I live in a town that backs up to a gorgeous mountain in the middle of an otherwise-flat part of the San Francisco Bay Area. Bicyclists come from all over to climb Mt. Diablo and then get their joy ride on the way down the winding road. The hiking here is phenomenal, and the wildlife interfaces with the people whose homes border the state park.
Two houses ago, I lived in a faux-gated community where every day there’d be a new missing cat sign posted to the guardhouse. No, they weren’t running away. They were turning into coyote food. When I‘d sit in the hot tub at dusk under the redwood trees, I could hear a pack of coyotes howling just a hill or two over. Tingles would run down my spine when I heard the reason why. They were preparing to kill something they’d brought back to share. An ungodly scream and then ripping and noshing, –it was a coyote potluck. With three little children in the house, it was unsettling.
I’d have dreams that African lions were on the hill above our house, ready to pounce on my children. In reality, there were mountain lions on the hill, along with deer, bobcats and turkey vultures. One Sunday afternoon, I watched a deer try to chase off diving vultures that were going for her fawn. It was a sad dose of reality to watch the fight as they tried to eat her dying offspring.
I would walk early in the morning before my then-husband went to work. As I crossed the open spaces between streets, I often saw solo coyotes heading home from the creek that ran through my subdivision. They didn’t bother me in the dawning light, just trotted along. It would have been different if I’d brought the dogs.
One morning a large slinky animal caught my eye as I crossed the open space. It was taller than a cat and had a bobbed tail, gray striped – a bobcat. Once again, it wasn’t interested in me, just wanted to get home from it is water source before the hustle and bustle of soccer moms clogged the road it needed to cross.
I was nursing the baby one Sunday morning when I saw a bobcat come right up to our open wire fence, about two hundred feet from the window. I put the baby down and ran outside in my violet velour bathrobe (it was the 90’s) to get a better look. I chased that animal down the hill until I was less than twenty feet from it, with the wire fence between us. That cat turned to face me, ready to win a stare-down contest. I looked into its wild eyes and thought, what am I doing? I’m a big purple blob coming after it. It feels threatened. I felt threatened. I ran back inside.
I looked up bobcat food. It wasn’t tastelessly dressed mothers in bright sleep wear. It was rodents, birds, and small house pets. My then-husband told me when he got home from the hardware store that it had to have been a housecat.
No, it was too tall and had way too much attitude.
My carpool friend with three young daughters went running every morning at 5:30, before her husband left to manage the refinery. It was still dark at 5:30 a.m. One day at drop-off, she told me she had been crossing the creek that morning when she came face to face with a mountain lion. Its eyes glowed at her and made her freeze, mid stride. After it sauntered off, she backed up and went home, vowing never to run in the dark again.
There was a mountain lion on the hill opposite my yard one afternoon. My then-husband said from his spot in front of the TV that it had to be a dog. It wasn’t walking like a dog. But it was midday, so maybe.
I had the recurring dream of African lions until we moved out of that house and into a bigger one a mile away. Even though it no longer bordered Mount Diablo State Park, the new neighborhood still had quail, deer, hawks, raccoons and a great horned owl in our oak tree.
I was seated in the yard one day when a Cooper’s Hawk landed on a fence post. Its whooshing wings startled me.
Later, I asked the vet if a hawk could carry off our Dachshund puppy.
“A hawk is mostly feathers,” she said. “It only weighs one and half to two pounds. It couldn’t pick up a dog.”
I wasn’t taking any chances. My son had strict orders to accompany the puppy outside until he was a full-sized wiener dog.
Ah, nature! It’s a wonderful thing until you find a rattlesnake curled up with your garden hose.
Couldda Wouldda Shouldda
My ex wanted us to live in San Francisco with kids and dogs. I insisted we live in semi-rural Suburbia with the wild animals surrounding us.