Monday, June 17, 2013

Encounters of the furred kind

I spent almost 26 years living near farm country — towns that were suburbs of a midsize city, or in the case of my college town, the biggest clump of humanity in bufu — so I'm familiar with wildlife near/on roads.

Most of said experience, however, tended to be from a distance: the creature dodging my car, for example; or me dodging its corpse as I ran/biked along country roads.

The past few weeks in Des Moines have changed that dynamic.

I've already mentioned the deer that I flushed out along the Raccoon River Valley Trail; I repeated that experience on the Jordan Creek Trail with a pair of rabbits last Friday.

One was smart and went straight across the path, from weed patch to weed patch; the other would have been smart if I were a hunter and shooting at it, because it did the zigzag pattern one is supposed to use to avoid gunfire.

As it turns out, zigzagging is much less effective when trying to elude someone who is also trying to dodge you. (No, I didn't hit the rabbit. I just swerved enough where a casual observer would've thought I was a daredevil showoff or a drunk.)

So that particular incident was scarier for the four-legged creature than it was for me — however, earlier last week, I had the opportunity to be more freaked out than the other animal was.

I was on Douglas Avenue, not far from Homemakers (i.e., still in a more-urban-than-rural area), when I saw a gray-brown blob on the path. As I approached, I expected it — a possum? a groundhog? — to dart away, like rabbits, squirrels, deer and chipmunks do.

Oh no. Not this creepy little rodent. It held its head high and may have even bared its buckteeth at me. For a brief moment, I wondered whether giving it a wide berth would be protection enough for my rabies-vulnerable flesh.

Thank God the sidewalk/bike path is spacious. I zoomed around it, not chancing a look to see whether it had lunged at me, and let out a shudder of revulsion and relief once I'd passed it without being bitten.

Between this and last summer's possum sighting, I've had enough visits with wild rodents to last me a while.

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