Metatalktail Hour: Animal Encounters October 5, 2019 7:47 AM   Subscribe

Good Saturday evening, MetaFilter! This week, mygothlaundry says: "My aunt used to say, 'everyone has a mouse or rat story. Everyone has a snake story. And everyone has a bug story.' I have found this to be true and I would add that everyone has at least one unwelcome wildlife encounter story and often one welcome one." What are your welcome and unwelcome wildlife encounter stories?

As always this is a conversation starter, not limiter, so talk about everything that's up with you! And send me ideas for future metatalktails!
posted by Eyebrows McGee to MetaFilter-Related at 7:47 AM (110 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Rattlesnakes were a consistent unwelcome feature of my childhood, to the point that they're basically part of the tapestry and it takes me a second to separate the various encounters.

The most recent welcome one - fishing on the North Platte when we accidentally flushed a giant barn owl out of the cottonwoods. They just . . . float in the air. Totally mesmerizing.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:03 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


Definitely owls, or specifically one, the only wild owl I’ve ever seen. In college, long enough ago that no one had cell phones, I was having just a really, really nice day in fall of my first year, and I didn’t want it to end, meaning I wanted to stay down on the main campus instead of go back to my dorm a far enough walk away that I knew I wouldn’t come back down afterwards. I tried calling everyone I knew, but no one was in their rooms. I came back out of the library, determined to at least walk along the stagnant former stream that made for the natural part of campus. Randomly I met a guy I sort of knew (who ended up being a roommate the next year) and his girlfriend at the base of the big tree over the pond. We sat on the grass under the tree for a bit, chatting, and then they had to go, so I got up and started walking up the path next to the pond back up to my dorm. About halfway up, I turned my head for some reason, and in the weird sunset light filtering through the fall leaves saw this owl just swoop down from one branch to the next. I stood there watching it for at least another ten minutes, my mind turning it’s gears to one of those first year of college moments of realization, that every single decision I’d made that day had put me in that spot, at that moment, and had I made any other decision, I would have missed it, and that chain of decisions essentially spread back through my whole life. Every once in a while, I look at where I am, and realize that that chain of decisions has kept going, with some key moments where everything was clearly going to change intermixed with little choices, like running for the train or waiting for the next one.

It was a beautiful owl.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:30 AM on October 5 [21 favorites]


Ran into this guy while walking at my local forest preserve/bird sanctuary. Just hanging out at the edge of the trail. It was a surprising and very welcome encounter!
posted by bookmammal at 8:30 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


Welcome: walking on the Appalachian Trail and seeing the three butts of a momma bear and her two cubs high-tailing it away from us. Exactly how you want to see bearses.

Not sure if welcome: the time we were walking from the campground in Jellystone to the Norris geyser basin and there was an elkibou following us around, presumably mugging for a handout. Kinda cute. Kinda threatening.

Unwelcome wildlife: Back with my ex in the mid 90s we rented a parsonage out in the semi-boonies of Chatham County NC, and mousies would attempt ingress during what passed for winter there. Presumably this church was making assumptions about what the pastor's wife would find delightful, because it was a 3 bedroom house with no dishwasher. So there I was getting set to put the clean dishes away out of the dish drainer and I noticed that a mouse had pooped on a plate.

On the top edge of a plate held just about vertically in the dish drainer. A mouse had decided to climb Mt. Platey for whatever reason made sense to its little mousie brain, gotten to the summit, and make the cold, sober decision to poop there.

Of course you realize this meant war.

Pretty sure this was the same Mouse Incursion where I went to use the facilities and there was a dead mouse in the toilet. I choose to belief it was a sacrifice by the others.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 8:43 AM on October 5 [7 favorites]


"everyone has at least one unwelcome wildlife encounter"

This is literally not computing in my brain. I've never been attacked by an animal, so I literally cannot think of a time I saw one and was not happy about it. Spiders, snakes, you name it. They're all friends. I was at a county fair once and accidentally approached one of the few bulls out of a barn full of dairy cows, and he tried to gore me. That was my fault, however, and he was behaving entirely reasonable.
posted by FirstMateKate at 9:03 AM on October 5 [8 favorites]


Once, I got out of bed very early, to get dressed for on-campus-interviewing (a hideous law school rite of passage, even more hideous when I was in law school, in that "on campus interview" meant "alone in a hotel room with a stranger and only one chair" but I digress. It was still dark in the house; I had not had coffee; I set up the iron board, plugged in the iron and walked off to brush my teeth.

A strange burning odor, sickly vaguely meat-like, not at all like the clean stainless steel odor of heating iron soon wafted through the house. It was nothing like the sharp smell of burning cloth either. Still, I rushed back to the ironing board.

Dear friends, a Southern-size palmetto bug cockroach had somehow been smooshed to the face plate of my iron and was slowly sizzling in the morning air. I threw that iron away and got no job offers that day.
posted by crush at 9:07 AM on October 5 [10 favorites]


The night the possum came in the cat flap was the night the cat flap got closed off for good.

The sister and I were in our early teens and home alone; Mom was working nights at the time and we could go for a week or two at a time without seeing her for more than a couple of hours in passing, so it kind of felt like we were on our own for a lot of things. Including possum home invasions.

And this wasn't one of your cute, smiley, cleaned-up Instagram possums. This wasn't Emmet Otter with a prehensile tail. This was a giant pointy nightmare rat with a matted coat and a grin like the Joker.

We slammed the kitchen door shut, locking it in the back of the house. We knew we couldn't reach Mom at work, so we did the next best thing: called Grandma long-distance.

"Oh, yeah, that's a possum all right. You want to just whack 'im with a broom and he'll roll up into a ball and you can just shove 'im out the door. Or you can pick 'im up by the tail and throw 'im in the trunk of the car, drive 'im out to the nearest cornfield. Careful of 'is mouth, though; that thing opens up like a... goddamn hinge. Your grandfather's old Army buddy used to come get 'em out of our cellar and take 'em home for the stew pot. I love you, baby."

Man, I miss Grandma.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:19 AM on October 5 [49 favorites]


Once when I was living with no one but an excellent cat, in an attic apartment near some woods, I woke up in the middle of the night with that sudden silent certainty that the cat was very awake and stalking something. A few moments later she dove at me from a high shelf, pinning a flapping bat against my chest. Despite the clawing and yelping and growling and biting and the good bit of blood—mine? The bat’s? The cat’s?—I was still so sleep-addled and surprised that I did the only thing I could think: dove back under the covers (minus the critters) and yelled encouragement to the cat. After hiding for about 10 minutes of spooky screeching and thumping sound effects, I woke up enough and gathered enough nerve to go help—I brought the mauled bat outside & dropped it in the woods, cleaned up the gory scene indoors, and went back to sleep feeling wonderfully protected by my tiger companion.

When I got to work the next morning (at a public health outfit), I told this story to a colleague who asked, urgently, “you kept the bat, right? To check it for rabies?” I hadn’t—I didn’t know that was something you could or should do—so I biked back home immediately to see if the bat was still there. Of course some other beastie had snapped it up, so my colleagues sent me to the hospital. Where, because I couldn’t rule out having been bitten or exposed to bat blood and because I couldn’t prove the bat *didn’t* have rabies, state law & hospital policy required that I get a full course of postexposure prophylactic shots (which suuuuucked) and that the cat be quarantined for two weeks (which was a relief, as several of the pathways in the flowchart they walked me through ended with putting the cat down).

I hadn’t yet learned the local trick of keeping a butterfly net under the bed for such moments but I got one the next afternoon. Also, PSA: KEEP THE BAT.

All my mouse and rat stories, sad to say, are are more visceral than that. A brighter & briefer wildlife encounter story is that once on a single hike (Gaspé Peninsula) I saw a woodpecker, a moose, and a whale.
posted by miles per flower at 9:26 AM on October 5 [15 favorites]


Unwelcome: I remember observing bees and flies and bugs swarming a goldenrod bush in our garden when suddenly a wasp appeared out of nowhere and cut one of the fatter bugs right in front of my nose in half, then got hold of the juicier part of the parcel and took off at speed. Made me nauseous of shock.

Welcome (in an egoistic way): I was out picking wild mushrooms, and on my way through the woods I encountered another person who just approached a group of three succulent porcinis. Suddenly a yell, and the person backed off hastily: a rather large and grumpy adder was neatly coiled around the mushrooms. We exchanged a few "jeez, who would expect this type of thing" bits-to-say and each went our ways. Half an hour later I returned, and the adder had gone while the porcinis still were there...
posted by Namlit at 9:45 AM on October 5 [5 favorites]


Oh god. BEE IN MY HAIR.

To preface, I'm allergic to bees. So, I'm in my college studio apartment peeing. Alone. Happily doing my thing and I hear a buzz right next to my ear. And I jump up mid stream pants at my ankles and look wildly around and don't see it. So I run out and still don't see it (pants still at my ankles )and then finally see the mirror and realize there is in fact a bee on my head. The buzz follows me. It's still right there and I can't see it and I'm screaming. At this point all rationality is lost and I end up in the living room on the floor legs flailing and screaming as if I am a extra in a horror movie and do this for a bit. My neighbors would not care if I was slowly murdered, this is now confirmed. So anyway, there is still buzzing RIGHT there, and I realized I'm going to need help. So I manage to get my pants on and spring to my nearest neighbors door shaking and sobbing and begging and nobody answers. So after I've determined no one is going to help and I'm not dead yet, I devise a plan. I get back inside, find my hairbrush, and go back onto my third floor balcony. I tap my hair and the bee is released. I hurl my hairbrush through the sky down three stories, run inside, dead lock the door and just collaspe in a haze for a good long while.

I later had to retrieve my brush, after I assume the equality traumatized bee had recovered and found his hive.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:54 AM on October 5 [14 favorites]


When I was a teenager I would cycle across my small town very early in the morning to get to swim practice. The most direct route included a section on a paved path that bordered a wildlife sanctuary encompassing a set of oxbow lakes.

This setting included (by definition) included crossing a river, (by circumstance) tracing the boarder of the sanctuary the other side of which was open countryside and (be design) no street lights.

So you could cycle relatively quickly; there was no traffic control and precious little traffic and if it was cloudy the reflection of the lights downtown gave acclimated eyes surprising illumination.

Not enough, though, to distinguish what I thought was a plastic grocery bag from its true nature. I saw this supposed trash and though that I could probably maneuver just to catch it with my toe. Having veered into its path on a intersect vector I got much too close before realizing that the object in question was in fact a porcupine.

A large, rotund, bristling, waddling in that funny way that totally tricked my brain into recognizing it as a plastic bag tumbling in the breeze pincushion of agony.

Veering again, somewhat less successfully, I hit a tree. Flattening my front wheel, bending the fork, fracturing my collar bone, a rib and 2 fingers.

Not that spring but the next, and about 100m further down and around a bend in a stand if trees, I nearly ran my bike into a moose. If your only encounter with moose is a Douglas Adams-y kind of media reference “a funny sort of large Canadian deer” then you’ve not experienced them at all. Think a Clydesdale. But taller, stronger, as fast as a thoroughbred and endowed with antlers. Also prone to goring things to death in rutting season aka the early spring. See above for calendar details.

Having dressed for cycling I was not dressed for sitting still (but rather sweaty) in a tree for what was probably 15minutes and felt like long enough for said moose to have offspring that begat further offspring that begat further offspring that surely would have had time enough by then to have taken the earth from the feeble apes that foolishly thought it theirs.

These events are both 2.5 decades in the past but remain tent pole fixtures supporting my cautious respect of the dark.
posted by mce at 9:56 AM on October 5 [16 favorites]


My horrific wild-ish animal story boils down to being 13 and coming home from summer camp to find my basement room filled with cages of wild game birds. I had to sleep on the couch for a year until my older sister went of to university and I could move into her old room. I don't care at all for caged birds... such trauma.

Otherwise, I grew up feeding squirrels and cardinals sitting on my knee and eating walnuts out of my hand and over the years have occasionally made friends with the odd wild squirrel or bird. Haven't been out in wilderness enough in a long time to have many other wild-ish encounters with animals. Did catch a couple of racoons playing in the swimming pool outside my door at 3am once (who the hell is swimming at this hour?) but didn't try to make friends.

+++

Yesterday I went to the Korean family run corner market and mom/granny/amma had brought in a big bag of jujubes so I waked home with a good handful of this little mystery fruit...

