I live in a suburban development built in 1950. Rows of three-bedroom houses flank sidewalk-lined streets. Lots one-tenth of an acre in size are carpeted in grass, lined with ornamental trees and shrubs and gardens full of non-native flowers. The nearby school draws many children, and car traffic is heavy during the busy times of the day.
In other words, there’s not much habitat here for wildlife.
Yet wild critters exist here, and even thrive. Many of the “backyard” bird species are here. Northern Flickers and House Wrens have nested or tried to nest in my birch tree, there’s another nest with babies in my American holly, and last week while I was reading a Common Yellowthroat warbler walked across my porch as bold as you please.
I’ve seen garter snakes in my rock pile, and twice painted turtles took a slow amble through my garden, headed to I don’t know where.
Squirrels and rabbits abound. Raccoons, opossums and small mammals like field mice are around. We don’t often see them, but might see evidence of their passing. To my disappointment, my neighborhood lacks chipmunks.
It doesn’t lack red foxes, however. One of these beautiful animals paid a visit early one morning. There is a park a few blocks away. Though it is mostly open grass and playground equipment, it seems to be adequate habitat for the fox family that lives there.
I suspect more than a few of the neighbors are not happy with the presence of the foxes. They worry that the foxes might carry disease or eat their pets. They might like to see them removed; after all, this is a humans’ world, and wildlife has no place in it.
Yet many also complain about rabbits raiding their vegetable gardens, and shriek at the sight of a mouse. Those small mammals make up a good portion of the diet of a red fox. Remove the predators, and there will be more rabbits to eat your vegetables and mice to get into your house.
Life is a complex web of interrelationships amongst the animals and plants. All are dependent for survival on each other. Through technology and industry, humans have largely removed ourselves from that web. But we still share our space with creatures large and small, and should respect their right to life on their own terms.
Foxes in the neighborhood remind us that even here we live on the Wild Edge.