BRANDON: Delta’s abundant wildlife belies ag critics’ concerns

It’s all I can do to keep from laughing when I read about or see on TV the reports on how agriculture and pesticides are having deleterious effects on wildlife.

Geez, it’s like The Wild Kingdom around our place.

Right here in town, on our basic neighborhood street, I can go out the door almost any day of the year and see doves sitting on the telephone cable or pecking about in the yard. They’re particularly plentiful in the spring and summer (and their cooing calls have got to be among the most monotonous in birddom).

When I’m out walking before daylight, I hear owls hooting and screeching, and occasionally I’ll catch a glimpse of one swooping about. It’s not unusual to see a hawk sitting on the telephone cable, keeping an eye out for a mouse or other critter to pounce on.

Armadillos (which some wag labeled “possum on the half-shell”) are constantly rooting around in the flower beds, looking for bugs. Once upon a time, they were a Southwest states phenomenon; it was said they’d never be a problem in the eastern states because the Mississippi River would be a barrier. Apparently the armadillos didn’t know that.

A couple of Sundays ago, I glanced out the window near the front door and, lo and behold, there was a fat possum helping itself to the leftover food in the worthless cat’s bowl (the cat sat perched on a flowerbox nearby, disinterestedly watching the oversized rat eat her food). I’ve seen possums eating the cat food at night, but that was the first time one had been brazen enough to do it in daytime.

My possum experience was not nearly so harrowing as that of my across-the-street neighbor who, having heard scratching sounds in the attic, discovered a mamma possum and five babies making themselves at home under one of the eaves. Where does one look in the Yellow Pages for possum removers?

It’s not that unusual to see a raccoon skulking about, and the cute little chipmunks (once a Western states phenomenon) dig holes for their burrows that I’m always stepping in while mowing the yard. Squirrels have made a restaurant of the backyard pine trees. They’ll take a green pine cone and twirl it around like an ear of corn, finally dropping the bare core to the ground, where I have to rake ’em before mowing. Why they’d want to eat green, creosotey pine cones is beyond me.

Although I’ve not seen deer in our town, when I was visiting our daughter at Starkville, Miss., a while back, I was surprised on a pre-dawn walk to see three does munching away in a nearby yard. They paid me absolutely no heed. Deer have become so numerous they are a nuisance in many towns, and can overnight wipe out hostas, hydrangeas, and other plants and shrubs — Hey, Bambi, check out this all-you-can-eat buffet!

This abundance of wildlife is only multiplied in the ample habitat that exists in Delta fields, forests, and farms — which is why it’s such a great hunting area.

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