And spent the whole walk thinking "is it jew-jew-bee" or "hew-hew-bee". Curse you Metafilter. It's
Jujube \Ju"jube\ (j[=u]"j[-u]b), n. [F., fr. L. zizyphum, Gr.
zi`zyfon, Per. z[imac]zf[=u]n, zizaf[=u]n, zayzaf[=u]n.]
1. The sweet and edible drupes (fruits) of several
Mediterranean and African species of small trees, of the
genus {Zizyphus}, especially the {Zizyphus jujuba},
{Zizyphus vulgaris}, {Zizyphus mucronata}, and {Zizyphus
Lotus}. The last named is thought to have furnished the
lotus of the ancient Libyan Lotophagi, or lotus eaters.
[1913 Webster]
posted by zengargoyle at 10:58 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


Oh, also... ATM I'm trying to see if Flightradar24: Live Flight Tracker - Real-Time Flight Tracker Map is going to handle The Great Pacific Airshow that's going on today at Huntington Beach, CA, USA. I hope to see some weird flight patterns.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:03 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


The only animal I've ever hit with my car was a bear.

My then-girlfriend and I were in the Angeles National Forest, on a straight stretch of road with a pretty steep drop-off to my left (offering spectacular views of the valley below), and some 20-foot dirt banks to the right. Speed limit was 55. We were on our way to go camping for the night.

I was driving along, when I noticed some motion up ahead. There was a black bear! It was climbing up over the guardrail from the valley below. I was very excited to see a bear close-up, until it started running across the road, ahead of my car.

I slammed on the brakes so hard that the emergency break popped up. I made a split-second decision to veer off to the right, figuring that if I went to the left, into the other lane, I'd be dead if someone came from the other direction.

As it happens, the trajectory of the car perfectly intersected with the trajectory of the running bear. At two different speeds, we were rapidly approaching the same point. I saw it happening in slow motion. I couldn't stop the car any faster. The bear kept on running. I was screaming. My girlfriend was screaming. The bear appeared to be screaming.

And I came to a stop just in time to very, very gently tap the bear.

It never broke stride, and it quickly scrambled up the dirt embankment at the side of the road and out of sight. My girlfriend and I sat there for a second at the side of the road going "WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED?" I was still very worried that I'd hurt the bear somehow, so I wanted to get out and check the bumper to see if there was any blood or fur, or any damage to the car.

Then I thought, wait a sec, I have it on good authority that there is a bear very close by.

So I drove on down the road another mile or two, until we got to a big pulloff area. No damage to the car whatsoever. No fur, nothing on the bumper. We made our way to the campsite, still somewhat wide-eyed. The next morning, we stopped at the ranger station and told a park ranger, who said "we'll keep a lookout, but it sounds like the bear was fine."

I never saw another bear in the Angeles National Forest.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:04 AM on October 5 [25 favorites]


A raccoon fell out of a tree, landing on a patch of sidewalk where I had been walking maybe one or two steps earlier. It had what looked like a seizure on the ground for a few moments, which I assume had caused the fall. Eventually it settled down, got on its feet, looked around groggily, and walked across the street towards a dumpster.

I suppose it would have been a better story, and a worse experience, if it actually landed on me.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 11:06 AM on October 5 [6 favorites]


Welcome: all the beasts that live around here. Deer leaping through the trees. Lizards flicking between rocks. An actual cuckoo calling cuckoo cuckoo in the early morning. Owls and bats and hedgehogs and orb spiders at night. Some of the best encounters have been going out at night with the kid into the woods, super dark, take no light, can't see anything, just tiptoeing along where you know the trail is. In the darkness, she is ready to jump out of her skin, so I just have to go where I know the boars hang at night. Sometimes you hear the cracking of branches. Sometimes you smell the tang. When you hear the grunting and snorting just there in the dark, you are electrified. Oh, and one time a family of boars came down to our street and people were scared they would tear up the gardens or whatever, so I went out and herded them up the middle of the street and back into the woods, with neighbor kids following behind me like I was the Pied Piper taking the boars and the kids all in one trip.

Unwelcome: infections. My body playing tower defense and me having to go to the doctor for cheat codes. I've never had a welcome infection.
posted by pracowity at 11:15 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]


Oh yeah, and there was also the time when I was in high school when my sister run upstairs from the basement going "THERE'S A HUGE RAT!" Always curious about little creatures, my mom and I went downstairs to check it out, and it turned out to be a baby opossum.

It was too small and nimble for any of the humane traps we rented. It would just take the food without springing the trap. My mom called animal control, but they were going to kill it, so we did the only rational thing we could do: we fed the baby possum until it was big enough to be trapped by my aunt's Havahart trap.

This took a month. We never knew whether it was a male or female possum, so we named it Reuben/Ruby. We gave it cat food and the occasional cherry. We had to keep the basement door shut so that none of our three cats would get it (we would often find one sitting outside the door with a very uneasy expression). When you opened the door to bring more food or to do laundry, Reuben/Ruby would be sitting on the far side of the room, before kind of suddenly noticing you and ambling back into a hiding space.

Eventually, one night, we heard the trap spring, and my mom and I finally drove Reuben/Ruby out to the C&O Canal. We released the magnificent beast in pitch-black woods, and we heard it scuttling away into the underbrush as we said our goodbyes.

The car smelled for weeks after.

Godspeed, Reueben/Ruby.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:20 AM on October 5 [24 favorites]


When I was in college two of my friends and I backpacked to Arizona Hot Springs for an overnight trip one October. We didn't bring a tent with us since it was still warm enough to sleep under the stars. After soaking in the springs and eating dinner, we started to fall asleep in our respective sleeping bags... until about half an hour later, when I woke up hearing rustling noises. Something was walking around our sleeping bags. It was pitch black out, and I had no idea what it was- I just hoped it wasn't a mountain lion or a coyote.

One of my friends pulled his headlamp out of his pack and shined it onto the creature circling us. To my relief, it was a group of four ring-tailed cats! Every kid growing up in Arizona sees these on some inevitable field trip to the Phoenix Zoo, and if they're like me, promptly forgets that they exist because they're nocturnal and live out in the desert and you hardly ever see them. Seeing them in the wild was so cool! They were adorable and were unfazed by a bright light shining in their eyes. After they were done checking us out they ran off, probably to another campsite.

Whenever I tell this story to someone up here in Seattle they have no idea what ring-tailed cats are and I have to show them a picture. I miss living somewhere with unique wildlife (yes, I know we have orcas, but those don't wander up to you while you're sleeping...)
posted by mollywas at 11:28 AM on October 5 [11 favorites]


Do not let frenemies borrow your scorpion.
posted by clavdivs at 11:47 AM on October 5 [3 favorites]


Like FirstMateKate, just about every time I see an animal, it's welcome by me. The most mixed wildlife encounter I've had, though, was the time a huge moose walked maybe 50 yards in front of my car on the interstate. We slowed down very gradually, so as not to spook it; it kept its speed and our paths did not intersect; it was majestic and gargantuan and we were slowly terrified.
posted by eirias at 12:14 PM on October 5 [1 favorite]


My parents house/childhood home backs into woods and was named cobwebs by the previous owners, there were and are so many spiders, I am not a fan and was reminded on my recent visit that autumn is the season for them! A welcome visitor was an adorable French bulldog by my apartment this morning who was amenable to scritches and circled around me!
posted by ellieBOA at 12:17 PM on October 5 [1 favorite]


Late September in the early oughts, I was living in Queens. It was the night before my birthday and the cold air of autumn was starting in. That week there had been traces of a mouse in one of the closets of my tiny prewar one bedroom, and I stupidly (stupidly, ignorantly, idiotically) purchased and put down a glue trap to catch it.

And as soon as I'd fallen asleep, I heard the scrabblewompbumpscribblescrabble of the glue trap's success. And I opened the door to find not a wizened NYC house mouse but a tiny little field mouse standing as still as a stone and looking up at me, three tiny feet stuck in the glue. I had neglected to imagine what to do if I'd actually caught a mouse, and the reality of it set in.

So I googled how to release him, and I loosened the glue with a very good olive oil, and then he was oily and shivering, so I coaxed him into a warm bubble bath in a bucket to get the oil off so he wouldn't freeze to death due to unfluffiness, and after a gentle dry, he's this cute, bright-eyed bobble of a thing, and I think he might be slightly injured because he hops on three legs. He spent the night in a dry bathtub with a few warm old argyle socks for a bed. And then the next morning, my birthday morning, I coaxed him into a thick paper shopping bag, the kind with ribbons for handles, and headed for the subway.

We took the R train into Manhattan. Every time the train jostled, he'd jump around a little, but there were air holes in the bag for him and I kept him sealed up tight because if he'd gotten loose, just imagine the panic in a morning rush hour subway car.

At Central Park, I figured he could figure out the wilderness or else try his luck at The Plaza. So I let him out at The Pond next to the water on a little grassy bit of lawn. And the little field mouse stopped and regarded me for a few seconds, and then hopped away on three legs.

And that was that. Or so I thought. Because the next summer, I was out at The Pond on a cool June morning playing tour guide to some visiting family. And I'm standing next to the path, trying to get a photo, when A LITTLE BOBBLE OF A FIELD MOUSE HOPS RIGHT UP TO ME ON THREE LEGS. And stands there. Like he's trying to get my attention. And it's too much of a coincidence, I thought. So I give him part of a bagel and try to catch up with my guests, and I look back, and he's STILL STANDING IN THE GRASS LOOKING AT ME.

I dunno, guys. It was eight months later but the very same spot where I'd let him out. And I'd never encountered any other mice in my many hours at the park. Surely weirder things have happened.

--

In other news, this week I finished repainting one of my rooms a cozier color for winter (Fenland from Sherwin Williams -- the color feels super warm and woodsy, like sitting under a big shade tree!) and I feel very proud and accomplished. I'm sewing new pillow cushion covers next!
posted by mochapickle at 12:21 PM on October 5 [46 favorites]


We never knew whether it was a male or female possum, so we named it Reuben/Ruby.

When I lived in the woods, there was a pair of big, fat raccoons who would sit in the kitchen window with their noses pressed against the glass, eyes wide, watching the activity inside like it was cable TV. I dubbed them Ray and Bea.

One spring day, they showed up with four or five eerily identical kits. The Raylettes.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:35 PM on October 5 [6 favorites]


Very few unwelcome encounters with wildlife. I spent the summer finding frogs in my tiny house even on my bed, giant house spiders looking for a mate.

I guess the deer (aka stilt rats) bother me but it's mainly because there's too many of them and they're not very bright around here - and both of these seem to be due to the lack of apex predators. One night a few years ago I had a small herd parked right next to my camp making their weird bleating-beeping noises and freaking me out because I was surrounded by glowing eyes lit up from my headlamp in the dark and I had a "fuck it!" moment and started chasing them around in the dark.

They hadn't been chased by anything in so long they were mainly confused by this but at least they moved farther away so I could get to sleep.

I will confess that sometimes I will vaguely threaten said deer by saying things like "Move, lunch!" when they're blocking a road.

My favorite local wildlife is probably the owls. There's a really big screech owl in the trees around here and every so often I see it during the day and it's just surreal and majestic how silent they are. I've also seen pygmy owls flying around at night but it's easy to mistake them from a bat. The trick is to try to track their nearly invisible silhouette - if it flits around and changes direction a lot it's a bat, but if it swoops and moves like an oversized sparrow it's likely a pygmy owl.

I'm also a fan of the crows and ravens. The ravens around here can get huge, as big as bald eagles. The first time I saw a really big raven I thought I was seeing things it was so big, and it was wheeling so far overhead I thought it was just a crow until a few crows started harassing it, and they looked tiny compared to the raven. And the crows around here are not small, either, they're as big as big seagulls usually.

I had an encounter with a chipmunk earlier this summer. Apparently the cat had chased it up a bamboo pole I was using to support a rain shelter tarp where I like to sit in the morning with my coffee. I didn't even notice the chipmunk clinging to the bamboo pole bout a foot over my head for maybe over 30 minutes, and when I looked up and saw that poor, terrified little chipmunk staring down at me it startled the crap out of me. I managed to get the chipmunk to safety away from the cat by just picking up the bamboo pole and tilting it over towards the nearest brush and trees.
posted by loquacious at 12:39 PM on October 5 [5 favorites]


My favorite local wildlife is probably the owls.

Of all the Birdes that ever I see,
The Owle is the fayrest in her degree

posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:46 PM on October 5 [4 favorites]


I have told my bear story on Metafilter before so I will just link to it here.

