Walking in the Neighborhood


Walking in Southern Gables provides a rich and varied tapestry of experiences for all kinds of creatures – not just us. Our neighbor Justina Walls reports on the local wildlife scene. 


Walking in the Neighborhood – Changing Nature

Our recent daily walks in the neighborhood have included welcoming new neighbors to the neighborhood. We’ve also met more people and dogs that live near us. We’ve had the wonderful experience of smelling the fragrant lilacs and now are sniffing the peonies as they hang their heavy, fragrant blossoms. Today we took in the glorious aroma of roses! We’re grateful to all our neighbors who plant or maintain these fragrant beauties in the neighborhood.

Another joy of walking each day is that we experience the changing seasons more closely as well as the changing cycles of nature. It seems more beautiful than ever this spring/summer, and our recent snows and rains and warming temperatures are surely contributing to that. We’ve noticed distinct changes in the cycle of wildlife this year as well.

We have learned a lot from our Urban Wildlife person, Jack Murphy of Urban Wildlife Rescue, Inc. His nonprofit organization saves 10 to 12 thousand lives a year, using their special “Humane Solutions to Wildlife Problems.” They use various repellants, exclusion and eviction techniques. Over the years, he’s installed a chimney cap to ensure that the creatures don’t fall or build a home in our chimney. He has walked our property and installed areas of vertical fencing to ensure that the creatures don’t start building nests or go to die under the foundation of our house. He installed a one-way gate and taught us how to monitor it one year when mama skunk and her 4 babies moved in far back under the low built deck.

Photo from discoverwildlife.com

When the coyotes moved into the neighborhood a few years back, we called Jack and asked what had changed. He shared that nature works in cycles. We’ve heard some people say that it’s in 7-year cycles. While that doesn’t always seem to hold true, there are certainly discernable cycles. Jack taught us that when we have the red foxes (which we had when we moved into the neighborhood in 2002), we may also have raccoons and skunks. However, we will not have rabbits. When the coyotes move in, the red foxes, raccoons and skunks move out, as coyotes eat them all. Oddly (or so it seemed to us) the rabbits proliferate! He explained that foxes eat the rabbits, and both can “turn on a dime.” Coyotes, however, generally cannot catch rabbits as coyotes don’t turn fast enough. In general, if a coyote catches a rabbit, it’s because the rabbit was young & inexperienced, old, or injured.

Have you noticed this year that the red foxes have returned? Have you also noticed that the coyotes and rabbits (for the most part) are gone? It’s the cycle of nature.

Photo from wisc.edu

You might wonder about squirrels. Jack taught us that if you don’t want squirrels or other creatures in the yard, the effective treatment is to remove water, food, and nesting sources. The worst thing to do is to kill them, or trap and relocate them. Nature “reads” that as “there’s room for more squirrels!” If you kill or relocate them, in a few years you will have MANY more squirrels. Additionally, while relocating them may sound compassionate, it almost ensures that they will be dead within a couple of weeks. They don’t know the area, so don’t know where safe water, food and nesting areas exist. They are easy prey for predators, or they simply starve to death.

This principle applies to all wildlife. For that reason, it’s best to not leave bowls of food outside for your dog or cat. The food draws wildlife, so your dog or cat doesn’t benefit anyway. As Cat Care Society advises, keep cats indoors, not only for their safety and longevity, but for the lives of the songbirds. Cats are a major reason for the decimation of songbirds. Another is pesticides.

This principle seems to apply to all life, doesn’t it? When we were kids, my sisters and I usually had big pieces of cake for a snack when we got home from school. My generous mother served the same to all the kids who came to play in our backyard. (Yes, she baked a lot for our “sweet tooth” dad!) Other kids in the neighborhood got no snacks at home, or maybe a piece of fruit. Looking back, it’s no wonder that our backyard was so popular! Same principle! Cake and desserts? The kids will come. Food, water, nesting – the wildlife will come!


Justina Walls holds a BS in Criminal Justice from The University of Texas at Arlington and a JD from The University of Denver. Her early career was in Criminal Justice and she later moved to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) where she held various positions in Equal Opportunity, Native American Programs and Single and Multifamily Housing including management. She has held a license as a Spiritual Practitioner since 1994 and Certificates in Plant Based Nutrition from eCornell University and Forks Over Knives Plant Based Cooking from The Rouxbe School of Cooking. She has taught healthy plant-based cooking and nutrition for over 30 years. She lives and travels with her husband Glenn McCarthy.

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