Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Native Month: Wild Wild Life

Animals like this Brush Rabbit are only found
on the West Coast. Represent! 
One night, as The Militant took out the trash at his secret compound he saw it...just...staring at him.

The Militant, only rarely having seen it at his compound, simply blurted to the grey procyon:

"Dude, you're a raccoon!"

It just kind of stood there, with a "WTF?" look on its face, then deflty turned away.

Today on The Militant Angeleno's Native Week,after indroducing to you the native people and their villages, The Militant will talk about some the native animal life in the Los Angeles area.

Interestingly, despite heavy urbanization and development, most of the native animal species of this region are still around and can easily be seen, climbing on trees, scurrying on the grass, flying in the skies, prowling through the hillsides, and wading on the local waters. The Militant notes that in the past 230 years, the inhabitants of Los Angeles have actually done a better job preserving its native animals than its native people.

Although it is quite obvious that decades of developing the human environment have greatly compromised the habitats of these animals, either pushing them farther away or unintentionally pulling them closer.

Now, there are many animal species that are native to our area, and the Militant could even start another blog to talk about them all (he won't), but this list is a good primer. Birds are too numerous, but fortunately, public art comes to the rescue in this case. So the Militant will just limit the scope to land mammals you may or may not see on a daily basis.

Coyotes are probably the most popular animal of legend in the Southwestern U.S. A natural predator, they are naturally feared. But in actuality, most of the time, they actually fear humans, especially since development and sprawl have invaded their habitat. And with that, interactions between coyotes and humans and their domesticated animals have increased. Recent unfortunate human and pet encounters with coyotes have caused Orange County's Laguna Woods to make it legal to shoot them, but like The Red Hot Chili Peppers once said, True Men Don't Kill Coyotes.

The Mule Deer can be seen in hillsides. Straight up vegetarians, they have been a problem for some folks as these critters prey on garden plants. People can deer-proof their gardens via fencing or establishing plants and shrubs that deer aren't fawn'd fond of eating.

Mountain Lions, or more specifically, the North American Cougar (the Militant will refrain from making predictable older single women jokes, at least for now). But like the other kinds of cougars, the wildlife version is commonly feared (Okay, can't resist that one). Though there have been notable incients of mountain lion attacks, the animal is also normally afraid of humans, though will attack when provoked. Still, humans cause far more harm to mountain lions than the opposite. Just days ago, a mountain lion was struck by a car while crossing the 405 in the Carmageddon Pass.

Opossums - You see these critters all over the city, especially in backyards, making nasty hissing sounds (usually when they're afraid). People fear them because they are thought to carry rabies, but dem 'possums actually have a high level of immunity against rabies. The only marsupials found in North America, they're also omnivores that eat plants, berries, snails, snakes, rodents and even roadkill. Unfortunately, due to their slow velocity they themselves frequently become roadkill. Still they like to be left alone and it's best to keep your trash bins secure from them.

Rabbits were so numerous in the Southland, that an entire valley in southeastern Ventura County was named after them. As The Militant mentioned on Monday, the Tongva hunted rabbits for dinner. Two native species are common in the region: The Desert Cottontail, living in drier environs, and the smaller Brush Rabbit, which inhabits our local chapparal vegetation.

Raccoons, like opossums, are onivorous continental scavengers that fancy our trash cans. There have been incidents of them little masked marauders ravaging our local neighborhoods. Same as opossums, best to leave them alone and keep your trash bins secure from them. Unlike opossums, these dudes have attitude. Not just in The Militant's aforementioned encounter, but the fact that they can bite you and even have the ability to turn doorknobs.

Skunks are very common in hillside communities, especially noted for their stank, which can be smelled several freeway exits away. The Militant could easily recall the time he dropped on a Los Feliz-based operative off home one early morning and witnessed a Striped Skunk take a morning jog down the sidewalk on Hollywood Blvd. The Western Spotted Skunk is another native species that's common in these here parts. If you see one, try not to startle them. And if you get sprayed, run down to the store and get thee some baking soda and hydrogen peroxide to neutralize the stank and wash it off.

Squirrels are common in our backyards and parks, but the most visible one, the Eastern Fox Squirrel is not native. It was introduced by Civil and Spanish American war veterans around 1904 who stayed at the Sawtelle Veteran's Home. They brought them in as pets from Tennessee and soon got introduced to the wild. The native squirrels though are the California Ground Squirrel and the Western Grey Squirrel (mostly found in the foothill and mountain areas)

Despite being a large City, Los Angeles has its own animal kingdom. Again, they were here before we were so if ever there were another reason for discouraging suburban sprawl (other than traffic, long commutes, air pollution, obesity, real boring culture and Claim Jumpers), it would be to lay off their gang turf. Because these four-legged OGs don't mess around.


Walt said...

While the Opossum (Didelphimorphia) may be well-established in our neighborhoods (including my backyard) they are in fact, interlopers to region just like the rest of us.

Opossums were introduced to Southern California by way of Missouri in 1876 by an Arkansas settler named William Rubottom. Mr. Rubottom founded the now long-gone town of Spadra located near Cal Poly Pomona, and he missed the flavor of fresh Opossum meat. So much so that he had a pair sent to him. The rest is history.

What I don't get is, if we can have this non-native species that should only exist east of the Mississippi, why can't we have Fireflies as well?

Militant Angeleno said...

Walt: Thanks for the info. Will look into that. All of the Militant's sources claim it's indigenous.

Fireflies, though, only live in warm, humid tropical climates (The Militant has seen them in his parents' unspecified native country), which is why they can't exist here.

LA MapNerd said...

We had fireflies when I was a youngster in Dayton, Ohio. It's certainly warm and humid there (in the summer, anyway!) but it's not very tropical. :-)