And because yesterday was my wedding anniversary I told my moose story over on Instagram, which I'm sure I have also told on Metafilter about eighteen billion times.

Lately I have had a lot of encounters with wild turkeys as they seem to make my yard a regular stop every day.

I got to pet sheep at a Metafilter meetup last week. That was probably a first for a meetup.
posted by bondcliff at 12:55 PM on October 5 [5 favorites]


So, my stepdad, who is by all other accounts a manly sports dude, is terrified of bats. Like, shrieks and runs away from them. I like them. I think they're cute.

Once, when I was about 16 years old, I had gone to bed for the night because it was a school night. It was probably around 10:30 or so when I hear my mom whispering "Weeping_angel... are you awake?... There's a bat." I sit up and see my mom and my stepdad, both huddled around my door, with catchers masks on, wielding tennis rackets and towels. So, I get up to go deal with the bat. It was just chilling on the top of a set of curtains, so I kind of swooshed the curtains around, making the bat fly around. My stepdad RAN outside through the back door and my mom (who isn't terrified by them, but doesn't really care for them) ducked. Once he was flying, I was able to herd him out the front door.... just as my stepdad (who had run around the house to get away from it) attempted to come back in through that door. He got a bat in the face for a second, but the bat got out and my stepdad eventually stopped screaming.
posted by Weeping_angel at 12:59 PM on October 5 [12 favorites]


I love this topic so much. It's the ultimate fascination. Wildlife encounters are, for me, either rapturous moments of wonder OR blind terror in the night.

Rapturous moments of wonder: Going to the NC coast in October a few years ago for a solo figuring-stuff-out retreat, walking along the shore, and a row of 4 dolphins are jumping through the surf alongside me as I walk. We walked like this for about 10 minutes. I still think of it sometimes when I'm stressed out and need to hold a simple, good moment in my mind.

Blind terror in the night: Earlier this year, we moved to a suburban area that's more rural than not, and we hear sounds like these a few times every night. It's like a caravan of beasts from hell. We have two tiny chihuahua mixes and I am terrified to let them out in our yard at night. I honestly don't know what to do about it--someone on Nextdoor who lives about a half mile down the road posted about a coyote attacking and eating her chihuahua, so I know they're a threat. It's a weird feeling to be so fearful of the outdoors at my own home.
posted by witchen at 1:01 PM on October 5 [3 favorites]


And how can I forget the story of the biggest bug I ever saw? This is an old blog post I made about 20 years ago, cut and pasted here. Forgive any terrible grammar, the phrase "cry like a little schoolgirl" which I now know better than to use, and really just the bad writing in general.

"The Biggest Bug I Ever Saw

I hate bugs. I mean I really, really, really hate bugs. I call it a phobia. A totally irrational fear of anything creepy that might live under a rock or in a dark crack in the basement wall. I will gladly let a boa constrictor crawl all over my body, or let an iguana perch onto my head. Should I, however, overturn a rock and see a worm crawling around, god help me. I’ll get shivers up and down my spine and have to instantly turn away. Flies, bees, hornets, they don’t bother me. But anything that scurries along on the wet ground will cause me to cry like a little schoolgirl.

So when The Biggest Bug I Ever Saw showed up in my tent, I had to do something about it.

In the summer of ’96, I found myself with a week off from work and nothing to do. My vacation plans had been canceled, so I decided to spend some time backpacking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. When a half-hearted attempt to find a hiking companion turned up nothing, I decided to go it alone. I had been backpacking all over these mountains for years now, so I figured the time was right to do a big solo expedition. I packed five days worth of food, fuel, and gear into my backpack and set out on the trail.

It was my fourth night camping alone, and the final night of my trip. After four days of hard hiking, I was ready for the easy, three-mile hike out the next morning. I was lying in my tent, reading a copy of Wired Magazine. I adjusted the lens of my headlamp as my eyes shifted to the top of the next page. Just then, something caught my eye. On the wall of the tent, silhouetted in the dim light of my headlamp was The Biggest Bug I Ever Saw. Roughly cockroach shaped, he had to be three inches across. His shadow scurried up the nylon wall as I bolted upright in my sleeping bag. I quickly rolled up the magazine into a war club and looked around for this monster beetle.

There was no possible way I could continue reading while this enormous bug crawled around my tent. I had to do something about it. Because his shadow was cast in front of me, I assumed he was behind me on the screen wall of the tent door. I turned around, magazine ready to strike, but still all I saw was his shadow. At this point I began to panic. Somewhere in my tent was The Biggest Bug I Ever Saw and I couldn’t find him. I looked over to the side of the tent only to see his dark shadow crawling along the wall. My legs curled up inside the sleeping bag as I studied my enemy carefully. Each of his six legs were at least an inch long. His head, which was at least the size of a penny, nodded back and forth. It was almost as if he was telling me if I was getting warmer or colder in my search for him.

No matter where I looked, all I could see was the dark outline of his shadow. I thought perhaps he was on the outside wall of the tent. The moonlight shining on the ripstop nylon could have cast his shadowy image through the wall. Perhaps I was safe. Perhaps the thin nylon was between this giant, surely radioactive, creature and me. It was too big a risk to take. Until I was sure The Biggest Bug I Ever Saw would not invade my sleeping bag in the middle of the night, I could not rest. He darted across the tent, and I jumped out of my bag. I had to find him and I had to kill him. This was war and I would be the victor.

To get more directional control of my light, I removed my headlamp from my head and held it in my hand. Shining it down towards my bag, I nearly had a heart attack as Bugzilla’s dark shadow was cast on my lap. I moved my light to the left, and there he was. Pointing the lamp to the right cast his giant, three inch, figure to the right. Everywhere my light shone, there he was!

Everywhere my light shone, there he was. Everywhere my light shone, there he was. The words echoed through my brain like a clap of thunder rumbling through the mountains. No matter where I pointed my light, there was The Biggest Bug I Ever Saw. As my brain realized the significance of these words, I slowly turned the lens of my headlamp towards my face. Squinting at the bright halogen lamp, I finally saw my nemesis. There, crawling across the lens of my headlamp was the teeny, tiny, little bug that had been casting his shadow all over the walls of my tent.

I squished him with my pinky and went back to my reading."
posted by bondcliff at 1:05 PM on October 5 [9 favorites]


I was lying in my tent, reading a copy of Wired Magazine.

Gee mister there's your problem right there! Everyone knows Wired attracts all kinds of bugs!
posted by loquacious at 1:14 PM on October 5 [4 favorites]


This was in the 1990s when it was actually a pretty decent read!
posted by bondcliff at 1:32 PM on October 5


Just had another metafilter Dialup call -- it's the best.

If you haven't tried it yet, KTamas set up a weekly Saturday timeslot where the app connects you to a random mefite and you talk about metafilter posts or projects or whatever you like. It's incredibly introvert friendly and easy.

Come join for next week! Here's the LINK.
posted by mochapickle at 1:57 PM on October 5 [8 favorites]


My only snake story is that I was sent to Cameroon for a week for an energy conference and for the conference dinner there was a buffet serving snake. Chopped into steaks, zigzag skin still on. It was pretty tasty. Apparently if my plate hadn't been full the next serving dish was porcupine.
posted by biffa at 2:03 PM on October 5 [2 favorites]


Most of the animal encounters I want to think of are good.

Best are the early morning bike ones. Though I live in the very suburban east end of Toronto, there are coyote (wary, fast: your small lost dog flyers aren't gonna end well), skunk (alarmingly cute), possums, mucho bunnage and raccoon (hunchy cats!). Very occasionally, deer — including a very large multi-point stag blasting down the Gatineau hydro corridor. There was a large family of crows that used to call warning when they saw me, and nearly always had one flying about checking where I was over several kilometres. Previously in Scotland I had a very rural bike commute with many deer, mink by the canal and pike in it, kingfishers (glorious flashes of arc-weld-bright blue, arcing just over the water surface) and woodcock (aka VTOL rabbits).

Closer to home, there are jumping spiders. If you ever see a large gentleman hunched over something imperceptible while making faintly audible squee noises, say hello to me and my little spider friend. Jumping spiders are delightful: lots of character while they stop and look at you. Ant mimics always look as if they're worried you'll blow their cover. Audacious jumpers are just that: little black fuzzers (with bright turquoise teeth!) that'll try and take you on for a square fight.

But the animals I will go out of my way to encounter are groundhogs. I dunno what it is about them: they're never particularly keen to see you, they always look mostly annoyed, but they're cat-sized chonk-squirrels and I adore them. I'm acquainted with many of the neighbourhood burrows, and try to make sure there are windfall apples for them to nom upon.
posted by scruss at 2:24 PM on October 5 [10 favorites]


I once got climbed by a squirrel in a park. It was neat! It was nearly weightless and its claws didn’t go through my clothes. The squirrel made it up to my elbow before I flinched and it fled.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:39 PM on October 5 [9 favorites]


We don't have groundhogs as they are not native, but we do have hedgehogs in the garden. A couple of years ago I turned on the porch light and opened the door and right there, about 3' in front of me, two hedgehogs were making the beautiful act of love. She thought having a human voyeur was too much and made a run for it but apparently he had not finished ensuring the survival of the species in these difficult times and maintained the mounted position. I suppose it was a sort of single entrant hedgehog wheelbarrow race. It seems to have worked out though as we have continued to have hoglets show up this summer.
posted by biffa at 2:46 PM on October 5 [17 favorites]


Unwelcome wildlife: An acquaintance biked a very long way in Florida and borrowed my tiny apartment. I warned her about scorpions because they sometimes made appearances in and around my home. She saw one and since it wasn't moving dismissed it as dead.

Thankfully it did not hurt her.

Welcome wildlife: Getting glimpses of the red tailed hawks in NYC. And several chipmunks on a walk today along a portion of the AT upstate.
posted by bilabial at 2:51 PM on October 5 [1 favorite]


When I was about 4, my family went camping in Idaho. It was a warm afternoon, so my parents left my brother and I to nap in our sleeping bags outside the tent, then went off to do their own things a few feet away.

A few minutes later, I’m told, I come running up to my parents, wide awake, asking “dad, can I pet this snake?”

My parents were rightfully freaked out, but my dad has a zoology background and was able to ID the snake and determine that it was not one of the more terrifying and poisonous possibilities. I did end up petting the snake.
posted by ActionPopulated at 3:18 PM on October 5 [2 favorites]


Oh, witchen reminded me of a wonderful encounter.

I was in Hawaii, snorkelling at Captain Cook monument. If you've been there you know the monument is on the shore of Kealakekua Bay, which is a wildlife preserve, and if you're lucky you'll see spinner dolphins out in the bay.

Well, I'd swum out a little ways and all of a sudden there were dolphins. Lots of dolphins. But they were not bobbing gently about. They were zooming through the water like... VERY FAST zoomy things. I had a mask on, so I was looking at them through the water, and then one of them was coming RIGHT at me. FAST. There was no time to swim away. There was time only to pull my legs up to my chest, and for one thought: "fuck, I hope it doesn't spear me with its nose like it appears about to do, but if it does, that's a fucking cool way to die."

It zoomed right under my tucked up legs. It was just playing. It was a magical day.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:29 PM on October 5 [7 favorites]


Metafilter: It's like a caravan of beasts from hell.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:33 PM on October 5 [4 favorites]


Once we had a yellow jacket nest in one of our front porch columns. The crack in the morter where they came and went was just behind an 18 inch tiny, pointy evergreen tree. I was sitting out on the porch with a friend and you could hear this crunching. It was a huge praying mantis on top of the tiny tree, catching and eating wasps right and left. Awesome.

Once while walking in City Creek Canyon, late evening, near the summer solstice, I could hear this strange, whiny conversation up high in some dead cottonwods. It was a pair of great horned owls wjth some prey up in the fork of the tree. Accompanying them were two of their young, about 3/4 grown. The young'uns were grousing and begging for dinner, but their parents made them go and hunt up their own kill. It was classic, as if they shrugged and flew off to do their chores.
posted by Oyéah at 3:56 PM on October 5 [4 favorites]


Fun topic!

My most memorable positive wildlife encounter isn't objectively interesting. I had returned from spending 11 months in a remote place with absolutely no non-human animals. I went straight from an airport to a hotel and slept. Early the next day, I walked to a park in the height of summer and saw a family of ducks doing ordinary duck-like things by a river. It was astonishing! Combined with the smell of plants, I had to just sit down on the grass and watch them for an hour. I don't particularly like ducks, but watching something non-human walk around was amazing. It's the same feeling I get today upon seeing a really cool antique automaton: "this can't possibly be real. How does it do that?" For a few days, I got to experience the world as I imagine a two year old does. I suspect my partner was bored out of her mind, but she humored me.

