A couple of things have changed since the last time I was at the beach a few months ago. The endangered beach mice who used to leave thousands of footprints under the house every night seem to have disappeared, and the healthy veggie trimmings I toss over the rail wither instead of disappearing overnight. The seagulls who gathered at the neighbor’s house every morning and evening have stopped congregating there, and one lone rodent (Mouse? Rat?) has bedded down in the tool shed under the house.
The animals around here seem to have retreated from humans as much as possible. What’s up? Nobody’s answering, but I managed to check in with a seagull this evening as I was sitting on the porch. Usually, they dive-bomb anyone who might have a cracker crumb in their pocket. But this guy refused to settle on a railing anywhere near me. He glided close enough to catch my eye, then flew to a distant post and eyed me sideways.
“What’s the deal?” I asked. I have to admit that I’m not on-board when it comes to feeding seagulls, because most people feed them crackers or bread or other junk food that might fill their bellies but won’t give them the nutrients they need. It also makes them dependent on humans in a way that isn’t healthy for anyone. But the fact that they wouldn’t even come close seemed different enough to be alarming. “Why aren’t y’all begging for a handout as usual?”
“Somebody’s putting out poison,” he answered. “The mice are mostly gone, and the foxes and coyotes are dying too. The bobcats are long gone. Nobody’s poisoning the seagulls yet, but we figure it’ll happen soon. We have to keep to ourselves to stay safe.”
I apologized on behalf of humankind, but I couldn’t disagree with his assessment. “You should stay away from humans. They’re not to be trusted.”
“We’re figuring that out,” he agreed. “You can keep your Cheetos to yourself.”
“Welp,” I said, “I don’t eat Cheetos, but I’m glad you’ve finally figured out what’s good for you.”
I just hope the seagull’s realization that people and the gifts they give are toxic didn’t come too late.