Cambrian: Slice of Life

Friendly frogs and the realities of Cambria’s food chain

The Berwick Bunny made friends with other wildlife, such as this young buck.
The Berwick Bunny made friends with other wildlife, such as this young buck.

We live in a wildlife habitat area, but we play nicely with each other. We’re respectful, if nosy. We watch and photograph our critters from a discrete distance from inside our home or vehicle.

We love seeing our fauna neighbors, large and small.

Usually.

However, on a recent Santa Maria jaunt, we inadvertently brought some wildlife with us: A small, green tree frog had hidden in the van door’s rain-runoff channel.

Frog wanted to go on a ride-along.

His hidey-hole seemed sheltered, shaded and fairly secure, so I left him alone. I was extra gentle when I opened and closed the door. We wanted to get Frog back home to Cambria.

But our tiny amphibian had other ideas and managed to sneak out of his safe haven. As I drove northward at 65 mph on Highway 101, I was beyond startled when Frog suddenly dropped onto my left hand.

I managed to keep the van in the same lane, somehow, but you could have heard my shriek in Tulsa.

Frog leapt to the dashboard and slithered back and forth along the windshield’s edge, before heading over toward Husband Richard.

Eventually, our hitchhiker became such an unconfinable distraction that we had no choice: I took an off-ramp, found a vacant dirt lot and reluctantly nudged Frog out into his new domain.

I felt so guilty. Would he survive? He was so small, if he turned into road kill, nobody would even notice.

I tried not to think about it. Instead, I focused on recent interactions Cambrians have had with other species.

Especially rabbits.

We haven’t seen bunnies on our patch of Lodge Hill (other than on a beautiful, family-heirloom plate sent to me as a sweet surprise by my newly discovered cousin). But, after hearing some recent rabbit tales, I’m convinced lots of rabbits are here, somewhere.

For instance, Carole Adams was at the south entry to the Piedras Blancas Boucher Trail in early June when she was astonished by an unlikely interaction.

“I noticed a brush rabbit chasing a gopher snake, really fast,” for quite a long time, probably defending a nest, she said, concluding that “I didn’t know rabbits were so spunky!”

Carole’s photo series of the incident is entitled “Don’t Mess with Bun-Bun.”

Susan Alexander Liepman feels her Cambria rabbit tale exemplifies sentiments exhibited in “The Peaceable Kingdom” painting by Quaker artist Edward Hicks. Susan said the notable artwork “shows all of the world’s creatures coming together to live in peace.”

In spring 2014, a bunny appeared mysteriously in Susan’s Lodge Hill neighborhood. Some people thought the bunny had probably been someone’s pet.

Susan said that, although the rabbit initially was a loner, “the bunny gradually became a minister of goodwill, mesmerizing all.” During the next three years, the distinctively colored rabbit “seemed to manifest … the power of peace in the world.”

Eventually, the Berwick Bunny (BB) befriended area residents, passersby, dog walkers ... and deer. Susan said BB sought out the deer. A doe would groom the bunny’s ears, or rub noses with BB, or graze side-by-side with the rabbit. At least once, “a spotted fawn curled up with the bunny for warmth.”

BB became the neighborhood mascot. People set out bunny chow and water, and a few provided treats the rabbit would nibble out of hand. Susan said, “His gentle presence was silent but deeply felt.”

June Albert recalled when about a dozen bucks and does “were walking up the incline, and along came the rabbit hopping in the midst of them. He seemed to be a part of the group and accepted by the deer.”

But Mother Nature isn’t always kind. Shortly before Easter, in a rabbit-versus-fox battle, Berwick Bunny lost.

His fans are still grieving.

Sometimes, though, Mother Nature’s critters get revenge.

The night after our Santa Maria trip, I saw unexpected motion in our front entryway.

Frog motion.

Whaaaaat? Had Frog made it back home to seek amphibian revenge? No, this tree frog was smaller and much more active.

After a frenzied 15-minute chase through the house, I carefully captured Frog II between a glass and a postcard and rushed him back outside.

I’d had enough froggy surprises for one day, thank you. I didn’t need to share my pillow with another one.

Yes, we love our wildlife. But ...

Note: My frog-jump incident might not have ended as well as it did. Check this out: http://bit.ly/2tfzGZL.

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