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09

 Wildlife on the Ichetucknee

As usual, I take my coffee to sit beside the Ichetucknee early in the morning. I am alone with the clear water, fish, and whatever wildlife decides to show itself. I sit quietly sipping, watching for movement, waiting.

June 27 I turned my head upstream. “What are you doing here?” I ask a small raccoon who seems to be tiptoeing toward me on its long, thin legs. It's ambling along innocently before its eyes meet mine. It rises on hind legs, sniffs, when it notices me. Not so abruptly, as something seems not quite right with this little fellow, it turns and rather limps into the sparse woods along the river. The raccoon is weak, maybe sick. Of course we are trained to think any time a raccoon acts unusually, like being out in the morning, or walks like a drunk animal, maybe it has rabies. I wonder. I also wonder what other infirmities wild animals may have which are not dangerous to us. This little creature did nothing to threaten me. No doctor comes to see what's wrong.

Sitting alone again, I hear a rustle in the deeper woods downstream. Like a group of boys, headed on an adventure come three dogs. I notice a collar on at least one of these meaty animals. One is a beefy bulldog type, another a curly haired herder, and the last a black lab type. The lead dog sees me, turns and walks back into the woods, but the black labish one gallops away. Five minutes later I notice two of them swimming across the Ichetucknee.

Back at the house, sitting immobile on the side deck, I watch each tiny striped kitten try to sneak by me and its menacing hissing aunt, Fluffy. The tiny little blue eyes barely see over the steps as each one cautiously creeps up the stairs. Can it conquer the fear of both the big monster in the chair and the hissing feline relative? Each one races down the stairs to the landing, sits, then looks again. Eventually hunger overcomes fear of capture or reprimand, as it squeezes between its gluttonous grandma, aunts, and uncle at the feeding plate. Cinnamese is the kindness, or at least the least aggressive towards the little ones. Even Princess, the mama, pays absolutely no attention to her own little ones, nor does Grandma. Princess is painfully thin, selfish for her own food, hisses even at the hand that feeds her. Feral cats are selfish, demonstrating that selfishness may be necessary for survival.

I notice a hawk sitting on the leafless cypress limb by the river more often than ever. I do see it careen through the limbs onto the maples closer to the house. Feral kittens have reason to be cautious and be fearful. After all, I plan to trap them after I make them trust me.

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