Living on the Edge

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Published on: May. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 2, 2010

glancing blades, but as the size increases, so does my body count, moths leading, followed by small grasshoppers, box elder bugs and a dozen or so luckless butterflies.

A blue mud-dauber, a black June bug and a wolf spider are my largest kills, the latter probably whacked in midhunt. Since I have only looked at about 2 square feet of the lawn, I can only imagine what the casualty list must be over the 100- by 40-foot space I just mowed.

It is a minuscule carnage and easily replaced. Most insects are not on nature's endangered list, as yet, but still you wonder about such mass killings.

Every year since I came here to live, a crop of small garter snakes has lived and thrived in the shady places made by the overgrown fences that separate yards. A tiny meandering creek runs at the back-a drainage ditch really-so small that it seldom is more than a trickle, but it supplies a food and water source for lots of moist bank life that, in turn, supplies the little rusty-striped garters.

I always stomp my feet when mowing to alert these creatures who need the jarring approach to warn them. Still, I sometimes mow over one that forgot to slither or duck, a messy reminder of what an engine of destruction I control when I set out to alter things in accordance with my human idea of beauty.

This spring there was hardly a garter snake and, even though I knew it couldn't be my fault, it made me wonder again why so many of the wild creatures choose to live so near to man and so continually on the edge man has created. In the case of the snakes, this was the cutting edge, but the few heads I snipped couldn't affect the numbers I was used to seeing.

What did, was that the number of cats and dogs owned by neighbors has doubled since we moved here. The snakes have moved to higher grass, where they can go undetected and have probably added lawnmowers to their genetic codes, a new sound to be sensed by brains that once sensed the heavy feet of dinosaurs.

The ability animals have to live on the edge of man's rectangular world is usually surprising to us. For humans, who specialize in lines of division and recognize them, it is always odd to find a form of wildlife occupying the same space

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