did someone say snake?

Yeah. Someone said snake. Someone said RUN FOR YOUR LIVES THAT’S A COPPERHEAD!

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Brigham found this monster and corralled it to our door, where Tom ended its miserable existence, and ever since then it has been starring in my nightmares.

While Tom dealt with the snake, I filmed this instructional video on how to keep your cool in a situation that your husband is obviously handling crisis.

One of my close friends said I sound like I’m in labor in the video. Tom wants everyone to know that while I sort of sound like that in labor, at least seven more levels of crazy come to the surface during childbirth.

Since we saw the snake, I’ve mentioned it to my neighbors and all of them reply, “Oh yeah, we have snakes here.”

Was that not relevant information? 1980s cape, three-bedroom, pool in the backyard, TEEMING WITH SNAKES.

The snake awakened a fear that I sort of knew I had but didn’t know insane it actually was. Now, every time I step outside, I scan for snakes and repeat the mantra, “Snakes are mostly nocturnal. Snakes are scared of me. Snake bites are not fatal…” And then I recite my snake-bite-emergency-plan.

It’s crazy, though, I grew up playing in the woods every day and never saw one snake. I move to the ‘burbs and see a snake in the first month.

Now I live in a neighborhood with an HOA and shouldn’t they do something about this?



  1. Karen July 12, 2016

    Now you know why people in the country always look down when they walk. We’ve got copperheads galore out here. Coyotes, too.

  2. Karen July 12, 2016

    Remember to look for the oval eyes, a sure sign. Just use your phone to zoom in while you keep your cool…

  3. Karen July 12, 2016

    I meant to say, oval pupils.

  4. Sarah July 13, 2016

    It’s a hawk! They live down the street at our house – a whole crew of them! Rabbits, too, if you haven’t seen them. Moles, voles, I’m trying to think what else. Welcome to the hood! We’re still amazed over a year later by all the critters 🙂

  5. Gayle Ann December 1, 2017

    I’m a little late to this post, but… about 1/4 mile away, a new housing development started, and they were blasting. Snakes HATE blasting. However, I DO NOT have a sign in my yard that reads “SNAKES WELCOME,” or even “VACANCY FOR SNAKES.” I stay out of their woods, and as long as they stay off my patio, life is great. When they do not… I’m a kid from the Midwest. Speak softly, carry a hoe (an edger works better), and ask questions later.

    Cats are great, and about the time of the blasting, the neighbor’s favorite feral cat died, so she stopped leaving out food. Had I know, I would have bought stock in Purina to cover my costs. But… the edger works great. Also, a Jack Russell terrier is a wonderful investment, as we aren’t allowed to own a mongoose.

    My father wanted one black snake in the barn, because he said they were cleaner than cats, no lice, fleas, etc. But, he made sure the population was kept at 1, and we knew where it lived, to avoid it. My cousin named her black snake after her mother-in-law, with the approval of her husband. I have too many of my own problems to give that situation more thought.

    My undergrad was microbiology, but, I had a fair share of classes dealing with creatures with blood, a heart, etc. The best thing to get rid of a snake, other than the hoe, is a bigger snake. I did not want bigger snakes in my yard, especially as the last two years have been banner breading conditions. BTW, the thing about my patio and snakes also applies to the road. Slither in front of me, while I’m driving my Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the Jeep wins. Every time. My other concern was that the garter snakes invading the yard, weren’t the 10-12 inch inch ones of my childhood. (We in the Midwest tend to not let problems grow.). These ones were giants. 18+ inches. After disposing of 6 in one day, I had to recruit my husband to help. After a few weeks, clearly the word got out that my yard was not a sanctuary city. Last year we had 4, 2 of which they neighbor took care of with a machete, which is also effective, and the first time I’ve seen it used for that purpose outside a movie theater, and by someone other than Harrison Ford.

    We had copperheads, and, oddly enough, were far north enough for water moccasins. When I got my first puppy, I had a lecture from the vet about what was in our area.

    There is a product called SNAKE AWAY, and it does work. You have to start making a perimeter near your house, as you want to keep they away, not trap them. Every few days, increase the perimeter, until eventually, you are at your yard boundaries. Reapply after rain. Of course, with my no vacancy sign out, they went to the neighbor, but, hey, how many opportunities does one have to use a machete? Home Depot carries the Snake Away in our area in the spring, but, it is also on Amazon. And, if you haven’t done so, seal up the cracks and crevices around your foundation, etc. Make sure the doors, including the screen on a patio, etc., have no open cracks. Removing opportunities for food and shelter help.

    But, here is my other concern… when we were kids, you knew what was in the back yard, even if you didn’t see them. Now… one of the snakes I killed was colorful. I refuse to say pretty, as I do not believe a snake can be pretty. I looked it up. It was a rainbow garter snake, not indigenous to this area. They are found as far north as VA, but because of the coloring, are big in the pet trade. So, either it got out, or was released. A couple of summers ago, it seemed like ever week, a large, non indigenous one was found somewhere.

    One neighbor was a bit critical, telling me about the bugs and other things they eat. However, as the other neighbor and I culled the illegal aliens, the legal immigrants increased (i.e. toads), because those slithery things eat the toads. I like the toads. I like them in my garden, eating the bugs and slugs. And, as I’m the landlord, I will chose to whom I rent, and whom I evict. TOADS WELCOME.

  6. Gayle Ann December 1, 2017

    Oh, in case you haven’t noticed it… pairs. There is never just one.


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