July 5, 2017
Well, the snake from a few weeks ago came back – only closer. As in, in a wagon in my garage which is attached to my house! I was watching television while my husband was getting his fishing gear ready in the garage. I heard a loud bellow and some choice words coming from his direction. I honestly thought he had severely injured himself so I jumped up and ran out there. That’s when he told me he had reached into a wagon where we store sports equipment, and found our slithery visitor, who was now curled up and looking at us. (Technically, I think his first words were some disparaging adjectives followed by “snake” while pointing.)
Anyway, we stood there like a couple of bumbling sitcom characters grabbing buckets, bags, gardening tools and whatnot, trying to figure out how to get him out of the garage. In all the commotion, we completely lucked out when he slithered into a bucket, allowing us to get him outside, far away from my door. Of course, now when I get into my car I’m certain his whole family is lurking in my back seat.
Snakes have been just one of the many wildlife encounters I’ve had at my house this summer. I don’t live way out in the country – I’m literally three miles from campus in a large neighborhood. To be fair, my backyard does back up to some wetlands, but I don’t remember nature getting this close before.
Two nights ago, I ran into a gaggle of turkeys on the sidewalk – huge, gobbling turkeys. A few weeks ago, an enormous snapping turtle waddled up the driveway. We always have rabbits and deer – often eating the hosta plants right at my front door. I ran into some hissing geese, a family of ducks, a heron, two frogs and a muskrat on my nightly walk. I’ve seen hawks flying overhead, turkey vultures parked on a pole and bats making their nightly rounds. There is a huge bird’s nest tucked into my front porch eaves. The smell of skunk woke me out of a slumber last night. Then there are the coyotes – wild, screaming, howling coyotes at night every time the train whistle blows. And now a cougar has been spotted nearby? What the heck? I honestly feel like I’m living in wild kingdom these days.
This past weekend I was out with my dog and spotted what I thought was a butterfly, but when it paused right in front of my face, it was a beautiful, tiny hummingbird. I had never seen one up close like that before. I’ll take that over a snake any day of the week.
I bet Jen Owen could tell me all about that bird. She’s an associate professor of fisheries and wildlife and large animal clinical sciences. At the end of this month, she’ll be a major player at the continent’s largest scientific conference dedicated to the study of birds as it will be hosted right here at MSU. Check out her FACULTY VOICE: Birds in the Anthropocene, to learn more about the conference and how they aim to make the conference itself a practice in sustainability and conservation.
I wish that student Kat Magoulick had been at my house the other night. While she is a history major like my husband was, she is also a senior majoring in zoology. So, while the lawyer and communications manager stood there looking silly, I’m guessing she would have easily handled the snake without fanfare. Read her STUDENT VIEW: Crossing oceans and disciplines, to learn more about this College of Natural Science Dean's Research Scholar and how she blends what appear to be very different fields of study.
For as ridiculous as I act around a simple garter snake, I’m still not sure how I ever managed to traipse through all sorts of wild places in Africa four years ago. I mean, the snakes there can kill you. For real. Not to mention lions and tigers and other predators. I don’t know if I zoned out, blocked out that sort of thinking or what, but I honestly don’t know what I would have done if I had come face to face with a cobra or viper in the wild. I do however, remember the pandas in China. Oh, I know they could kill me too, but somehow, I still wanted to cuddle them. All my life I’ve loved pandas so once I had a chance to touch one, I had to.
Recent MSU work says that loving pandas isn’t just a feel-good activity, it actually helps with protecting habitat and fighting climate change. Check out the story, Panda love spreads to benefit the planet, to learn more.
While my recent experiences up close with nature have been a little disconcerting, I certainly recognize the need to share the planet. Spartans have always been important caretakers of the environment. From our agricultural roots to our current-day dedication to making the world cleaner and more sustainable, Spartans always “Go Green.” Birds, bees, pandas and yes, even snakes, can be certain that work is being done every day to keep our planet healthy. Spartans Will.
Photo by Derrick L. Turner