Talking to the Widlife: Do They Listen?

I talk to the wildlife. I used to talk to our cat but Mystique has been gone for almost a year now and I no longer hear her little “meep” when she talks back to me. That leaves me with the wild critters that live around us and they are not shy. Still, not all is safe among the wildlife.

The Chipmunks on the Porch

For Mystique, that focus involves hunting chipmunks. She is diligent, persistent, patient and remarkably successful at this occupation.

The great chipmunk hunt

Last night I was sitting on my front porch while dinner cooked. One chipmunk chased another onto and across the porch—narrowly missing my feet—then into the azaleas. I yelled at them to be more careful. Then I got up to check on dinner and when I returned, I heard a mighty squealing in the bushes. “Oh, would you two just get along,” I said.

Then a hawk burst out of the azaleas with one of the chipmunks in his talons. He flew right past my husband, who was standing in the yard and headed for a tree to enjoy his dinner. I hope he likes it and comes back for more because the chipmunk population continues to increase and they get bolder by the day. If the hawk likes his furry meal, he may return and help keep their numbers under control.

The Bunnies on the Lawn

This is the year of the rabbit. We have more of them in the neighborhood than ever before and they come out in early morning and early evening to munch on the grass and leap into the air. The Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) has soft brown fur, black button eyes, and the eponymous white fluff of a tail.

rabbits, bunnies, Eastern Cottontail, Sylvilagus floridanusAs a rule, they don’t bother our community and we don’t bother them. A few nights ago, I went out onto the deck to water the Ladybells that currently reside on a tabletop. I am trying to bring them back to health after the woodchuck that lives behind the astilbe stripped them down to bare branches.

Looking up, I spotted a bunny stretched out on the grass in the shade. “Hey, bunny.” I said. “How are you today?’ Bunny looked at me and twitched his nose but didn’t move. I wondered whether he (or she) was hurt and asked, “Are you okay?” Still no reply.

So, I went into the bedroom and looked out the window where I could get a close-up view without disturbing the rabbit. To my surprise, I saw another bunny crouched under the shrubbery near the hosta garden. Both of them stayed there, healthy and unconcerned by humans moving around, until we left to go into Boston.

A Dust Bath in the Perennials

Wild Turkey, dust bath, perennial bed, mulch, wildlife

Wild Turkey dust bath

Last week I was out watering the garden when two wild turkey hens came by for a dust bath in the small perennial patch on the berm between my neighbor’s house and ours.

I had wondered what messed up the garden, spreading mulch all over the place and ruining the edging. I told them to get out and take a bath somewhere else but they ignored me. (I’m beginning to sense a pattern here.) I suppose I could have rushed at them with the hose and scared them away but I’m just a softie.

Among the other wildlife neighbors, I haven’t spoken much to the squirrel who comes to drink at the bird bath every afternoon before leaping up the berm to the stone wall along the golf course. The birds come and go uninterrupted. Stripey the garter snake has kept a low profile and he’s pretty quiet, anyway.

Choice Words for the Woodchuck

Woodchuck, groundhog, burrow, Marmota monax, wildlife

The woodchuck’s burrow

As I haven’t actually seen the woodchuck—only the remains of his meals—we haven’t spoken. When I catch him out of his den, though, I will have a few choice words for him. The exterminator comes once a week and spreads rodent repellent around but that hasn’t done much.  I find fresh stones outside his burrow so I know he’s still digging in. Yesterday I saw that he had once again munched his favorite hosta down to the ground and eaten all the flowers off the impatiens along the border.

I guess the woodchuck hasn’t been repelled enough to decamp and find a more welcoming place to live. Perhaps the birdbath is too convenient. Finding a good burrow site under the daylilies with fresh water a few steps away can’t be easy. I wouldn’t mind if he moved over to the golf course where a stream runs across the first, second and third fairways. That’s cold running water—an even more modern convenience. Of course, the fairways are wide open and a red-tailed hawk does hang out in the trees between one and two. I wonder if a woodchuck would be too heavy a lift.

What Wildlife Comes Next?

I also haven’t chatted with the coyote although I did see him trotting along the berm one night. He was outside and I was in the living room so we did not have enough time for a conversation. And the deer only come by in the winter. I can tell from their tracks in the snow.

The next wildlife visitor will probably be a black bear ambling along sometime in the spring. That’s when the yearlings get kicked out of the den and have to find a new territory. They move into the land currently unoccupied by bears but often lived in by people. I’ll keep my eyes open and think of something to say when I see him.

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About Aline Kaplan

Aline Kaplan is a published author, a blogger, and a tour guide in Boston. She formerly had a career as a high-tech marketing and communications director. Aline writes and edits The Next Phase Blog, a social commentary blog that appears multiple times a week at She has published over 1,000 posts on a variety of subjects, from Boston history to science fiction movies, astronomical events to art museums. Under the name Aline Boucher Kaplan, she has had two science fiction novels (Khyren and World Spirits) published by Baen Books. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. She is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and lives in Hudson, MA.

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