FOLLIES WITH HAMPTONS FAUNA
By Terry Staverman-Schein
In a scenario similar to the ritual migrations of some large land animals – the wildebeests ofAfricamight come to one’s immediate attention – or the giant whales of theAtlanticand Pacific oceans; so, too, does the ritual migration of the human species known as citydwellerectus begin every year around the middle and latter part of the Spring season. They must first cross the benignEast River– thankfully devoid of predators – and continue on toward their destinations to the villages collectively known as The Hamptons, and further eastward to the very end ofLong Island. I joined in with the earlier migrants almost 40 years ago.
While animals migrate to seek more abundant food sources, or to mate, or to spawn, we migrate to flee the oppressive heat and humidity and pollution buildup among the concrete canyons of our city habitat, to the refreshing climate of the east end’s coastal environs, as well as for the abundance of freshly caught seafood, renowned pristine beaches and cleaner air to rehabilitate our lungs. There was also plenty of mating going on as well.
Many thousands of us found The Hamptons so irresistible and so difficult to leave after the brief Summer season, we decided to purchase a year-round house. Initially we settled in Noyac and later in Shinnecock Hills – two ofSouthampton’s most heavily wooded areas.
Follies With Hamptons Fauna P2
While dealing with the sudden realities of house maintenance and land management, we had absolutely no clue that we would be cohabitating with hordes of wild voracious rabbits, marauding deer; a nursing raccoon, swarming bees, hornets, snakes, huge blood-curdling insects and uninvited waterfowl swimming laps in the pool. At other times there were things scampering in the basement, the attic, the garage and underground –and a garter snake slithering behind a carton in the garage and suddenly vanishing which caused untold anxiety for weeks, and then eyes always searching the garage afterward.
The rabbits and deer arrived in numbers soon after the annuals and flowering shrubs we planted for our own pleasure became their food. It was as though we had laid out a cafeteria-style banquet. The moles, or voles, or mice – or all of the above – ate every last one of the fifty tulip bulbs we planted one Autumn. The huge insects that attached themselves to the door and window screens imprisoned us in our dread of having to open the door. The exception was a visit from a diaphanously beautiful green chiffon Luna moth that was drawn to the light of the dining room. We gazed at each other for quite a while. And then came a few large roaming dogs that would show up unannounced and lounge around the front yard for hours, as well as the partially feral cats that hunted the nesting birds and their young, when they weren’t lounging around the pool.
To preserve the costly landscaping we began our war with the rabbits by throwing the stones we had gathered for ordnance, in an effort to frighten them with the pain of injury. We somehow managed to never actually hit one; such was our poor aiming capabilities. But one time my husband’s arm and the stone he hurled, hit one of them squarely on its
Follies With Hamptons Fauna P3
haunch. We actually heard a soft thud on contact. But instead of running away, he lifted his head, sat upright, stopped masticating and turned to look at us. We stood there for many seconds, none of us moving, all eyes fixed on humans and rabbit, when I turned to my husband and whispered – “Let’s just walk slowly backward to the front door but keep an eye on him until we get inside.”
Around the time I began to torture my shrubs with deer netting the rabbit population seemed to dissipate. I was told by someone who drove by our house every morning, that there was a red fox roaming our property. I did eventually see that red fox, and its friend a black and beige fox, early one morning trotting along the overgrown edge of the west lawn, and I was completely mesmerized. We declared a truce with the rabbits and over time and the subsequent building of ten new houses along our road – which cleared much of the woods – they all but disappeared. But hang on … although I’ve only seen one lately, it might be that they are mounting a comeback.