Negative wildlife encounters are harder to sort. I grew up in a rural area a few miles from the city, in what had been a resort cabin in the '20s. Due to a mix of financial and mental issues, it had seen no maintenance in decades. There were holes leading to the outside ranging from bug-sized to racoon-sized. Most of my unpleasant wildlife encounters were indoors.

Rats ate my prized childhood keepsakes and left shit on the clothes in my drawers constantly. I spent a not-insignificant part of my childhood trying to devise traps to get rid of them. (And, for a little while, playing sniper with a BB gun in the middle of the night. But that became boring quickly.) A scorpion in the bathroom carpet stung me as a four year old. (The jerks at the hospital wouldn't let us keep it after we brought it to them in a jar. I'm still annoyed.) Raccoons would occasionally get into the kitchen and cause a ruckus. We took to scattering cayenne pepper around the places they frequented when the dogs were out, which seemed to work. There were spiders everywhere. (To be fair, my only black widow bite happened inside someone else's house.) We eventually found a bee keeper who took away the colony that made a home in the kitchen wall.

The ones I really hated, though, were the slugs. For a few months a year, you'd find a dozen slugs in the bathroom every morning. Not cute banana slugs; big, faceless, slimy, grey blobs. You'd have to scrape them off the shower ceiling with a broom, or they'd fall on your head while you showered. Stepping into the room in the dark was likely to end in squishy toes. They didn't actually pose any threat, but I disliked them the most.

I can't say I really regret the experience. It was a lot more interesting than most of my friend's childhoods, and I'll take indoor scorpions over unsupportive parents any day. Also, the racoon that raised a litter in the wall behind the bathroom sink was a lot of fun. I didn't get to see them except when they were coming and going outside after they got older, but they made amazing purring noises for weeks. I'm tempted to see if I still have a mini-cassette recording in a box in my closet.
posted by eotvos at 4:12 PM on October 5 [6 favorites]


A vaguely unpleasant odor in the kitchen. Like maybe a bean had gotten stuck in the drain and was fermenting.

The next day, increasingly unpleasant. Moderate effort expended cleaning the drain, making sure there was nothing gross under the sink, etc.

The next day, something was definitely wrong. Something was dead. In the wall? It seemed like the smell was coming from the outlet to the left of the microwave. In order to test this theory, I got some tape and went to tape over the openings in the outlet. If the smell went away, then I would know.

As I leaned in to place the tape, I glanced to my right, behind the microwave. The corner behind it was COMPLETELY PAVED WITH MOUSETRAPS, MOST OF WHICH CONTAINED DEAD MICE WHICH HAD BLOATED AND RUPTURED.

Called my (now ex-)husband to ask wtf, and he claimed to have no recollection of placing them, even though this kind of bizarre overkill (see what I did there?) was exactly his way of approaching everything. I had to throw out my tongs and spatula after cleaning them up.

The end.
posted by HotToddy at 4:38 PM on October 5 [10 favorites]


Junior year of undergrad, I was living with a friend in a small 2-bedroom first-floor apartment. So one Michigan January morning, my roommate had already left for an early class, and I was woken up hearing the metallic rattling of the living room window blinds.

Opening by bedroom door, I noticed how cold the hallway was, like the heat was off or windows open. Rattling continues. I get to our tiny living room, and stumble in face to face with a bird of prey, some type of smaller hawk or falcon about the size of a raven, who in any other situation would be an awesomely majestic badass, but was looking mostly embarrassed and frustrated, trapped in this cold little room. It had flown right through and broken the large front window, but unable to escape as the blinds were getting in its way. I slowly crept over to the front door while we both stared at each other, propped it open, and retreated back to the bedroom until it made its escape. Luckily, the landlord was able to replace our window the same day.
posted by p3t3 at 4:40 PM on October 5 [4 favorites]


Once I held a hummingbird feeder in my hand with my index finger crooked under one of the red plastic "flowers" as a perch, and a hummingbird landed on it! So cool.
posted by HotToddy at 4:40 PM on October 5 [9 favorites]


Ran across a lawn just covered in slugs one morning. I was barefoot and I’d assert that I jumped off the lawn and ran across half of it while levitating at a height of about 2.5 feet.

My first night away at college I woke up early anxious about the whole thing. Had I chosen the right place? Was I going to find friends? Etc. I heard a honking out the window and looked up into the grey sky to see three or four swans flying overhead. I decided that everything was going to be okay and went back to sleep.

I’m typing this laying on my back in bed and my cat is laying on my chest and purring with enthusiasm and verve and occasionally touching his nose to mine.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:42 PM on October 5 [5 favorites]


Welcome: there are lots of deer in the area, so I've frequently seen both adults and fawns just cheerfully wandering about on my lawn. Also bunnies. I've seen the occasional fox (although one of my cats objects to their screaming: he growls and heads off to patrol the house every time). I got to see some manatees close up on a long-ago trip to Florida. And a cute baby alligator hanging out in a drainage ditch.

Neutral: at my previous abode, House the Sequel, there was one occasion when I was weed-whacking and noticed a branch on the ground. "I should move that branch," I said to myself. The branch then moved itself and slithered off, at which point I decided that, all things considered, my yard had plenty of snake-free locations in which to whack weeds.

Unwelcome: as an undergraduate, I came home late one night and was letting myself in to the dorm by the back door, near the garbage cans. I heard this strange rustling noise to my immediate left. I slooooowly looked left and found myself contemplating an entire family of large raccoons, contemplating me in turn. "Just going inside," I explained, and skedaddled.

Many years ago, at House the Original, I came out of my office and spotted my two then-cats looking up at the ceiling, their heads going back and forth like they were watching a tennis match. Now, cats are not always inclined to be useful, but it's generally the case that anything that interests them should also interest you. So I look up and...oh, what's this odd black thing zipping around?...eep, a bat. (I managed to encourage it outdoors without injury.)
posted by thomas j wise at 5:44 PM on October 5 [2 favorites]


So many welcome wildlife encounters! Here's one: I was walking through the sagebrush in southeastern Montana when I flushed a short-eared owl. As it rose into the air and started circling on silent wings, another one flew up, and then I looked around and saw another one in the sky, and another, and another. Their soft, fringed feathers make them completely silent, so I didn't hear them taking flight, just saw them appearing one after the other in the air until at least half a dozen, maybe eight, were circling above me, gazing down with their big yellow eyes.

I guess the last unwelcome encounter was this spring when our young dog grabbed a baby porcupine out of its den and then had to go to the vet to get a lot of quills pulled out of her face and mouth and legs. I'm hoping she learned something from the experience but she was so excited at the time I'm not sure how much pain she noticed. It wasn't until she was leashed up and being walked back to the car five or ten minutes later that the quills really started to bother her, so I fear she may not have made the connection.
posted by Redstart at 6:06 PM on October 5 [3 favorites]


Bitten by a rattlesnake when I was 3, on our family ranch on the Hi-line in Montana, 40 mile from town over dirt roads. Glad my dad drove fast.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:38 PM on October 5 [8 favorites]


I was kayaking on Lake Berryessa recently and we were able to get quite close to a tree in which was pearching a large osprey. It was very cool.
posted by supermedusa at 7:03 PM on October 5


I’ve been outdoors over the past year more than ever before, and I think the biggest revelation for me about animals is how quiet they are. Until they’re not, that is - usually when they get spooked and are trying to escape some perceived danger.

I tend to be fairly quiet myself, and I’ve inadvertently scared some animals while out in the woods. I’ve turned a corner to suddenly find wild turkeys and deer on the trail, and then bound off in to the brush somehow without disturbing any of it. Squirrels will scamper up trees and start chittering at you. When I first witnessed a pheasant flush I was shocked at the sheer explosive force of it. It makes me feel incredibly clumsy to see all these animals only after they’ve been startled while I stumble around crunching branches and leaves.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:27 PM on October 5 [2 favorites]


I’m walking down a slope looking into the shadow of a collapsed lava tube. It’s huge, you could drive a big rig into it, and the bottom is so deep in shadows I can barely see what’s there. To my eyes it looks like the tube ends with a pitch black pit, but there are no guard rails or stairs and this is mapped as a dead end tube, you walk into the coolness, turn, and walk out the way you came. I move closer.

The darkness at the bottom ripples.

I freeze.

It ripples again, and I hear wingbeats.

I walk down and down, until I’m almost at the bottom. I can now see that there’s a pool of water there, barely any light touches it. I sit on a rock and wait.

A bird darts out from behind a rock, flies down to take a fleeting sip, then leaves. Another, and another, and another follows. Later I’ll look them up, Townsend’s Solitaires, a little grey bird that does not flock. But that day there was maybe ten of them, and one by one they drank from that still pool of water at the bottom of the lave tube, and they were kind enough to do so while I sat on a rock and watched them.
posted by lepus at 7:27 PM on October 5 [9 favorites]


I once trapped a black widow spider in a tupperware container, then ran over the tupperware with my minivan.

No regrets. Spiders creep me the fuck out.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:37 PM on October 5 [7 favorites]


There were way too many blackflies, ticks, and leeches in the first 12 years of my life. The most unwelcome wildlife are the ones that suck your blood.

However I am rich in memories of finding and watching (and sometimes catching) creatures.

A hummingbird nest filled with tiny eggs, which then hatched and overflowed with fledglings.

A spotted salamander 7 or 8 inches long, shiny as licorice when I rolled over a log.

Trolling mackerel with a handline, the gorgeous flush of color fading in the bottom of the boat.

The first time I saw a sea otter, grooming on a pier in far northern California - I never thought I would get to see one in the wild in my lifetime.

A nest of mice under rotting chipboard in the woods behind the house.

A tree full of cedar waxwings in Berkeley as I walked in the last days of my pregnancy, waiting for the baby.

A line of wild turkeys walking through my campsite in Big Sur - they are so loud!

Catching shiny green crabs at the ferry landing, scuttling through piles of dulse.

There are about 6 kinds of woodpecker where I live now, from pileated down to hairy. So striking against winter snow.

Sitting very still at one of the limestone caves in Narcisse, until the garter snakes forgot I was there and started moving again in the last days of summer migration. They crawled over my legs and moved at the edges of my vision - hundreds of them, the highway out was full of them basking (and squashed.)

Frogs and toads in their multitudes. Evening walks down the lane at someone’s cottage, the ground carpeted in tiny erstwhile tadpoles. I could hardly walk without crushing them. Worth the mosquito bites.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 8:16 PM on October 5 [6 favorites]


I used to work at a mortgage bank that for some reason had wild (feral?) peacocks living around the building. They would stand guard in the morning and attack all the employees who were trying to enter the building. Man that job sucked.

I also used to work in northeastern Malaysia and would regularly see water buffalo while driving, that was cool. Also some huge water monitors lived around my house, which was also cool. One time I forgot to close the gate after leaving my house and came home to like fifteen cows destroying the fruit trees around my house. That wasn't so cool.
posted by Literaryhero at 8:24 PM on October 5 [4 favorites]


Back in prehistoric times before the civilized advancement of lasik, I, who could see no further than 3 inches in front of my face, happened to go camping without a tent in Big Bend. I was asleep in a sleeping bag with my boyfriend when I awoke with him whispering in my ear, "don't move." I could feel something LARGE walking around on our legs and snuffling. I was imaging BEARS so I kept absolutely still and quiet and held my breath. Of course, not having my glasses I could not see at all. The animal walked back and forth across our legs several times for what felt like half an hour while I told myself all the food was in the car and all we had to do was not act like food. It finally wandered away and and I asked my boyfriend if it was a BEAR. No, he said... it was the biggest damn skunk I have ever seen!
posted by a humble nudibranch at 8:45 PM on October 5 [7 favorites]


Welcome: I had a short-eared owl hang around our yard hunting voles for a couple weeks in March of this year. I somehow got a picture of him with my phone from inside the house, which seemed miraculous. Then, in Hawaii in early April my spouse and I watched a pueo owl hunt on the saddle road on the Big Island, and we felt pretty honored. Owls are just so badass, and we don't get to see them very often.

