Country view: Wild things
What a hoot, Rattlesnake revelation
What a Hoot
Sherry Kuhn, Licking, Missouri
One June evening we heard a thud at the back patio door, and there on the rail sat a barred owl. He must have flown into the screen door. He looked a little dazed but not hurt. I quickly got my camera so I could take a picture before he flew off. I took a picture and he just sat there. So I took another one. He was still sitting there. I fed him a chicken liver, and that began our year-and-a-half relationship with Hoot.
It got to the point that I could go out on the back deck and call, "Here, Hoot. Come here, Hoot!" and he would come flying in from the woods. My parents live about 100 yards down the lane from us, and one evening we were on their deck visiting and I was telling my dad about Hoot. He said, "I bet you can't call him up here," so I tried. "Here, Hoot," I called. We waited a few seconds and then I called him again. About one minute later, out of the woods came Hoot, swooping in and landing on the rail right next to my dad.
Eventually Hoot just quit coming around. I talked to a man on the Internet who observes owls. He said this relationship with Hoot was very unusual. We had a special bond.
Diane Mapes, Redlands, California
Moving to the country two years ago was a blessing; the tranquility and beauty of the rolling hills was a refreshing change. There were scorpions, coyotes, bobcats, kangaroo rats, and the snakes. Instead of fearing these unfamiliar creatures, I figured I'd embrace them, figuratively, and teach my children about them. I had a sense of pride about my approach and frequently sought out new opportunities to share with anyone who would listen. That changed one day when I had to make a choice between safety and respect for nature.
It was a warm spring evening and I was collecting fresh eggs while my trusty golden retriever was exploring the perimeters of the coop. He had discovered a 31/2-foot Western Pacific rattlesnake. I quickly donned a pair of cowboy boots, grabbed a hoe, returned to the site, and swiftly swung the hoe down on its head.
It was all over in a matter of seconds. As I gathered the snake to remove it, I started feeling instant regret. Perhaps I had done the wrong thing by killing it. I respected all of the other snakes, so why should this one be different?
The following week I was at the feed store and picked up a business card for a nuisance wildlife assessment and removal consultant. Next time I'll hire an expert to do the job.
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