PRIME TIME: Critters north country folk need not worry about – Bemidji Pioneer

Seniors are advised ad nauseum on the need to exercise daily, with walking listed as the No. 1 exercise to follow. Not only is it good for you, it will extend your life, or so say the ads for joining athletic clubs. (With this logic carried out further, it should then be that mail carriers should live to be 150.)

There sure are a lot of Snowbird Seniors in Tucson who walk daily. There were also many of us who knew we should walk daily but didn’t, and then got filled with Lutheran guilt and thus chose to hoof it out the next morning. Such was the case for me when I started the all-sidewalk half-hour trip walking all the way around the hospital grounds. (St. Marys was just across the street from our condo; it sits on 11 acres). It was a cool morning during this non-winter and the sun was just coming up to warm the day and warm-up the Snowbirds — and the critters, too. Grass and some brush lay next to the sidewalk along with some open areas. It was in the latter spot when I saw it, saw it basking itself in the warm sun, saw it all coiled up so neatly, saw this diamondback rattlesnake, saw it raise its head and look at my bare legs less than a foot away. The surprise was such that I stopped short to look at the rattler more closely, a stop was probably not a wise decision. But then quickly the better decision to get out-ta-dere fast! The immediate situation certainly increased the walking speed that followed. Even a quick look back to determine if there was some slithering critter choosing to come after me. No such problem.

It was over, but not forgotten.

Once I was back from the walk, I required the need for Google, and learned there that there are 13 varieties of rattlesnakes and that their bites are responsible for the majority of snakebite fatalities in the U.S. They commonly grow to be 4 feet in length; they hibernate in the winter in caves; they love to bask in spring’s warm sun; they eat primarily mice and rats but can also eat prairie dogs; their life expectancy is 20 years; when threatened they coil up and begin a rattle- sound before they will strike. The moral of the above: when confronting a rattlesnake, don’t stick around waiting to hear the rattling.

While the name rattlesnake is common all over the country, the name javelina is far less common, probably because there are none –thank goodness — in Minnesota. But there sure are lots of them running around in Arizona, including herds (up to 20 in a bunch) living on the outskirts of major cities but coming into the cities after dark. And what are javelinas? They are most commonly referred to as “wild pigs” even if that is technically incorrect. They sure look like wild pigs and also act like them — and eat like them, eating primarily plants, including flowers. It is that last point that puts them in the category of being a “Major Nuisance.” They weigh between 40 and 60 pounds and stand 20 inches tall. Their primary color is black but that color is interspersed with grays and browns.

Javelinas are most active at night. This is when they come into the suburbs and city residences, looking for something to eat, like flowers, and folks with flowers in pots sitting outside the doors are advised to bring the pots inside for the night. And while the hungry critters will usually run away when folks try to scare them away, at times they won’t run. They’re tough. If they feel threatened, they will stay and fight — with very sharp teeth that can lead to serious bites. (A scene remembered is that of our son-in-law visiting us from Seattle and one night encountering a herd of javelinas that were not willing to scatter or run, and whose nasty behaviors pragmatically caused him to turn around fast and run as fast as he could down the sidewalk — with a half dozen javelinas chasing him — seeking the safety of home. He made it.)

And oh yes, not to forget the yuckiest intruders/critters of all emerging at night from kitchen and bathroom drains — cockroaches — whose running-speeds should make them Olympic champions, their speed attested to by those unhappy, disgusted, frightened homeowners trying to swat them dead as they emerge from the damp deepness of drains and tear across the kitchen floor. Yuk! Get’em! Kill’em! Can’t hit’em! They’re too fast. Call the exterminator! And yet a very few folks find a touch of levity on this putrid subject, among them our next-door neighbor in our condo housing units who painted some words on a rock for strollers along the sidewalk to see; it reads: “Please do not throw your cigarette butts on the ground. My cockroaches are dying of cancer.”

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PRIME TIME: Critters north country folk need not worry about – Bemidji Pioneer

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