Archive for the ‘wildlife’ Category

In Defense Of The House Centipede

Monday, March 25th, 2013

I understand: You wouldn’t catch up and release the creature shown below, like I did yesterday. You’d probably run screaming from the room that you saw one of these scurrying quickly across, possibly to retrieve a shotgun with which to dispatch so seemingly an alien invader (click it for the bigger picture):

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That’s where knowledge might come in handy. I say “might” because even if you know these are actually beneficial critters to you, they do have a Creep Factor of 15 (based on their pairs of legs), which can cause even the most rational person to run into the arms of the the nearest Orkin Man, or to roll up a gasoline-soaked newspaper, setting it aflame after attaching it to a 10-foot pole and whacking it to death.

Nevertheless, since it is spring and a high time when you might come across one of these, I shall implore you to administer mercy and restraint upon encountering Scutigera coleoptrata. They aren’t commonly called “house centipedes” because they are from the Planet Crawlazzz. They are there in your domicile helping keep in check the populations of other arthropods that also scurry around your place… assuming you don’t bugbomb it so often that you’ve modified your DNA and started growing additional thumbs. Out of your ears.

It won’t help them me pointing out that they are venomous, delivering their dose through a pair of modified legs near their heads. Worse still: they are faaaaaaast. Capable of moving at upwards of moving 1.25 feet per second. That may not seem like much, but let’s comparatively and unscientifically extrapolate:

If a one-inch-long house centipede can run its length 15 times in a second, that’s basically the equivalent of of a 6-foot tall person running 90 feet per second (6 x 15). Need an animal kingdom point of reference? Cheetahs churn up 103 feet per second. Need more? Compare that with the fastest human on earth, Usain Bolt, who holds the world record time of 9.58 seconds in the the 100-meter race. That’s roughly nothing more than a lousy 34 feet per second.

Like I said: FAST.

But put the broom down and hang on for a second, trying to keep in mind the old adage:

The enemy of your enemy is your friend.

See, house centipedes don’t care about you. In fact they are generally considered harmless to humans. But even if one [frightened squeeee!] was to end up racing along your leg, odds are not only wouldn’t it sting you, but if it did its sting couldn’t penetrate your skin. At worst if felt, it would be akin to a bee sting. Instead, what house centipedes care about and hunt are the creepy things that you’re living with — and make no mistake: you are.

So remember. If you kill a house centipede, the life you save won’t be your own. It’ll be those of the spiders, roaches, bedbugs, termites, silverfish and ants all around you.

Butterfly To Be

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

On the heels of this morning’s raccoon encounter, check it. At first glance this thing I found on the walkway outside our house may look like a nicely formed 2″-long piece of poop, but upon closer examination it’s the chrysalis of a gonna-be butterfly. If you don’t believe me wait until near the end of this clip when it starts moving.

Let’s hope my soon to come efforts at googling “how the hell do I not kill a chrysalis” yield me the proper information so that I can get this cocoon situated safely and it can enjoy a righteous debut at a date to be determined.

UPDATE (1:42 p.m.): After going to the trouble of finding my wife’s old hot glue gun and using it to get a dab of the sticky stuff that I then let sufficiently air cool before re-suspending the pupa from a stick inside the old treefrogquarium. I googled around some more and found out it’s more than likely a moth cocoon of a species that develops on the ground or partially covered, rather than hanging upside down. So I freed the thing from its perch and reinstalled it in a pot o’ dirt.

Bandit! Twelve O’Clock High!!

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

So many urbanites are taken by surprise when they find our denatured environment is actually full of furry or feathered fauna beyond your average fox squirrel or rock pigeon. I’m a bit more accustomed to (and appreciative of) wildlife encounters, and in the case of the critter in our backyard this morning, the shock was all his (or hers).

And it was all my fault, starting when I failed to visually clear the backyard prior to letting Ranger out for her morning pee. Even when she bolted through the door my first thought was “squirrel!”

Times ten. In the form of a very healthy raccoon that in a panic at the sudden addition of our dog flung itself at the south side seven-foot-tall fence that it thankfully managed to successfully scale. I say “thankfully” because if there’d been a slip and a fall back the ground from that vertical climb, it might have fallen directly upon Ranger who stood beneath it during the last bit of its ascent. Woe be it to the dog that tangles with an angry raccoon, so say I, because nothing good shall come of it.

So say I instead: whew to the raccoon’s emergency evacuation skills.

Once atop the fence the raccoon wasted little time leaping across to the nearest tree branch in the neighbor’s yard, but misjudged the landing and instead thumped hard to the ground. Fearing an injury from the drop I was relieved to see it quickly recover and scramble high up into the treetop, where it then was forced to recover from its adrenaline rush while enduring me pointing my flashing camera at it through the branches from various vantage points until I was satisfied I’d gotten a suitable shot of the magnificent mammal in the early morning light:

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Finally leaving it alone to move the trash cans to the street for today’s pick-up, I observed it scramble down the tree apparently unhindered by anything beyond any psychological wounds.

Again I say: whew.

Baby Rattler

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

I’ve heard seen my share of terrestrial wildlife while mountain biking in the Verdugos — lizards, toads, bobcats, coyotes, deer, a coast horned lizard, garter snakes. On this pre-gluttony Thanksgiving Day ride I added a baby rattlesnake to the list. Found, as seen below in the center of the frame, sunning itself on the asphalt section of the trail just below Tongva Peak (click it for the bigger picture):

It started moving off trail as soon as I stopped to admire it. Not having time to get my phone camera out, I simply pointed the handlebar-mounted GoPro cam at it to capture it before it disappeared in the scrub.

Here’s the timelapse vid of the bottom-to-top-to-bottom ride (my standard 5.75-mile route going up the Beaudry North and Verdugo motorways about 2,200 feet to Tongva Peak and then back down via the Verdugo and Beaudry South motorways):