"The animals will come if we let them. Northern Manhattan alone has six large parks, and it is connected by five bridges to substantial woodlands in New Jersey, the Bronx and the forested suburbs beyond. In recent years, woodchucks have begun to make their way into Manhattan from the north. They are leaving the suburbs for the same reason rats began heading uptown long ago: overpopulation. As farming near the city has subsided, the woods have returned, and with the woods the wildlife. It’s natural dispersal, driving the woodland creatures to follow the landscape into the city.
Soon, thanks to a series of city- and state-sponsored greenway projects, the woods in the highlands that spill down to the Hudson will be interconnected, and a path will run along the river from the northernmost point of Manhattan down to the Battery — a great route for a bike ride or run, and a new, complete byway for the wild things coming down from the north. A fisher, a sort of weasel that preys on rodents, was seen in the Bronx last summer. That was unusual, but there could be more, moving farther south, as the paths into the city ease." NY Times
We have wildlife in my neighborhood as well. We have seen deer, coyotes, raccoons, possum (not so much now), and rabbits.
Last year, a neighbor, neglectful of the common good, let a shed on his property become the roof under which a colony of black rats thrived. In a remarkably short time they spread across the space dissected by back garden fences until, apparently believing themselves to be no worse than the grey squirrels so easily tolerated, they were wandering about in daylight in suburban Alexandria, Virginia. The inevitable reaction occurred, exterminators made money and the black rats are no more. This piece made me think of them. pl
I have a rat story. This is another piece of my autobiography. It concerns an aspect of the "domestic life" of the clandestine intelligence detachment I commanded in the Central Highlands of Vietnam in 1968. pl
“You killed him. You killed him, you heartless bastard!”
One of Whitey’s friends to his “murderer.”
They had a lot of fun together. Illustrative of the “family life” of the detachment is the saga of “Whitey the Rat.” In the detachment headquarters house in Song Be, there was a large room that served as a lounge. There was a bar in one end, and behind the bar an ancient refrigerator to keep beer cold. A television set sat on the bar. AFNVN TV came in clear with the TV antenna seated atop the team’s 100
The house was inhabited by a tribe of rats, large, healthy, furry brown rats. For some time the detachment experimented with methods of killing off these unwanted neighbors, but after a while it had become clear that this was a pointless and counterproductive effort for a number of reasons: The house was in the Vietnamese town. The town was overrun with rats. The more you killed, the more their relatives moved in.
Dead rats smell bad.
There was a neighbor cat who was a friend of the house. The men were afraid of poisoning the cat.
The rats were so well fed that they did not seem interested in the team’s possessions and they did not bite. Based on this analysis, the troops decided at a “family meeting” that they wanted to leave the rats alone. That was all right with Lang. He had no wish to participate in unnecessary killing.
Because of this decision, the team developed personal relations with a number of these rats. Among them was “Whitey.” This robust specimen of masculine rathood must have weighed at least two pounds. He had one white foreleg, and so the name. The rest of him was an attractive medium brown. He seemed to take particular pride in his magnificent white whiskers. Over some months he learned that he was accepted, indeed he seemed to believe that he was part of the household. He would walk around at night on the ceiling beams in Lang’s bedroom, peering down from time to time to see what was going on.
A game developed between Whitey and one of the men. This soldier sawed off the barrel of an M-1 Carbine, pried the bullets out of some ammunition, poured out most of the gunpowder and filled the cartridge cases with soap. Whitey had the nightly habit of tiptoeing along the wall next to Lang’s couch, sticking his whiskers out at the foot to check for clear running, and then making a dash across the space between the bar and the wall. His “playmate” would wait patiently until one of his “mates” said, “I see his nose.” Then, when the rat made his run the sniper would fire, plastering the wall with soap while Whitey “scooted” to safety to the accompaniment of cheers from all on hand. Lang would plug his ears with his fingers to block out the report of the Carbine while the “boys” played with the rat.
The inevitable happened one night. The soldier got the “lead” right and hit Whitey with the whole load of soap. Lang took his fingers out of his ears and joined them all where they stood in a semicircle looking down at the rat’s motionless body. It lay on its back, next to the wall, four feet in the air, plastered with pink soap. The other soldiers reacted with fury. “You hit him! What the hell is the matter with you! You killed Whitey! You weren’t supposed to hit him! You dumb bastard.” These were among the milder rebukes.
Lang kept quiet, but his opinion was not much different. They stood there grieving for a moment while the “killer” tried to tell them how sorry he was. These were the same men who had stood “in the breach” and done serious work in fighting a brigade of infantry to a standstill. After a few minutes, Whitey responded to being poked solicitously with a finger. His whiskers began to twitch, a leg quivered. Smiles broke out as he staggered to his feet and wandered off behind the bar. The next night the game was resumed, but he was never hit again." From "So Long To Learn."