Unwelcome: We have a lot of moose in Anchorage, and we're usually pretty casual around them. Here's one in my backayard last winter; as a person living on the edge of a refuge who spends a lot of time outside it would be a rare week if I didn't bump into one. A couple weeks ago, though, I had just started a trail run with my dog and rounded a corner in my favorite park and saw two moose thundering straight towards me for no reason...except for it was less than 1/4 mile from where I had seen a large black bear the day before, and it seemed very possible that was the reason. That was not a great feeling (dog and I dove into the woods, we regrouped, went back to the car and chose another adventure that day).

Extremely unwelcome: there was a wasp's nest somewhere in the woods behind the portable classroom where I teach 55 6th graders beginning instruments all by myself early this year that no one could find to eliminate. Cannot recommend the occasional live wasp in a classroom that crowded and full of kids I don't really know well yet where if anyone steps wrong they damage something expensive.
posted by charmedimsure at 10:45 PM on October 5 [3 favorites]


When I had my cabin in the Adirondacks, I ran into bears, deer and other animals all the time. My first summer up there, I was still a suburban dad not necessarily wise in the ways of animals especially bear. I learned the hard way to never keep any food or even empty food wrappers that might smell like food in my (wife's) car. Bears will scratch at your car to get at it. Putting the garbage to take to the dump in the trunk of the car the night before I planned on going was a huge mistake. Insurance covered most of the damage to the car.

Also that summer, while walking on my property, I somehow ended up between a mother bear and her two cubs. The only way, because of some large boulders and an out building, to get to her cubs was through me. Deciding that running past her or toward the cubs was not my winning move, I simply stepped two steps to the side and stuck my arm out to show her the way. Right this way maddam. She looked at me like why is this guy acting like a gentleman and guiding me past him and bolted quickly past me to her cubs. So quickly I did not have a chance to react. I looked at her with her cubs and said to her, "have a nice day. Say hello at home to Mr. Bear." and I skaddadled to my cabin where I changed my underwear and drank a large glass of whiskey and vowed not to go outside ever again.

One of my cats once knocked a glass off of the table as I was walking by barefoot. I needed 5 stitches and a tetanus shot. Friggin cat thought it was a big joke although she did come over to sit in my lap when I got home from the emergency room.
posted by AugustWest at 11:03 PM on October 5 [5 favorites]


I would rather talk about the Northern Lights experience that my girlfriend, my best friend at the time and myself had, but I guess that will have to wait for a different thread.

I'm 19 and I hop on a bus in Ottawa to visit my friend in Toronto. It's a long ride in somewhat uninteresting country so there's nothing to do but listen to music and read a book, which is exactly what I'm doing. I had long hair at the time and occasionally thought that there was a loose strand that was ticking my face, so I would brush it out of the way, eyes still on the book. This happened a few times over a few hours until I did it again and lo and behold, my hand came back with a giant bug easily the size of half my index finger - all leg and eyes and pincers and really, really unexpected.

It so happened that the bus was currently stopped at a small town general store which worked out well for me since there weren't too many people to witness my scream and flail to get the monster bug away from me. I jumped out of my seat and ran outside. At that moment the bus driver was just heading back into the bus so I stopped him and said that there was a giant bug on the bus that was just crawling on me. I little girl, she must have been about 5 piped up and said, "Yeah, I saw that on you earlier!" Unfortunately, my reaction was not mild: "why the fuck didn't you say something!?" She moved back from me and I started to feel kind of like a giant bug myself. The bus driver looked at us both and said, "There's no bugs on my bus, it gets cleaned before every trip." Well, I guessed that that was that since obviously there would be no further discussion about giant face eating bugs.

We all got back on the bus and Giganticus didn't show up again. The bus driver must have been correct and it was all in our imagination.

I got to Toronto intact, met up with my friend and we went to his apartment. Initially, I thought that the place was pretty cool, until I moved the dishes in his sink and all the cockroaches scurried away. "Ashbury, stop playing with the roaches!" was all my friend said.

Jesus, just writing about this gives me the itchies.
posted by ashbury at 11:10 PM on October 5 [6 favorites]


ashbury, i think we’re gonna need that Northern Lights story after all after a tale like that....
posted by mochapickle at 11:53 PM on October 5 [1 favorite]


So many great animal encounters, especially with the local bears. One of the most magical: the dogs alerted us there was a bear outside the cabin- a common thing, only she wouldn't move along as they generally do. Then we realized she wouldn't go because her 2 tiny cubs were up a tree 6 feet outside the door. we respectfully retreated inside with the pups, & watched as mama, satisfied with the arrangements, waddled off into the woods while the cubs, safely up the tree, played & napped. An hour or 2 later mama returned (clearly restored by the alone-time), huffled to the cubs who dutifully clambered down, and the little family strolled off. We had been babysitters! She knew we couldn't/wouldn't get at the cubs, and other bears would also not approach because of the dogs. For some reason I never thought to take photos.
posted by cabin fever at 11:54 PM on October 5 [11 favorites]


We used to go to Mexico once or twice a summer when I was a kid with a bunch of other families and it felt like going to Australia- every creature you saw wanted to sting or bite you. Except for the dolphins! Those were cool, we'd sit on the beach and watch pods swim by. But if you didn't shuffle your feet in the sand while wading you would be stung by a stingray- us kids were so terrified of them that we would always shuffle, but the adults would forget and someone got stung every year. When it was my mom's turn, the spine had broken off and lodged in her foot. It still shows up on x-rays!

When I was 11, it was my turn to experience excruciating pain. But this time, it was from a Portuguese man o' war jellyfish with unfortunately long tentacles. It floated into me while I was swimming and got stuck onto my back. I tried to scrape it off, which just meant that my hand and arm were also stung. The thing basically burned away a layer of skin. The next day I was covered in swollen welts and it looked like I'd been whipped with electrical cords. They treated it with Windex and ice at the local one-room medical center, and since My Big Fat Greek Wedding had just come out that year everyone thought that was hilarious.

There were also scorpions everywhere, but as long as you shook your shoes out and watched where you stepped and laid down that part wasn't so bad. In July, it was too hot to sleep indoors so we would always end up dragging mattresses up to the roof. You'd be eaten alive by mosquitoes if you didn't slather yourself in repellant, but it was still easier to fall asleep outside than inside.

Oh, the childhood memories!
posted by mollywas at 11:55 PM on October 5 [3 favorites]


Best are the early morning bike ones. Though I live in the very suburban east end of Toronto, there are coyote (wary, fast: your small lost dog flyers aren't gonna end well), skunk (alarmingly cute), possums, mucho bunnage and raccoon (hunchy cats!). Very occasionally, deer

Yes! Animal encounters on the bike are the best. I used to bike in more urban areas, but now that I'm further out, I've been seeing more animals up close. I guess they don't really hear the bike. I've biked within feet of deer, foxes, coyotes, and one very cute fledgling mourning dove. On a recent bike ride, I passed within inches of a foraging woodchuck, startling us both (I hadn't noticed it was there until it shuffled into the underbrush, having apparently not noticed me either).

On the subject of spiders, a friend and I spent like an hour the other night trying to find a black widow in the woods, in the dark. I used to see them fairly often at one apartment I had in LA, but I guess they're not as easy to find around here. But we did find like a million dark fishing spiders, so that was cool. We figured it must be hatching season, because a lot of them were pretty small. We were like "is this a normal way to be spending our time?"

So I love spiders, but I will admit I'm not a huge fan of ants. Sometimes I think they're neat. If they leave me alone they're cool. But there are these huge black ants in the back yard here, and they like to bite my feet if I go barefoot. It's not like I'm stepping on anthills, or anything. I just mean I'll feel a sudden pain in my foot, look down, and see a big ol ant chomping down. Little jerk.

mollywas, I have heard that a man o' war sting is absolutely horrible. Yikes.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:05 AM on October 6 [2 favorites]


mollywas, I have heard that a man o' war sting is absolutely horrible. Yikes.

Worst pain I've ever felt!
posted by mollywas at 12:28 AM on October 6


seen some snakes live in the wild, some in horrid zoos. several gross tourist-trap zoos, a couple sort of nice ones. babysat some boas once. stood in a cave the bats were all leaving. oh: i kayak'd with eagles on a new england lake! seen some raptors in the neighborhood, the occasional owl pellet. drove over a rabbit on a cloverleaf and once had the most beautiful perception of a deer flowing in three beats of fluid muscle -- a distressing impression of fur moving by the right front quarterpanel, a blur of flexing muscle outside the driver's side door and a magnificent glimpse of a buck bounding to the top of a bank on the far side of the road out of the corner of my eye as i begin to react -- past my zooming little honda two-door without being hit on a pretty gritty country road for round these parts. magnificent. had a friend with pet wolves we could sometimes carefully interact with ("don't look him in the eye"), though they'd never just come lie down nearby and relax like something that isn't terrifyingly wild. there is the terrible story of slug island (twit-self-link). in a similar vein, i have babysat cats in a flat so overrun with cockroaches that i couldn't help but wrap my hands in duct tape sticky-side-out and slap at the moving carpet of them on the walls and floor and cat food bowl and cat food bag and cabinets and throwing it out and starting again with fresh tape! omg do i try not to think about that occasion at all. (also in that apartment building, bedbugs and mice, oh my!) after i tired of catching mice in ways that would render them corpses or cause me to have to render them corpses, i saw a mouse glide along the thinnest, shabbiest of wainscottings for about three feet without touching the ground before springing another 18 inches into the air and over a trash can i had cleverly positioned to block its egress -- i swear the billion-dollar man thwang-ang-ang-ang sound happened and, as he cleared the obstacle, the mouse looked me in the eye with a kind of surprised expression and hollered yeee-haaaaw like a duke boy, and, you know, in a shrill high mouse register. it was amazing and hilarious, and took a bit longer to catch that one. i have seen a squirrel take a really bad fall or two: one fell from an electrical line with a popping noise, lay motionless in the street for about two minutes, then stood up and went about it's squirrely business; another fell from a high treetop during some game of chase with another -- i had been aware of them chasing but my back was turned when i heard the thump of body with lungs hitting the ground, kind of like a meaty football landing and not bouncing, and turned to find that squirrel slowly getting back to its feet and looking at me with embarrassment while it's buddy in the tree vocalized in a way i couldn't help but hear as a playmate's derisive laughter; later that family (i presume) abandoned en panicked masse that tree they had inhabited who knows how long as the chainsaws and cranes had at it, the last few crawling out of the trunk as it was hoisted, and running along its swinging length to leap onto, then across, my rooftop and, with another improbable leap, into another, safer tree, beyond. though not home. i resent my stupid, slow yard rabbits their complacency, as though they know i wouldn't know what to do if i did (very easily) just grab one dumbly frozen there like i don't see it and hunger. (a hawk once grabbed one right in front of me in a startling, whooshing blur; it knew what to do). i'm pretty sure i'm not supposed to talk about my spirit animal, and am not certain an animal i sometimes somewhat too-closely, numinously encounter is not my spirit animal, so i shan't tell you about the []. but there have been some occasions when it, or one of its kind, has been otherwise nonthreateningly too-familiar with me. and too numinous. has vocalized and stared. don't worry dear reader it is not a predator of humans; it could probably give me rabies but we haven't been that close... and i don't think i've talked back to it yet. oh and some sort of yucky buzzards or vultures came into a campsite one morning, flying over the tent: they creaked like old sailboat rigging under tension. not a flying animal sound at all; was surprised crawling from tent to see birds. had been expecting some preposterous contraption of beams and lines and pulleys with perhaps a bellows or two.
posted by 20 year lurk at 12:58 AM on October 6 [2 favorites]


I love nature and have had so, so many positive animal experiences. Only a few negatives:

As a child:

Going "out the back" (to the big surf) with dad on my body board, he sees a bluebottle (jellyfish, aka portugeuse man of war), and says "whoops" and then goes to move me and the board out of the way. Except he actually scoops the bluebottle up, under my tanktop so it's all across my belly. It frigging hurt.

Having to take a live bag of cane toads out to the freezer to stop them from killing everything else in our garden pond. I hate cane toads.

We had a spring that would be used periodically to top up our rainwater tank in dry periods. Occasionally, a small frog would be sucked up by the pipe. After filling the (very large, underground) tank up, you would always scan for them, using a pool net on a long, long pole to try and catch the nimble little bastards. If you missed one, you'd know in a couple of weeks when your shower and drinking water started to take on a fruity aroma. The dead ones were much easier to catch, at least.

I was caught in a swarm of bees once. It was incredible. Everything around me was moving and alive and literally humming. The air was filled with energy. It was a very special experience, and I didn't get stung.
posted by smoke at 2:53 AM on October 6 [8 favorites]


Hm. Critters.

