Saturday, June 8, 2024

Just Trying To Make A Living

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published June 10, 2024] ©2024

On May 17, I saw our first house fly of the season. Definitely a little early given the cool weather.   This single rogue fly seemed to be either lost or else some mutant strain because once flies show up, there tend to be tons of them, and they’re a scourge for weeks. 

In my heart, I know that every creature is just trying to make a living, including house flies.  Regardless, I squashed it.  Still, this had had me pondering: how many phyla down the taxonomic hierarchy do you have to go to have empathy for one’s fellow earthly travelers?  It’s certainly easier to feel an affinity to those in our own phylum (Chordata – vertebrates) even if I actually eat some of them. 

In recent years there seem to be a greater abundance of fauna in our area who are at odds with the humans who co-habit it - coyotes and crows especially.  Local social media has been rife with debate as to whether creatures that impact us negatively have as much right to live as we do. 

Which side of the coyote argument you’re on might largely depend on whether you have a cat.  Or used to have a cat.  The growing coyote population seems to have decimated a lot of beloved family pets.

Seeing coyotes running around residential neighbors in broad daylight mere blocks from the ocean is definitely a new phenomenon.

I don’t have a cat, but I do have a bichon-poodle mix which our vet says a coyote would definitely consider dinner, in spite of all that fur.  I can just hear the coyote pups complaining, “Geesh, mom!  Could you please find something short-haired?  Maybe a chihuahua?  These fluffy things are a total pain to eat!” 

One night, a few months ago, as I took our dog out at 11 p.m. before bed, I looked across the street to see a coyote trotting by.  They have a very distinctive gait.  Now, whenever I have the dog outside at night in the front yard, I’m standing right next to her.

A recent post on local social media suggested that the coyote situation could be ameliorated by having all the neighbors chip in to hire a company that alleges it will humanely trap coyotes, transport them out of the area and let them go in a more welcoming habitat.

Um, Kansas? 

I have to say that I was immediately reminded of a similar conversation some years back when I was dealing with the rats that were in abundance in our back yard. Upscale areas like La Jolla offer lush foliage for high-end rodential habitation, never mind a veritable cornucopia of rats’ preferred cuisine, including and especially oranges (we have a tree), pet food, and snails.

So a gentleman from a local pest control firm responded to my call for rat-control services and installed live-capture traps around my property with promises that he would be back daily to check on them.  It was all very humane, he explained.

“So, what do you do with them after you catch them?” I asked, immediately regretting the question. 

“Oh,” he said, “we drive them out to the country and let them go.”  He actually said this with a straight face.  Unfortunately, he looked like he’d had a supporting role in The Terminator and that the back of his truck was filled with devices I didn’t want to know about. 

So despite the genuinely charming and well-intentioned suggestion, I was dubious about where those coyotes were going to end up.  Other people responding to the original poster were too.  Which, of course, re-ignited the argument as to whether the coyotes had as much right to be here as humans. They’re just trying to make a living like everyone else, one side noted.  Feed their families. Find affordable housing.  Save for college.

OK, maybe not save for college.  

The other population I haven’t been altogether happy to see in recent years are the influx of crows.  We are very much bird lovers in our house with lots of bird feeders and even our own outdoor aviary. 

Unfortunately, with the advent of the crows, our song bird population has been reduced drastically. The blue jays have disappeared entirely. Crows are annoyingly loud, never mind enjoy entertaining themselves by smashing objects on our skylights to break them open. 

But aren’t they just trying to make it like everything else?

Of course, my wish is that crows could decide to go make a living someplace else, along with coyotes, rats, and house flies.  (Maybe spiders too.)  But none of these creatures seem so inclined so for the time being, we’re guarding our beloved dog against coyote attacks, tolerating the crows, and dispensing with the oranges on our tree that attract rats. 

But I continue to flatten all winged and arachnoidal creatures that get near me.  My empathy, alas, just can’t seem to find its way that far down the taxonomic scale.  Sorry, arthropodae.



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