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By Mark Loper

We’ve all heard about that Montana family, eating at their picnic table, and being visited by a hungry grizzly bear.

Needless to say, the grizzly was not looking to nosh mom’s potato salad.

But we don’t live in Big Sky Country, so we have nothing to worry about, right?

Well, maybe not from Ursus arctos horribilis, but we have our own predators to cause us worry.

For instance, there’s the puma concolor, also known as the mountain lion.

But, you ask, what does one do if one encounters a puma concolor?

Well, experts agree you don’t run, scream or hide behind your political party.

They tell us we should get on our hands and knees, smile demurely, and without seeming obsequious, offer the puma a saucer of milk.     

And stroke the big cat on its thick, furry throat until it purrs . . . and you’ll be fine.

So, nothing to worry about with the puma concolor, but what if you run into the deadly Crotalianae?

And why does just hearing Crotalianae strike fear into the heart of Latin-speaking hikers?

Because Crotalianae is more commonly known as the rattlesnake!

This reptile, growing up to 100 feet in length, injects deadly venom into its victims, causing them to writhe in pain, cramp badly, and, most unfortunately, scream out lyrics from Mamma Mia!

Your best defense, according to herpetologists, is to slowly approach the reptile and say, “Nice snake. And nice rattle you have there; it’s like cool little maracas.”

Then, gently, stroke the endless throat of your new friend . . . and you’ll be fine.

And I feel obligated to share an experience I’ve recently had with denizens of the wild.

I was awakened several mornings in a row at exactly 6:02 by a loud, raucous cawing, a horrible sound like I’ve never heard before.

(Well, OK, for just a brief moment, I thought it might be my mother screeching at me to get up for school, but then I remembered . . . she’s dead.)

I ran outside with a baseball bat (which was ridiculous, since I had led my softball team in strikeouts) and there, perched imperiously atop a nearby eucalyptus tree, were three huge crows! 

And they were laughing at me!

But what could I do against this persistent and calamitous assault?

Because, according to several ornithologists, crows (or corvus) are intelligent birds with higher IQs than professional football players.

So, yelling, “Shoo, crow!” or putting up a scarecrow was only going to get me ridiculed on their Facebook page.

But experts agree that when surrounded by belligerent crows, you should politely address them as Mr. or Ms. Crow, inquire about their day, and stroke their feathery throats . . . and you’ll be fine.

And I’d suggest not deviating from these tips . . . especially since I’ve discovered a group of crows is called a MURDER!

Mark Loper has been a San Juan Capistrano resident for more than 30 years and has written for several kinds of media, including The Capistrano Dispatch. His writing has been scorned and rejected countless times, but, while hanging onto a wisp of self-esteem, he’s managed to have the occasional scribbling published in book form, in columns, online, on TV and as advertising. He has yet to tweet.

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