Was once sleeping in a remote camp alone when I was shocked awake by sounds that suggested that the building I occupied was in fact a cornflake in the mouth of God. Turns out a porcupine was working on the doorsill. My screams (this was a very remote camp) caused it to pause, emit a horrifying series of squeaks and grunts, and noisily depart. I could hear stones shifting as it trundled off.

At the same camp on another occasion I was shocked awake by a red squirrel that had invaded and was trashing the place like a 1970s rock band on multiple drugs. Shattering glass, furniture falling over, all in pitch darkness; my flashlight could never catch any more than an impression of high-speed fur. The damage done was wildly out of proportion to the beast’s mass. That was a long and memorable night.

Swimming in the ocean at dawn a few years back I was in calm water beyond breakers and I randomly slapped the surface. Dozens of small fish instantly leaped out of the water around me, looking in the low-angle sunlight like silver dollars, a sight which made me gasp. It has been suggested to me that they may have been fleeing a large predator below, which adds a nice frisson to my memory of the moment.

I can’t think of many critter encounters that I’d call “unwelcome”. Even the bad ones seem to have left me amazed.
posted by kinnakeet at 3:00 AM on October 6 [4 favorites]


Having encounters with wildlife is basically the point of my job. One story in particular come to mind:

So I'm doing my dissertation research in Cote d'ivoire, and one of my started purposes is to study the influence of pregnancy and lactation on stress in wild Diana monkeys. This means I need the groups that I'm studying to have babies. I've been in the field since June, and I'm getting excited as October and the birth season draw near! And one morning, I arrive at the group with my field assistant Frederic and another field assistant studying colobus, and we see that Mélo is carrying a baby. This baby wasn't there when we left the group the night before! I'm ecstatic! And then the group goes crazy vocalizing and jumping around and shrieking, and we realize there's a new male who's arrived, and he's chasing the resident male. The females start to get involved - and suddenly he's chasing Mélo in particular.

And then - it's hard to tell what's happening exactly in the rustling leaves and branches - the baby falls from about 10m up and lands on the ground in front of us. At this point, we've sat on a fallen log and this baby is lying on the ground, silently. I look at Frédéric - what should we do? We can't interfere! If it's dead, I want to collect it to see if it has bite marks from the male. And then, suddenly, it starts screaming. It's alive! We expect Mélo to come down from the trees to pick it up, and all the females are contact calling as Mélo descends from the branch she's sitting on - and then the new male lunges at her and chases her back up the tree. This goes on for maybe 10 minutes, with the baby shrieking and the male keeping all the females from descending to the ground, and then suddenly the adults go silent and run into dense foliage. I look to my right and ... there's an enormous male chimpanzee, hair piloerect and bristling. He can't be more than 5 feet from me. This is the first wild chimpanzee I've seen so close, and he is huge and he appeared silently. He walks towards the baby, who is still shrieking, and picks it up by the ankle. "He's going to eat it," says Frederic. But he doesn't eat it - he runs, dragging it like chimps will sometimes drag large branches during displays, and then tosses it towards a tree and disappears. "Now it's dead," I say to Frederic. But no! It starts shrieking! This time, Mélo runs to where it is and scoops it up, and it immediately starts nursing.

The next morning, when we arrive at the group, the old male is nowhere to be found. We name the new male Mike Tyson. And we look for Mélo - there's no baby.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:42 AM on October 6 [14 favorites]


I was working at a feed store, so this was basically a baited field. One type of pig feed is called "shorts," and they are finely milled particles of corn and wheat that can only be contained by bags made of tee-shirt jersey material, and the hundred pound sacks are enormous, especially when you're a stringy fifteen-year-old. A customer had asked for four sacks, and I had wrangled three of them up on the stacking hand truck. The fourth bag was bottom row on the pallet, and as I picked it up, the bottom of the sack gave way, and a rat the size of a housecat dropped out, hissing and in max attack mode.

I don't know how, but I basically leapt four feet straight up backward, and landed on my feet on top of the stacked sacks on the hand truck. The mill foreman had quietly been watching me load, and he came up laughing so hard he was crying and told me if I could jump straight up like that every time, I was going to do fine, just fine.

I think he probably told that story about a hundred times.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 6:38 AM on October 6 [13 favorites]


I was in Tochigi Prefecture with my now-husband staying at Otaka no Yu hot springs. It has a smaller wooden building with a bath that we decided to go to together. I went in the women’s side and husband in the men’s. The building had a partition between the two, so we were in separate baths but shared the same ceiling. We were the only people on our respective sides so we were just soaking and chatting when my husband said “there’s some kind of....animal? in the ceiling.” I didn’t have my glasses on, but I could see a cute furry face peering down at us. I had no idea what I was looking at and neither did husband. (I know my birds, but Japan has a surprisingly wide range of mystery mammals that kind of show up, blinking at you.)
After a bit, a cute furry and enormously fluffy tail also kind of unfurled itself next to the cute face. The adorable creature seemed to want to leave, or more it seemed to very much want us to leave so it could enjoy its ongoing hot springs ceiling sauna experience, but we weren’t moving, so it slowly, painstakingly extracted itself from the ceiling and then edged out of the building on a beam at a snail’s pace, eventually making its exit. After the bath we confirmed it was a Japanese Flying Squirrel, the only one I’ve seen so far in 9 years living here. We excitedly told the front desk and got a casual “oh yes, that happens a lot.”
posted by sacchan at 7:05 AM on October 6 [10 favorites]


My favorite snake story is from a snake I never even saw, because my spouse was hiking ahead of me through thick undergrowth on a mountain up around Big Sur when suddenly he jumped UP and BACK, quickly, with a shout about a snake.

“What color was it?” I asked, keen to know if we were talking rat or rattlesnake in the midst of this eye-high scrub brush where I could barely see my feet.

“SNAKE COLORED!” is the panicked reply that will live on forever in our relationship in jokes, and also as a testament to how selective brains are when processing danger inputs.
posted by deludingmyself at 9:06 AM on October 6 [13 favorites]


All these bear stories remind me of a friend of mine, who told me about the time she and her husband went to close up their cabin in the mountains for the season. When they went in, there was a bear in the kitchen, calmly eating oyster crackers out of a box. (Turns out their daughter and son-in-law hadn't properly secured all the doors the last time they used the place.)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:13 AM on October 6 [6 favorites]


I had a squirrel nearly crawl into my lap to get at my peanut butter n jelly sammich in yosemite. I might not have minded so much but those things are plague vectors, so I shoe-d it away.

got to see a juvenile bear just hanging out playing on a log (also in Yosemite) Im pretty sure it was posing as everyone on the road got out to take pics. it was seriously cute.

and of course there was the rattlesnake my husband picked up in Saline Valley. the one that bite him. that time he had to be medivac'd to Las Vegas. fun times!
posted by supermedusa at 9:59 AM on October 6 [3 favorites]


Oh yeah, I forgot about the time I was working in a NYC park garden bed and felt the queasy sink of the soil below me as my weight collapsed a rat warren and the rats all jumped out at me.
posted by sciencegeek at 10:40 AM on October 6 [13 favorites]


I like to travel by pet sitting. I live in Canada but have done 26 trips to Los Angeles and I'm currently in Cabarete, Dominican Republic, looking after 3 cats while trying to write a non-fiction novella about time spent in Spain, looking after an insane white Persian cat named Blanche. The trip lasted 3 months and I ended up getting involved with a crooked cop, a paranoid Maltese, and a baker-cum-low-level-gangster who fed fingernails to a dog named Cookie and had a pool on his terrace for the strict use of Tortuga, his turtle.

When in Toronto, I live with Shakedown the dog, who is the best part of my life. I'd take her with me, but she'd kill the cats -- plus, she loves winter, which I can't stand, and she's happiest living through Canadian winters with my own sitter.
posted by dobbs at 12:00 PM on October 6 [6 favorites]


Growing up on boats on the Pacific, seeing a sea turtle, schools of bonito, many sharks, dolphins, pilot whales....it was all marvelous.
But when the film Jaws came out even I knew it was going to ruin everything. Suddenly there was the terror of Big Things In The Deep, and the pity as one jackass dayboater after another killed another shark. One time we were in the outboard running ahead of the big (slow) boat, full speed ahead spurts followed by turning the engine off and just sitting there out in the middle of a very deep wide channel. Big lazy rolling swells, a little bit overcast, it's so quiet except for the slap of water on the hull. We're in the trough of a swell and there is a tremendous SPLASH off to our right, behind us. We get lifted up to the crest and see an enormous circle of fizzing white water, something VERY VERY big just jumped right over there and we're just sitting here in our little boat.
Crank the engine and haul ass back to the slowly wallowing big boat, we think it 's a better idea to tow the outboard instead of wasting gas, ha ha ha.
Something was just curious what we were doing floating around at the top of their sky.
posted by twentyfeetof tacos at 12:01 PM on October 6 [1 favorite]


I think I may have told this story before... When I was around 4 or 5, I came home from school and told my mom there was a tiger on the car next door. She said something along the lines of "That's nice, dear," and went on washing dishes. But I insisted and insisted and eventually got her to come outside with me, and sure enough, our next door neighbor's friend/cousin/brother who had ties to the circus had come by for a visit with a tiger, which he had ON A LEASH.

That's me in the pink outfit. I'm not sure if I'm more upset that we didn't get a shot with me facing the camera, or that my mother had both hands on a camera and none on me when I was STANDING RIGHT IN FRONT OF A TIGER.

< / 1970's, man >
posted by Mchelly at 1:54 PM on October 6 [27 favorites]


This is not about animals. (Though we live next to the woods and see deer, owls, and possums and stuff on the reg. My dog definitely cannot handle it when we encounter deer on our walks.)

I take my comprehensive exam(s?) for my master's degree on Tuesday and I'm just really hoping it doesn't literally kill me. My brain is so tired (exhibit a: I initially misspelled "owls" up there). I can't flashcard anymore. But I have to, because I still can't remember some of this stuff. I'm so terrified. I'm potentially so fucked if I don't do well.

AND THIS IS ALL VOLUNTARY
NO ONE IS MAKING ME GET A MASTER'S DEGREE
I DON'T NEED IT FOR MY JOB
I JUST, LIKE. WANT IT

ugh.

/whine
posted by obfuscation at 5:52 PM on October 6 [8 favorites]


I've already regaled Metafilter with my stories of misleading an owl and psyching out a bear. I have a couple more that I would have sworn I'd told here before, but I can't track them down so here goes.

1. Many years ago my wife and I were spending a weekend getaway at a friend's cabin while he was out of town. This was in southern Georgia, on a large bit of land owned by his parents that had been designated a bird sanctuary. He managed the land, among other things creating habitats with controlled fires, which also required keeping various firebreaks mowed. As we were enjoying a walk along one of those one morning, enjoying the quiet calm and lush scenery and singing birds, we just barely happened to catch a glimpse of a group of wild turkeys farther up the trail; they also saw us and wandered off into the bushes. About 15-20 minutes later, turkeys long forgotten, we were walking past a bush when it suddenly exploded with noise and thrashing. My first freaked-out thought was that it was a wild boar, which were known to exist in the area, and for a split second I figured we were goners...but it was just the wild turkeys who had decided to abruptly come out of hiding and flee when we inadvertently got too close. We stood there breathless watching them fly off through the woods, majestically banking left and right to glide between the close-set pines. It was amazing.

2. One fine early-spring afternoon I was out hiking along a path in the north Florida woods when I noticed a large...pile? structure? a few yards off the trail. This was pretty much the middle of nowhere so I was kind of curious what it was all about and decided to go check it out. I was 10-12 feet away from it when a snake darted out straight in my direction. We simultaneously saw each other, froze for a split second, then took off in opposite directions. I'm not especially snake-averse, but Florida is home to venomous snakes like copperheads, cottonmouths and rattlers so you learn to run first and ask questions later. In retrospect I doubt it was one of those dangerous species, but I wasn't going to go back and check.

