Urban Wildlife

I spotted a red fox (carrying toast) and two raccoons (waiting for a cross walk to empty of traffic) in downtown Boise last Friday morning during rush hour.

Spooky Man had an 8 a.m. appointment with a rehab doctor (in my opinion an idiot, but that’s just my opinion based on his best medical advice to “push through” 30 years of chronic debilitating pain and “be an athlete”), so we were driving downtown at 7:30 in the morning.

The raccoons were at the intersection of Fort and Robbins Rd, which is where traffic is being diverted to get to the VA medical center while the main entrance is being dug up, re-somethinged, and generally closed to traffic with large trucks parked in it.

They (the raccoons, not the trucks) looked like a mother and a teenager, coming down out of a maple tree on the corner to wait for the light to change and let them legally cross. In my experience, raccoons don’t obey pedestrian traffic regulations, but I haven’t lived in that neighborhood for twenty years.

The fox was in the VA medical center parking lot closest to the outpatient entrance. I swear he (or she) looked like one more federal employee on the way to work, finishing breakfast on the go.

A friendly staffer coming off night shift told us the fox lives in the area and frequently can be seen trotting through the parking lot at that time of day.

First we had the federal squirrels who behave like Secret Service agents (“I’ll have to inspect that bag of roasted almonds, Ma’am.”), then there was the wild bunny that apparently spoke squirrel, because it hopped over when Spooky Man chittered at it, and now a fox munching toast while walking through the parking lot.

I know this is because Boise has a somewhat unique geography, in that we have this large pocket of wild-ish land poking far into the northeast part of the city.

The VA medical center is only a few blocks from the largest hospital in the valley, St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center. The state capitol building, supreme court building and Health & Welfare building are a few blocks in another direction. Likewise the Catholic and Episcopal cathedrals, built in the 19th century, and Boise High School.

The VA medical center also backs onto federal reserve lands from the original Fort Boise — hence, the main entrance opening onto Fort Street — so wild creatures venture down out of the foothills and find themselves abruptly in a city (Surprise! Traffic!).

In fact, part of the medical center campus is actually built up onto a foothill that forms the first rank of the Boise range. There are even two tiers of parking lot. So it’s not all that bizarre to spot furry critters going about their business while going about your own.

Much more baffling was the recent case of an adolescent mountain lion shot on the grounds of St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center. To get there from any wildlife-friendly areas, the cat would have had to cross a freeway or walk miles on fairly busy roads. It was obviously a (very) lost teenager; I could still see kitten spots in its fur in the TV footage.

I didn’t think they needed to kill it, but I have a soft spot for big cats, particularly mountain lions. A domesticated mountain lion helps the heroine escape in Blade’s Edge (remember, this happens far in the future on another planet; our mountain lions are Not Domesticated).

But still, raccoons using a cross walk. A red fox with toast in the VA lower parking lot. Squirrels with mirrored sunglasses and earpieces (okay, I made that part up, but they have the attitude).

Such urbane wildlife could only happen in Boise.

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