Memorable Encounters With Wildlife In The Garden

By Mary H. Dyer | September 3, 2020
by Mary H. Dyer
September 3, 2020

Ahh, the wonders of wildlife. My home is on the plains of the Oregon desert, and I love the local wildlife. A mama deer with two fawns is back in my neighborhood this year, handsome little yearlings, each proudly sporting a set of spike horns. We hear coyotes singing at night, and if you jog around the edge of town, you might meet up with a cougar. My next-door neighbor nearly stepped on a rattlesnake in her garage last week. These are everyday occurrences around here.

The following two events aren’t as common, and although I’m not sure they qualify as being “cool,” these wildlife close encounters are memorable to me.

Wonders of Wildlife – the Food Chain

The first interesting event occurred many years ago when I had been married to my first husband for only a few weeks. We lived in a tiny town not too far from where I live now. (“Town” is probably a stretch; there were two houses and a country store, all located on the banks of a lovely little creek.)

One summer day, standing on my front porch, I saw a huge bullsnake eating a small rabbit. I know this would be horrifying to many people, but I couldn’t stop watching as the snake loosened its jaws and the hapless little bunny slowly slid down to the middle of the snake, where it would be digested.

Nature seems harsh and unforgiving, and sometimes even cruel. That day, the unlucky rabbit was a low link on the food chain, but the snake enjoyed a nice, plump lunch.  

By the way, bullsnakes are huge, nonvenomous snakes that are sometimes, at first glance, mistaken for rattlers. As evidenced that day, bullsnakes are powerful constrictors that feed on not only bunnies, but mice, rats, moles, lizards, and small, ground-nesting birds. They tend to be docile but can get defensive if they’re threatened. If you see one, there is no reason to be afraid. Please don’t kill it.

Miracle Encounters with Wildlife

The second memorable event occurred when I lived in Portland, Oregon. My husband and I owned a condo surrounded by tall evergreen trees, including a massive Douglas fir (or “Doug” fir, as we call them here in the Northwest). I knew that tall, old tree was home to countless animals, birds, and insects.

One day, I happened to glance out my kitchen window and saw, sitting on the fence railing under the tree, a beautiful western tanager. He was stunning, and his colors were amazing. I realize this may be a common occurrence to many people, but I haven’t seen one before, or since.

I was spellbound at the sight of that bird. Apparently, tanagers are shy, and I guess this one lived high up in that fir tree. I continued to watch for another fleeting moment, and I hoped he would show himself again, but he never did. I don’t know why he decided to make an appearance that day, but I still think of it as a gift from nature, as most all wildlife in the garden and around us should be considered.

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