Re-reading this and the other stories I linked to, I realize I end up frightened out of my wits in all but one of them. To counteract that trend, here's a bonus close-up of a gull that was regally ignoring the many nearby humans.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:57 PM on October 6 [2 favorites]


Oh, one more humorous one: We were renting an upscale mobile home out in the boonies that included a nice deck; the kitchen door opened onto it next to the railing on one side where we habitually fed and watered our multiple cats. Once I went out to put fresh food in their bowls and noticed one appeared to be eating at the time - but as I closed the door behind me and got a better look I realized it was a fair-sized possum. It was so busy chowing down that it didn't notice me until I kind of good-naturedly said "Hey!" It immediately panicked, not even glancing my way before leaping off the railing into a small tree next to the deck, tumbling about 8' down through it to the ground, and quickly trundling off into the underbrush - presumably muttering to itself the possum equivalent of "shitshitshitshitshitshit!!" the whole time.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:21 PM on October 6 [7 favorites]


My unwelcome wildlife story is from the time I was doing a summer camp down in southern Illinois and we were rappelling, and I rappelled into a wasp nest. I started to scream "as one does." and My belayer did not have visual contact with me, and so she halted my descent because that's what you do when a climber screams. It took quite a bit of effort to regain enough composure enough to shout down she needed to let me down as fast as possible because I was getting stung all over the place. I wound up with about 10 stings and it was NOT A FUN TIME.

I had to think for a while to think about my favorite positive unexpected wildlife encounter. I saw a hedgehog roaming about at night at Buda Castle in Budapest, which was pretty neat, but I think my favorite was one I may have mentioned before, of seeing a wild guinea pig hiding amongst the ruins of Tiwanaku on the Bolivian altiplano.
posted by drlith at 6:33 PM on October 6 [5 favorites]


And everyone has a bug story

I was part of this group of people who explored biodiversity in Amsterdam's Vondelpark. As the article says, we did capture a new species of parasitic wasp and all voted on the name - named after the Vondelpark. The wasp is beautiful and you can see it in this electron microscope shot we took, for example.

It was only a week but the moth trapper who joined us managed to catch all these moths in the center of the city. And spiders. And beetles.

The exciting followup is that one of the biologists with us really wanted to name a new species based on a suggestion by my partner. We came in close second. That same biologist just messaged me from Borneo this week that they had discovered two new species of snail and guess what they were going to name one of them! She asked me not to say more yet in public. Great fun, though.
posted by vacapinta at 2:13 AM on October 7 [5 favorites]


Just the other day we went out for an impromptu picnic, sitting on an island (accessed by bridge) in the river that winds through my town. We saw lots and lots of birds- magpies, rosellas, rainbow parrots, some cormorants, an ibis, a purple swamp hen, some kind of kingfisher, some ducks, and a great big pelican cruising up and down the river, like a massive jumbo jet. We also saw a rakali or Australian water rat really briefly hunting in some reeds, which was super cool.

The best animal encounter was a few years ago- my friend had bought a four wheel drive and we took it out for a spin in the Grampians. As we drove along a mountain road, an enormous eagle swooped from behind us and flew along ahead of us, the tips of it's wings just about brushing the leaves of the eucalypts that bowed over the road, creating not-quite a tunnel. It just felt so BIG.

Unwelcome animal encounter: I was driving across country. It was probably a dumb thing to do, it was getting dark and it was winter. I'd already had a scary encounter with black ice. Then I saw him- a young kangaroo hanging by the side of the road. I crept my car forward, anxious to get to my destination and off the road. He hopped across the road, great, I thought- now I can go- and then he turned and hopped back in front of me! I hit him with my mirror, and he rolled along the side of the car, before hopping off into the scrub. Apart from a busted mirror and a little bit of a scratch along my car, I came out of that one pretty well. My uncle (where I was going) had a look at the car the next day and just shook his head at me and said "you are very lucky!"

Another, more positive roo story- I was driving home from another town, late at night. Just as I was getting close in to my town, I saw something on the road, and slowed to a stop. Lit up in ghostly white in my headlights was a mob of roos, and in the middle of the an enormous roo stretched and stood up- maybe 6, 7ft. This king was so calm as he chewed his cud and the harem shuffled off the road after a while.
posted by freethefeet at 4:24 AM on October 7 [2 favorites]


(1) A picnic. A flock of butterflies -like 50 of them I swear- decide they adore my sister, fluttering around her like some sort of Disney princess. Magical. Until... they will not leave. She waves her hands. They sit on her hands. She waves her arms wildly: they go for her armpits. We gather our picnic and run away. From butterflies.

(2) I'm maybe 12 and wake up to a foot or more of spring snow on the ground. Dad has shoveled a path to his truck and left for work. The path is now fully blocked by ... a buffalo (aka American bison), escaped from a nearby park, enjoying the spring grass my dad so kindly uncovered. There are worse things than missing school because a buffalo is blocking your path to the car.
posted by evilmomlady at 4:36 AM on October 7 [5 favorites]


I don't have many unwelcome wildlife stories, I like wildlife, and I don't think the two thirds of a house centipede my cat brought me one day qualifies as a story. I don't even have any good welcome stories because city kid. But this weekend I was in the country (mainly Wellington County, Ontario) and saw:

horses
cows
chickens
sheep
a swan
lots of dogs and cats and squirrels and other birds (including some birds of prey but I am terrible at identifying birds so not sure what, probably hawks) and stuff

and drove across a spot marked Turtle Crossing. I'm both glad and sad I saw no turtles that day. AWESOME weekend.
posted by wellred at 6:55 AM on October 7 [2 favorites]


Last week, we were at the point of the season where we're too busy to harvest our concord grapes, so VioletU is cursing at the racoons for eating our grapes. Adding to the amusement of this is we sleep in the basement, and the vine is right near our window. So while getting ready for bed, and closing the drapes, she often gets to watch the fat fuckers (her words) while they're in the process of climbing the trellis and fattening up for the winter.

But don't feel too bad for her; we harvested over the weekend; 4 grape pies, 24 tartlets, and we still have enough grapes for about 3 more pies. And you have not lived until you've had concord grape pie. Which is really sad considering the number of times people respond to that statement with, "I've never had/heard of grape pie."

Much better than last year where grape beetle larva destroyed most of our vine before I realized it. I think there were a total of 3-4 bunches of grapes total that fall - all to the racoons.
posted by nobeagle at 7:28 AM on October 7 [5 favorites]


Oh, and an unfortunate wildlife encounter. At work, instead of a smoke break, I take an actual fresh air break. I walk along the edge of the property where I've worn my own little path along a rise just before the ground descends to a creek. While walking, frogs periodically jump out from cover around where I'm working, as well as the occasional few foot long snake goes wiggling across the path I've worn down.

A few days ago, while walking, there was a fuzzy plant that had gone to seed. Randomly I decided to kick it to scatter the fluffs everywhere. Just as I started the kick, a frog jumped out of cover and to my horror, with no time to react, I ended up perfectly connecting with the frog. The frog flew off to the side towards/in the creek. Through the overgrown area there's zero chance I could find the frog to see if it was OK, and it might have landed in the creek for all I could tell. As my foot wasn't coated in frog guts I'm telling myself that it's fine, but has a story to tell all it's frog buddies.

For two days, around home, I'd randomly get a stricken look, and say, "I kicked a frog."
posted by nobeagle at 8:10 AM on October 7 [10 favorites]


On a positive note, after leaving Red River, NM at 530 am after a ski trip, we were passed by a sherriff on the twisty part of the road between Eagles Nest and Cimmaron. he pulled over ahead and we slowed down to pass. We first noticed a young elk in the bar ditch and then realized in the twilight shadows were hundreds of elk on either side of the road, including a massive bull right beside the road a little farther on.

Also, while on a cruise off the coast of baja, we saw a huge pod of whales. not sure how many but upwards of 30 i think. Hard to tell as we were moving in opposite directions, but it took 5-10 minutes to pass the pod.

Seeing animals in masse like that is stirring in a way seeing one or two isn't.

One i can do with out - the rattlesnake on the hiking trail in the refuge south of where i live. Several people were ahead of me and didn't see it and neither did i until i guess i got to close and he gave me a warning rattle. Let me tell you I can run up a mountain. So much adrenaline i couldn't really stand up when i got to the top though. Pretty sure the rest of the party behind me thought i had lost my every loving mind with the yelling and the cussing. They knew enought to stop where they were though and take the fork in the trail.
posted by domino at 8:34 AM on October 7 [2 favorites]


My dad was a wildlife biologist and we spent 2 years in the Serengeti while he did research for his doctorate, so we ended up with a lot of animal-encounter stories.

The very first night there, our house got invaded by siafu (army ants). They're nomadic, and travel in the same circuits. From what I understand, the locals traditionally built deliberately on these paths before the days of brick/concrete etc buildings and long-term food storage, because the ants would come through every few months. The residents would pack up and visit the in-laws or whoever for a few days, then come back when the ants had moved on, leaving behind a house cleared of infestation.

This is not so useful when you have a modern-ish house with food you're trying to store long-term. We packed up and went to a nearby house fellow researchers lived in and slept on the floor. Dad eventually found out from old bush hands that kerosene messed up the ants' chemical signalling, so every time the columns of ants got near he'd go squirt kerosene around the foundation, and they'd leave the house alone.
posted by telophase at 9:02 AM on October 7 [4 favorites]


I think about my mouse story every year when I start seeing pots of mums everywhere, so this is an opportune time to tell it.

About 10 years ago, I bought two large pots of mums, and I believe I bought a mouse nest with one of them. A couple days after I got them, it rained heavily and the pots filled up, and then my stepdaughter found a baby mouse on our porch, drenched and squealing. We brought her in, and since I didn't know then that wildlife rehabbers take mice, we raised her up instead. I think we got her at the perfect stage to ensure survival--her eyes weren't open so she was still nursing (we used kitten milk replacer) but she had her full coat. We carried her around in our shirt pockets to keep her warm. She thrived, opened her eyes, and started eating bread soaked in milk and then we shifted to regular rodent food. She was sweet as could be and never bit anyone. We'd just read a children's book about a character named Maximus Powermouse, so we decided that this little one was Minimus Powermouse, or Mini.

Couple months later, my spouse was carrying her cage to the basement and dropped it, and we lost her. We were sad about it, and I couldn't help it--I left the cage open on the floor of our bedroom in futile (I thought) hope. Maybe two weeks later, middle of the night, I heard the little wheel spinning in the cage, sneaked out of bed, shut the cage, carried it into the dining room, turned on the light and peeped in. Mini looked at me from the wheel like, "yeah, yeah, I'm home."

So a week or so after THAT, I was upstairs cleaning out her cage in the bathtub. Took her out, took her "nest" out--and then saw little tiny feet and little tiny tails. She had gotten pregnant on walkabout and came home to have her babies. Mini had no problem with us handling them at all, and she was a good little mom, so her five little ones grew up happy and jumpy.

Eventually they chewed through the plastic of the cage, and I'm sure their descendants still roam in our basement. It was a lovely experience, but once in a lifetime is enough. I've never bought potted mums again.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:15 AM on October 7 [14 favorites]


There is a green belt behind our house, so in addition to the normal suburban squirrels and rabbits, we occasionally see red foxes, coyotes, owls, hawks, raccoon, evidence of opossum, etc. Between our back fence and the tree-line of the green belt, there is a grassy strip about 40 feet wide, that I mow. Against the fence, there was an old 3 gallon sized plant container, inverted. One fine day a couple of years ago, when mowing and weed-whacking, I moved it out of my way with my foot. It rolled upright. Inside, the biggest black widow spider I had ever seen. Thanks to Steve Irwin, I did not immediately freak out and launch a chemical attack, but merely rolled the container gently back into place. I figured, it has a home, and if it is not disturbed, it will probably stay right there, away from MY house.
Today, when moving my trash bin back from the curbside to it's normal location, I saw a messy spiderweb under one of the handholds near the hinge. I saw something was in the web, so I crouched down to take a closer look.
Not the biggest black widow I have ever seen, and not even 100% certain it is a black widow, because it is shy and quickly darted into a dark recessed area there. I'd rather not kill it, but also don't want it living where I grab the bin to haul it back and forth. Any ideas of how to move the spider are welcome!
posted by coppertop at 5:07 PM on October 7 [1 favorite]


I just remembered a bug story!

My uncle has a PhD in biology/ecology, and studied quite a bit with a guy who was a leading expert on mosquitos. I went to the same school (undergrad), 20ish years later, guy was still there, and still doing THIS thing:

Mosquitos need to eat. (Female) mosquitos eat blood. The plexiglass mosquito containers in his office all had an inlet for you to stick your arm in and let them feed, and any grad students who wanted to study with him had to stick their arms in to let the mosquitos feed on them.

