A Summer full of critters
Written by Scott Graves, Pilot staff writer   
July 29, 2011 09:40 pm

 

Summer tally so far:

One garden snake, three hermit crabs, two butterflies and more than a dozen newts.

Those are the creatures my 8-year-old daughter has captured so far this summer during her outdoor adventures. At least the ones I know about.

And there’s still the whole month of August ahead. 

During my lunch break Wednesday afternoon, the kid, two dogs and I spent an hour or so playing in the surf and exploring tide pools at Harbor’s McVay Beach. 

“Come on, Dad! Jump in! The water’s fine,” Alia yelled as she dog paddled in three feet of water. Before I could slip my shirt off and join her, a small wave, combined with shifting sand, pushed me over. Alia splashed me in the face and a dog shook water all over me.

In for a dime, in for a dollar, I thought, and jumped in the water and joined fray – for about 10 minutes. The ocean is COLD!

Luckily, there was a giant piece of driftwood nearby on which to warm and dry myself. I was soon joined by Alia and two dogs, both of which shook water all over me. 

On the walk back to the car, Alia stopped to explore some more tide pools. “I found a hermit crab,” she yelled excitedly.

“How do you know it’s just not a sea snail?” I asked.

“It’s got legs and a claw,” she said, holding it in her hand to show me. She added, “Will it pinch me?”

I was tempted to say, “Yes,” just to get back at her for splashing me in the face, but I resisted. She collected two more hermit crabs before returning them to the water when it was time to leave. 

A week earlier, on a warm, sunny day, Alia and I headed up North Bank Chetco River Road to one of our favorite swimming holes. It took all of 10 minutes before she had  waded across the river and was gathering up newts from a shallow pool.

“Bring the pail, Dad!” she ordered.

I always feel a sorry for the small, brown amphibians. Every summer children swarm the river; mini-monsters carrying pails and nets and scooping up newts by the dozens. One would think that the newts would get a clue. Perhaps they secretly wish to be caught? 

In less time then it took to cross the river, Alia filled the pail with eight or ten newts. I wondered if newts suffer from claustrophobia? Personal space issues? 

(Disclaimer: According to a biologist I interviewed several years ago, these creatures, known as rough-skinned newts, contain a powerful neurotoxin, which they use to ward off predators. The poison is generally only toxic to humans if the newt is ingested, although there are reports that some people experience skin irritation after contact. Washing one’s hands after contact is recommended.)

Soon tired of collecting newts, my daughter released them and repeatedly floated downstream on the current until it was time to go home.

A few days later, while exploring a grassy, vacant lot off Chetco Avenue in downtown Brookings, my daughter found a small garden snake. Alia, having captured a few such snakes in her 8 years, quickly scooped it up and showed it to her art class friends. After the show and tell, she released it, under some bushes, far from the street. She didn’t want it to get “squashed” by a car, she said.

Snakes. Newts. Hermit crabs. It’s a jungle out there!

We can all learn a lesson from my daughter’s adventures: Enjoy summer, and chase a few butterflies.