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A humorous look at the antics—or devious plotting—of South Orange County’s wildlife

Mark Loper
Mark Loper

By Mark Loper

We need to be careful, because we are surrounded by life forms that want to do us harm. Well, actually these life forms are animals, birds and fish. (I don’t want you thinking other life forms—like Martians, Klingons or reality stars).

I issue this warning because a recent television series, “Zoo,” may be a harbinger of what will befall us. The show purports that the animal kingdom has finally had enough and, instead of all moving to South Dakota, they turn on the human race. And it’s not just the obvious lions and bears, but also the next door neighbor’s Lhasa Apso.

It’s all fiction, of course, except for this unsettling fact: I’ve seen examples of this very kind of animal rebellion recently in South Orange County. It’s all been pretty passive so far, no torn jugulars or dismemberment, but only because they don’t have their act together … yet.

We have a bird feeder in our backyard that gets all kinds of birds feeding, drinking and playing water pong. Two weeks ago, late at night, I turn on the outside lights for no obvious reason and lo and behold, the bird feeder is being ransacked by three large rats! They never even flinched, but looked at me, cheeks bulging, as if to say, “Hit the lights, pal, you’re hurting our eyes.”

The rat house came down the next day, but since then, we’ve seen these same three rats (I know they’re the same rats because of their tattoos) in the yard and they’ve become very brazen. They don’t run when I shout at them, they smirk. So yes, I’ve placed traps but have yet to find success. (There was a Post-it left by one trap that simply read, “Nice try. We have rabies.”)

My wife no longer acknowledges we have a backyard.

Last week (early morning) I pick up the newspaper in the driveway, look up, and staring at me is a coyote. I backed up slowly saying, “nice coyote, nice coyote” and he never moved. He just stared, as if wondering if I’d be worth the trouble. I just stared back, wondering if I could beat a coyote with the LA Times.

Three days ago I was (stealthily) checking traps in the backyard and looking over my shoulder when suddenly a shadow swooped over my path and I fell to the ground. Flying across the yard was a bird, a plane, no, it was Super … well, of course it wasn’t. The wing span of this creature was so enormous that, at first, I thought it was a California condor. But then I realized with the condor being near extinction, this wasn’t likely. I quickly identified it as a red-tailed hawk looking to elevate its game from mice to middle-aged men. And just as quickly I ran inside.

So as I write this, with all doors and windows securely locked, I wonder if this insurrection is the start of something sinister. Is this now life imitating art? Is this Animal Farm on steroids? I read the paper (when I’m not threatening coyotes with it) and see where sharks are biting people on both coasts with choreographed regularity. First North Carolina, then Huntington Beach. Then back to North Carolina. A little bump here, a nibble there, maybe a chomp.

And what about these cute raccoons and their ominous, black masks? Shouldn’t we be suspicious of anyone wearing a black mask? (Well, except for the Lone Ranger.) Are these raccoons hiding something or is this far bigger than just a disguise?

Of course, I’m not suggesting we overreact and do anything rash, but these Gary Larson-like anomalies should be recognized and definitely addressed.

And I would certainly like to help.

Except I’ll be in South Dakota.

Mark Loper has been a San Juan Capistrano resident for over 30 years and has written for several kinds of media. 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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