I’ve been remembering Jeremiah lately. It was the end of November last year when he disappeared. He’d shown up in our pond that spring. After having calculated ways to kill him, I should have been glad he was gone; but I’ve missed him a little.

Jeremiah was a bullfrog.

He was a big, fat, softball-sized bullfrog. His ancestors were introduced to the Pacific Northwest during the great depression. People thought the bullfrog’s meaty legs could feed the hungry. Apparently, the idea never really caught on.

He wasn’t welcome in our yard. Our tiny native frogs, and the birds who bathe in the pond and the waterfall, are tasty morsels to a fat bullfrog.

Jeremiah probably came to us from Kellogg Creek, less than half a mile away. If I took him down to the creek, I’d be postponing the inevitable. He or his friends are bound to return.

Over the summer, Jeremiah became comfortable with our family. One day, as my daughter Laura and I sat on the bench watching the fish, he swam across the pond and hung out in the water watching us. He wore a friendly smile and seemed genuinely curious.


A true naturalist would probably kill Jeremiah. I wrestled with the idea. Killing him would be easier if our friend Terence hadn’t named him. Who wants to kill a creature with a real name?

Bullfrogs aren’t hard to catch. Or so I’ve heard. I could catch him, put him in a sack, and drop a rock on him. I could stab him while he’s in the sack. Both options are pretty gruesome. I needed something a little less messy, like luring him into the house and smothering him with a pillow.

My daughter Laura wanted him to live. My friend Lonnie wanted him to live. I couldn’t stomach the alternative.

Jeremiah stayed.

Fall came and cooler weather. The fish went to the bottom of the pond to wait out winter. Still, Jeremiah hung around. I’d step outside and see him sitting on the rocks. After a while he stopped jumping off when I walked by his favorite spot. He just quietly slipped into the pond and went right back to his place after I passed. He wasn’t afraid of me.

I saw the great blue heron several times that fall, stalking the perimeter of the pond, looking for fish, or frogs. One day I saw the heron paying particular attention to Jeremiah’s favorite rock. Ironically, I was kind of worried.

I miss Jeremiah’s great big smile. He was a good friend of mine.





Seeing Wild


I see wildlife. Everywhere

Once I’ve seen it, I can’t wait to tell someone else about it.

Rustling under the rhododendron intrigues me. Will it be a small bird, the Towhee perhaps, scratching around in the dry leaves? A mouse? I’m not satisfied until I’ve learned the answer and watched the creature for a while.

When I’m driving, my eyes are drawn to the blue heron flying overhead. Years ago I realized I was likely to die flying down the freeway with my eyes glued to the sky and a flock of geese. Now, I practice forcing my eyes back to the road.

Something in me is constantly searching for a subtle movement or slight sound that means another species is near. I’ve seen a terrified possum in the middle of a crowd leaving the symphony downtown. I doubt he actually sat in the audience soaking up Mozart; but he somehow ended up dodging the feet of the exiting crowd.

Here in the suburbs, I saw a rare immature eagle with a four-foot wing span sweep to the ground, snatch a crow, take it to the roof of a nearby house, and proceed to make a meal of the poor thing. This happened in broad daylight with a half-dozen children waiting for the school bus and four adults keeping them company. True, the eagle was twenty feet behind them; but not one other person had sensed the drama.

Meanwhile, crow feathers were flying and I was jumping up and down trying to get the crowd to see the amazing eagle. A couple of mothers eventually turned around, saw what was happening, and looked at me with shock and disgust.

We live only fifteen minutes from downtown Portland. I used to think we were insulated from the thrill of truly wild creatures; but wild things are all around us, precious, and knowable. They enrich our lives with their presence.

We just need to pay attention.

We’ve made our half-acre yard as hospitable to wildlife as possible. We have bird feeders and baths. We built a pond with a gentle waterfall. The next-door neighbors say they feel closer to nature when they visit. If our back yard isn’t satisfying enough, I have only to walk the neighborhood or the nearby wildlife refuge.

I plan to share my urban wildlife adventures through this blog. Some of my family will have their own tales to tell. I hope others will share their knowledge and their stories. I can’t wait to hear them all.

Maybe we can inspire respect for the ordinary crow, the squirrel, the songbirds, the deer, and the coyote. Maybe we can cultivate awareness of the diversity of life right outside our doors.

Maybe we can learn from each other.