It's a wild scene in the backyard

A few groundhogs in the yard have been eclipsed by a wildlife invasion.

A few years ago I was a smug suburbanite whose worst wildlife problem was a groundhog. But the groundhog ate mostly buttercups, so I didn't mind.

But this year my neighborhood has seen an explosion of wildlife, including wild turkeys, possums, raccoons, skunks, deer, hawks, and possibly a coyote.

Curiously, the groundhog population seems smaller. I suspect that either the neighborhood has gotten too crowded or the hawks have gotten too hungry. The shadowy coyote may also have played a role.

The turkeys came first: a flock of eight hens and one enormous tom that strutted around various lawns in a style reminiscent of potential home buyers. Drivers slowed to watch. But after a day of exciting everyone within a four-block area, the turkeys moved on. Maybe they knew that if they stayed any longer they would have to start paying property taxes.

Raccoons have been rolling garbage cans since the advent of regular trash pickup, but this year, one of them developed a fondness for the dahlias on our back porch. The dahlia-loving vandal frequently climbed the flight of stairs to the porch, dug up the tubers, and tossed them around. At first I tried benign deterrence, strewing freshly cut catnip over the soil of the dahlia pots. That worked for three nights. After the fourth night, I found the tubers disinterred again. Now the pots sit on a high table. It's a little less sunny, but out of the raccoon's reach. The plants are growing nicely now and the raccoon has probably figured out how to have fun elsewhere.

Possums and skunks aren't so bad because they frolic at night and don't mess with the plants. The deer, however, have excited everyone. Roving ruminants are a novelty in our neighborhood. About six weeks ago, we began seeing several grazing on our front lawns. Now we have a regular cast of at least four young males and a couple of does, all of whom seem unaffected by efforts to shoo them away. I am sure they think that suburban humans are inexplicably prone to all kinds of dramatic body gyrations and raucous vocalizations. They may also suspect the truth: Most of us are unarmed, and our offspring, if they eat meat at all, consume only boneless chicken.

My neighbors, with landscaping costs and deer tick concerns on their minds, deemed the deer invasion an emergency and called the police, only to be told that there is nothing to be done. They stepped up neighborhood patrols but only to eliminate the mini-traffic jams that ensue when commuters slow down their cars to admire the bucolic scene. The deer have responded by making themselves scarce.

Some people think they have gone the way of the wild turkeys, but I know better. They are lying low, waiting till the cops have business elsewhere. In the meantime, the neighbors are stocking up on homemade deer deterrents. Our roses and hostas now smell like scented soap, human hair, pepper spray, the urine of exotic predators, or all of the above, but we will rest more peacefully – at least until the bears arrive.

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