Column

Oliver: 'Killers' threaten diversity of neighborhood's critters

Joan Oliver
Joan Oliver

Despite being “in town,” the Oliver homestead has been a place to see interesting critters.

My mother often would watch the tree squirrels, ground squirrels and all manner of birds visit the backyard and hang out in a shrub near the kitchen table.

We’ve also been visited by rabbits, raccoons, opossum and the occasional fox. There even was a deer once that trotted down Oak Street, though I’m sure it was just lost.

And birds, boy, do we get birds. In addition to the usual contingent of robins, we have blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, sparrows, blackbirds and even a woodpecker or two.

So it’s not with a little trepidation that I’ve watched as our two resident felines, Tabby and Tuxedo, have pretty much taken over the joint. Tabby belongs to the family that lives behind us, and Tuxedo lives kitty-corner behind us.

In the past, we’ve had what seems to be a yearly drama with the resident wildlife. One year it was the battle between the ground squirrels and the robins. Another year, it was the Great Tunnel Collapse involving the ground squirrels, who seemed to be tunneling under our house.

This year, the saga is twofold, both involving cat capers.

First, Tabby and Tuxedo are not the only cats in the neighborhood.

One day a few weeks back, I swear there was a roaming “gang” of three or so cats that came to check out Tabby’s backyard. As they hopped over the fence that separates our yard from Tabby’s, I could feel the tension mounting. A long-haired one appeared to be the ringleader, with a couple of short-hairs following close behind.

Tabby was more than a little taken aback by the intrusion. At first I thought he might stand his ground. After all, this was his turf, but he wisely high-tailed it at the first sign of trouble. This must have worked, since they haven’t returned en masse.

Instead, there’s a little gray cat who seems to have figured out how to take advantage of Tabby’s hunting prowess. I can only surmise that this one is a girl because she seems to be a lot smarter than our friend Tabby. We’ll call her Lady Gray.

At least a couple of times recently, Lady Gray has shown up in the middle of Tabby’s hunts or just as he’s captured his prey. She lies in wait and then, just as he lets his unsuspecting ground squirrel or mouse go, she pounces.

Tabby does all the work, and Lady Gray takes off with the prize. Clever, but not very sporting.

This leads us to the second part of this season’s saga: These cats seem to have driven away our resident rabbits and ground squirrels.

In the past, I’d see a crazy number of ground squirrels near my front stoop. I’ve seen one only once so far this spring, and I haven’t seen it since. I fear it might have fallen victim to you know who. And I haven’t seen a single rabbit in months.

I suppose the presence of our feline “serial killers” might have something to do with it.

If I’m honest, I’m more than happy to have some help controlling the field mice population. And a few fewer holes in my yard and under my stoop isn’t the worst thing to happen.

Still, as a cat owner, I’m torn. I love cats, but I’d hate to lose our resident critter population.

In years past, the robins proved they could hold their own. Here’s hoping they can again.

Of course, the tree squirrels might have the best chance to mount a counter-offensive. And around here, you never know, it just might happen.

• Joan Oliver is a former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at jolivercolumn@gmail.com.

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