I have the illusion that I own my house and yard in Santa Rosa. After all the title is in my name, I pay the mortgage…..it must be mine. But the boundaries of my so-called property are ignored by many denizens of my neighborhood. Now my neighbors are not intruding on my territory but the squirrels, birds, cats, and possums have a very different idea about who owns what. I do not live in the country; I live in the city but I don’t have to go to the savannahs of Africa to see real animal drama.
In the spring there are major turf wars going on in the avian world. The breeding birds in my yard are California towhees, scrub jays, morning doves, and this year a pair of black phoebes. These different species seem to tolerate each other but woe to a foreigner of the same species who tries to invade the yard. The resident pair mobilizes and attacks the intruder immediately letting him or her know in no uncertain terms this yard is OURS.
We have a corner lot so some of the natural boundaries seem to be defined by the road on two sides. However the trees along the back edges (which technically belong to my neighbors) appear to be included in most of our bird’s territory. What??? They are ignoring property lines???
The local felines also have their own idea about who is in charge of our yard. We had a short time without any cats and suddenly our yard was incorporated into a neighborhood cat’s territory. When we did get another cat, the intruder had the audacity to fight with our cat over our yard! I think that is when I first realized that neither I nor my opinion really matter to these animals.
In the fall the western gray squirrels mate and I have witnessed some major battles. I was able to track one squirrel with a severe bite out of his back for weeks. Once during a fight a squirrel fell out of the redwood tree. It looked like a barroom brawl over a girl. Which it was. Last October one of our male squirrels got flattened by a car, no doubt affecting the entire social structure of squirreldom.
I feel just like the animals in our yard treat property lines – totally irrelevant.
This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.