This summer I spent a lot of time out in the country, in the Kisatchie Forest area of central Louisiana, where my family recently moved. Growing up in Baton Rouge, I never saw much wildlife except the occasional armadillo. So this summer was very exciting in that I encountered many new critters!
The first encounter was in our living room. While watching TV one night, my dad exclaimed, “You won’t believe what I’m seeing here!” And indeed, I wouldn’t have believed him if I hadn’t seen it with my own two eyes: a scorpion. The scorpion was tiny, only an inch long. But it still had my mom and I practically screaming. My dad saved the day by stomping it with his shoe, but the dead scorpion was intact enough for us to examine it. It had a dark stripe down its back, and we identified it as a striped bark scorpion. What we learned is that this is the only scorpion species in Louisiana–and fortunately it is not venomous. However, its sting is extremely painful and the pain lasts about 15 minutes. And guess what else? They like to hide in clothes and shoes. So now I never leave clothes lying on the floor, and I always shake my shoes out before wearing them.
My second wildlife encounter, believe it or not, was even scarier than the first. At the time, my family was tending to things back in the city, but I loved the country so much I stayed out there–just me and my chihuahua–for a week. I took my dog out in the pool area one evening, and suddenly noticed, right in front of me, a 4-foot long snake! I grabbed my chihuahua, who could easily have been this snake’s dinner, and rushed him into the house. When I got back outside with my camera, the snake was climbing up the palm tree. Later that night, I saw him descend from the palm tree and swim through the pool. It sent a chill down my spine! The snake expert at Wildlife and Fisheries quickly identified it as “just a harmless rat snake” after listening to a description of it over the phone. I don’t care if it’s harmless, I don’t want him re-visiting our pool!
The third encounter worth mentioning is a little bizarre. One Sunday, my mom and I drove down a country highway to take a shortcut to Lafayette. Turns out, it wasn’t exactly a shortcut…but it was quite scenic. While driving, a bobcat ran across the road right in front of our car (don’t worry, we didn’t hit it). Neither of us had ever seen a wild bobcat, and we were shocked. That night we took I-49 for the return trip–and yet another bobcat ran across the highway right in front of us. This is a really strange coincidence since bobcats are not commonly seen, especially around highways. We pondered the significance of these unlikely bobcat sightings, and wondered if it was some sort of sign… Who knows?
Some other wildlife I’ve seen this summer include: deer, wild turkey, raccoons, possums, countless bird species, frogs, and bugs galore. I’ve been hearing about problems with wild hogs and coyotes getting on people’s property and wreaking havoc, but thankfully I haven’t encountered these yet!