A 13-week-old dog in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C. recently died from a disease transmitted by rodent urine. Residents have long been frustrated by the rodent problem, but this has tipped the scales for Foggy Bottom Association President Marina Streznewski. The dog was her pet, and now the rat problem is personal. The association has been working to get the rat problem under control for a while, but now she is reaching out to other local groups with proposals they work together. She’s also pushing for new compactor trash cans that block rodents from getting into the garbage. Rats can easily climb the current typical trash can models and access waste just lying at the top. Efforts are being made to put a grant program into place for businesses so they can more easily purchase the new trash cans. But, the rodent problem won’t be solved by new trash cans alone. Bushes must be cleared, rat burrows must be treated, and neighborhoods must work together if they hope to get the rodent infestation under control.
The closest I’d ever been to a coyote was when some friends and I were hiking and camping in the mountains of Northern Utah. We’d stopped for a break while hiking, when my friend pointed to a cluster of trees about 2 football fields away from us. An animal bounded out of the cover, moving fairly quickly. At first, we all assumed it was a deer, because it was about the height of a deer, a brown/tan color, and moved easily through the underbrush. Then, I noticed the bushy tail and the fact that it wasn’t “bounding” so much as “loping quickly.” We concluded it must be a coyote and finished our hike, since it didn’t get anywhere near us.
But, then, a few years later, I took up running. I especially liked running early in the morning, just as the stars start to fade and the day begins and everyone is still sleeping. It’s a time of day that feels secret, unsullied by life’s daily worries. Then, I turned a corner and came face to face with it. A coyote in my neighborhood. Well, when I say face to face, I really mean it was about four houses away. Coyotes can run fast, up to forty miles an hour, and I knew I had no chance of outrunning it if it decided to charge.
There was a timeless, breathless moment as I stared at the coyote in the neighborhood, wondering if I was about to be seriously hurt or maimed, and what I could possibly do to stop it. They say you’re not ever supposed to surprise a wild animal, as if the world was populated by idiots who enjoy sneaking up on natural predatory creatures and yell “Boo!” If I’d known there was a coyote in the neighborhood, you can bet I wouldn’t have been running alone at that time of day, hoping to surprise it.
That coyote just looked at me and finally simply turned and walked off in the opposite direction, without another glance at me. I made it safely home and immediately texted the Home Owner’s Association president to let her know we had a coyote in the neighborhood. And, I think I’ll take up swimming.