Whenever undergrads came to his office to try to get their grades raised on technicalities or appeals to his better nature, he would stare straight at them while they were talking, roll up his sleeve, and stick his arm into the mosquito cage on his desk, and then just leave it there while the mosquitoes feasted on him and the undergrad, without exception, got flustered, stuttered to a stop, and left.

People are JUST NOT COMFORTABLE watching a thousand mosquitoes feasting on one guy's arm. Sort of like this, except his body had long since stopped reacting to mosquito bites and they didn't bother him at all. (I worked outside in the woods one summer and after about four weeks my body gave up on reacting to mosquito bites, which was AWESOME, no itch, no welts, just shooing them off me because they tickled, and I am very tasty to mosquitoes so I am always getting bitten! Until one bit me behind my ear right on top of the lymph node there, which swelled up LIKE A FUCKIN' EGG.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 6:21 PM on October 7 [6 favorites]


I once got so bitten by Valley black midges that the tops of my ears swelled up and everted. Ow.
posted by clew at 10:10 PM on October 7 [2 favorites]


I was fishing in the lake across the street in a public park. I was using a lure that had two treble hooks, so six pointy parts. Anyways, I catch a northern pike with the rear hook and pull the fish up to unhook it and let it go. Now let's note, this wasn't a big northern, but they are know for their very pointy and numerous teeth. So there I am, standing knee deep in water, unhooking a northern and some kids walk by and scream, "look mom, he caught a fish!" I hold the fish up so they can see it better and it flips its tail and the lure slips from my hand... and catches my shorts. So no I'm in a lake, with a writhing northern attached to my quickly descending shorts in front of a bunch of kids. I drop down to preserve my decency and pull my shorts back up (and the hooks and teeth nearer my business) and proceed to unhook my shorts and then the fish. So that's how I got pants by a pike.
posted by advicepig at 8:50 AM on October 8 [5 favorites]


Six pointy parts,
Five go-old rings!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:25 AM on October 8


I was stalked by a jaguar in the jungle in Ecuador. Very scary. I managed to scare it off by flipping my rain jacket up and yelling. I really thought I might die at that moment.
(I did not, as you may have guessed)

Once I made friends with a spotted trunk fish in Cozumel. It liked to take me on tours of its coral head home and show me all the hiding spots. It wasn't frightened, if I didnt follow it, it would swim back to me and flutter around until I swam after it. Very cute.
posted by ananci at 2:38 PM on October 8 [6 favorites]


I live on 34 acres in the Great Smoky Mountains. I have two dogs; my hound isn't trustworthy and is always on a leash or behind a fence. However, my terrier mutt, Kenda, has the run of the mountain. She always comes running when I call and I trust her judgment.

The setting: last December, mid-afternoon. Kenda was poking around outside while I showered after a morning of chores. I had just gotten out of the shower when I heard her erupt in Very Serious Alert Barking. I hit the back door wearing pants, a bra, Crocs and a towel on my head. I grabbed a rifle on my way out, just in case.

I arrived in the back yard to find my 24-pound dog harrying a full-grown black bear, barking and bluff-charging it. I tried to call her back to me but she was having none of it. This went on for several minutes (that felt like an eternity) when finally the bear looked right at Kenda, huffed loudly and strolled up the mountain away from the house. Kenda came trotting back to me with her tail up and swishing, the proudest moment of her life.

(In case you're wondering, bears don't hibernate here. They become torporous, which means that they'll lie up for a few days or a week or two but will come out to hunt and forage on nice days.)
posted by workerant at 8:20 PM on October 8 [11 favorites]


I have a dog/wildlife story similar to workerant's...but in my case what had thrown the dog into full-bore INTRUDER ALERT mode was a rather small and frankly traumatized armadillo backed up against the garden fence.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:35 PM on October 8 [4 favorites]


Last week Mum ended up in hospital so I was staying at her place which is out in the lovely, relaxing, countryside. I'm stressed about mum and not sleeping very well and was woken up at 3am by a knocking sound on one of the windows. It sounds like someone is trying to get in. I stagger outside with a flash light and can't see anything. Much grumbling ensues and I go back to bed. I am not killed in my sleep by eldritch horrors.

The next night at 3am I can hear weird noises again, except softer but coming from the hallway outside the bedroom. I go out and can't see anything until I think to look up. Above me on the ceiling is a grey Lovecraftian blob about the size of an iphone. I realise after staring at it for what felt like an age that it was in fact a frog (one of three varieties that mum has on her property) covered in dust and that the "tentacles" were in fact cobwebs drifting in the breeze. I rescue the hoppitamoppita by prying it off the ceiling with a bamboo backscratcher, catching it in a kitchen strainer and throwing it outside into a bit of damp garden. I do not throw it into the swimming pool because Terry the eastern long neck tortoise might eat it.

The next night at 3am I am woken by what sounded very much like a herd of rhinocerous in gumboots charging around on the roof. I curse at mum's resident brushtail possums and go back to sleep. Cute little fuckers need to go on a diet.

The next morning I am ambushed by a family of wood ducks that have decided to share mum's swimmingpool with Terry. The father was doing his best "I am WOUNDED i SAY Injured AND Dying LOoK At ME!" routine and his stupid wife was waddling after him looking puzzled and quacking quietly at him "What are you doing? Honey, what are you doing??". The ducklings, sensibly, had ditched their idiot mother and had retreated to the other side of the pool. I eventually got to my target - the rain gauge - and checked to see how much rain we had.

Eight. Inches.

Of legs.

Curled around an egg case the size of my thumbnail.

At this point I have very much Had Enough, replace the lid on the rain gauge, and calmly walk back inside for tea and cake.

I do not do any laundry during the week because I can't face evicting the green tree frogs from the laundry tubs. I am missing all the blue pegs off the clothesline anyway because they have been stolen by the bowerbird for his bower.

And I never find out who was knocking on the window...
posted by ninazer0 at 12:16 AM on October 9 [17 favorites]


I currently have a mouse in my car and it is giving me anxiety like nothing else can. My car is the one space in my life that really feels MINE and now there's a mouse invader running around eating cracker crumbs and pooping, who might pop out at any moment while I'm driving or taking a minute to myself. Every rustle, every brush of my pants against my ankle while I'm driving, every little squeak of road noise could be the mouse. And I feel like a dirty bad person who has attracted this vermin into her car, and when I pick my kids up from daycare they will have to ride in the car with mouse poop and probably hantavirus and god knows what, so that probably makes me a terrible mother as well. And I'm going to have to put out a mouse trap and eventually I'll check it and there will be a dead mouse in it and I will have to pick it up and dispose of it and hopefully it won't have suffered but it's so, so horrible to think about.

Obviously this is catastrophizing, and if my biggest problem right now is only the size of a mouse my life must not be too bad. But I'm sitting here at work trying not to have a panic attack about driving home in the car with the mouse in it and distracting myself with Mefi and here we are.
posted by beandip at 1:04 PM on October 9 [4 favorites]


Oh yeah, not exactly wildlife but one time at the San Diego zoo I stumbled upon two tortoises doin' it. (Not safe for work if you're a tortoise. )

Also, in a mixup with my recent activity I came *this close* to posting this comment in the Sandra Boynton thread.
posted by bondcliff at 1:14 PM on October 9 [3 favorites]


I'm Australian, so most of mine involve spiders.

Huntsmans are generally considered to be harmless. Giant, furry, like to hangout on bedroom walls near the ceiling, but eat cockroaches and mosquitoes so most people tolerate them. They are also hard to catch, so ignoring them is easier. My sister named them all Alfred. However, when I was a teenager, one of them jumped (or possibly fell) onto my sister's head. I was the only one home, and as she couldn't see a spider crouched on top of her head, I grabbed a pancake flipper and went to battle. I carefully poked the spider, it moved, we both screamed. Repeat, many times. In the end, as it started to creep down her forehead ("I can see it's legs, I can see it's legs"), we both took a deep breathe and I less carefully got it under the spider and flung it down the hallway. And then we both ran away. I've never trusted the furry buggers since.

There was also the Huntsman crawling out of the drivers-side airvent in my car and running across the windscreen incident, but I try not to think about that too much, because it makes me drive badly. Also the shower incident, but I managed to escape from that with only a little drama.

I once worked in a building where sulfur crested cockatoos visited everyday because a russian physicist who worked there fed them raisins. And then he went on holiday. And they lined themselves along the edge of the courtyard veranda in a startling accurate depiction of "The Birds". For a week. It was terrifying. And then they ate the buttons of the keypad at the front door, and broke into his office and pooped on his chair.
posted by kjs4 at 5:24 PM on October 9 [12 favorites]


Every afternoon a hummingbird sips on a bush outside my room. Yesterday I left the window open and he flew right in! I gently shooed him out, but not before he left me seven panic feathers. Today he was feeding again. I'm glad we're still pals. I put his gift in a tiny vial for safekeeping!
posted by aw jeez at 1:01 AM on October 10 [4 favorites]


This made me remember a weird thing that happened with some deer, years ago, so I thought I'd record it for posterity.

A friend and I were walking through a deer park (Ashton Court in Bristol if anyone's interested) as the sun set.

What usually happens when you walk through the bit of the park with the deer actually in it, a very large enclosure with plenty of wooded bits and different sections, is that you avoid them, they avoid you, and everyone is happy.

But this night, we entered their enclosure just as the sun went down, and the light was low. We walked through the middle of it, as they were eating quietly in groups all around the edges of that particular field. Suddenly, they all moved together into a huge ring around us, galloping in a circle, all together. Dozens and dozens of them, all about 10-15 metres away from us, thundering around in this great circle.

We stood there, half scared and half mesmerised, it was beautiful but also fairly intimidating. They stopped doing it after a bit, it may have been only a few seconds, and went back to what they were doing.

We had no idea why they did it, and I still don't. It was a moment that felt like it was plucked from a Ghibli film, like it ought to be part of a story. It wasn't, but it was so beautiful, and I still like to think about it when I remember.
posted by greenish at 3:27 AM on October 10 [4 favorites]


Unwelcome wildlife experiences:

The eyeball leech and scrotal giant centipede incidents (original giant centipede picture link has rotted, it was one of these).

Welcome wildlife experiences:

Just before daybreak at Wilson's Promontory, eight hours into the loveliest LSD trip with three good friends, phosphorescent plankton in the wet low-tide sand turning our footprints glowing electric blue, and the birds' dawn chorus starts up and it's just the best jazz musicianship I've ever heard.
posted by flabdablet at 8:00 AM on October 10 [4 favorites]


they ate the buttons of the keypad at the front door, and broke into his office and pooped on his chair

Sulphur crested cockatoos are like that. They're smart, they're strong and they take no shit from anybody.
posted by flabdablet at 8:09 AM on October 10 [5 favorites]


I just had a red tailed hawk land on the roof of my tiny shed, scrabble around for a bit like some kind of velociraptor and then lean over the edge and call/cry directly into the open door and scare the everlasting daylights right out of me.

It was awesome. Holy crap they're so loud up close like that!
posted by loquacious at 12:07 PM on October 10 [5 favorites]


Back in '91 I spent three months in Alaska, I was spending some time with a friend just off the Glenallen Highway when we saw a mature moose about 30metres away, we were upwind so he didn't spot us, yep that was magical.

Less magical was that many bush Alaskan's didn't (don't?) chain their dogs up and dogs just love to chase bicyclists! I had one encounter which was terrifying - I knew I'd be coming back that way a month later and the second time I had a can of Counter Assault - magical stuff that and quite literally a life saver.

Another time, camped overly close to a stone circle near Zennor, Cornwall I had an ow come in at speed to investigate my face! That was very memorable.
posted by unearthed at 10:36 PM on October 10 [1 favorite]


When I had just moved into my current basement apartment in April I came home to find a drowned rat in my toilet. The lid had been closed all day while I was at work so I know it must have swam up the plumbing. This was alarming but I felt sorry for it more than anything and I was amused because I had just watched a video about this very urban legend being possible. Eventually this story became a running gag at work and I purchased a plush rat from Ikea to represent the deceased one. He’s now called my “rat son” and has a custom knitted eye patch.
posted by Young Kullervo at 12:45 PM on October 12 [2 favorites]


Last night a rat chased me while I was riding my bike. I only noticed when I shifted gears and saw it suddenly turn and run the opposite direction -- the sound of my squeaky derailleur was apparently a deterrent.

I didn't think rats chased people. I've had to reconsider my view of rats a little bit. Maybe it was rabid...
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:53 PM on October 12 [1 favorite]


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