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Friday, May 14, 2004

Lions and tigers and bears, OH SH#T!

In case you were wondering how I came up with the catchy title for this post…that’s the PG13 version of the colorful language that bounces around the inside of my car when I have one of my frequent close encounters on the road with one of Israel’s wild creatures.

People tend to think of Israel as being a fairly developed country, and they would be correct in this assessment. There are big cities, lots of agriculture, a growing network of roads and highways, and of course those ‘obstacles to peace’: settlements.

However, many people don't realize that there are vast areas that are nearly uninhabited (like most of my commute) that contain a dizzying array of wildlife (no…I’m not talking about the more restive human inhabitants).

Since the end of winter, my commute has started to take on the feel of a naturalist outing (and obstacle course), with birds and animals of every description waiting around every curve. So I’ve started keeping a list of the incredibly varied fauna I see (and sometimes nearly hit).

Here’s what’s on the list so far:

Feral Dogs (everywhere)
Feral Cats (more than everywhere)
Foxes (everywhere)
Coyotes (mostly when I come home after 8 or 9 PM)
Hyenas (also late in the evening, towards the southern end of my commute)
Sheep (domestic herds all along the hills south of my house)
Goats (same)
Porcupines (I have a close call with one of these huge pincushions nearly once a week)
Snakes (warming themselves on the roadway in the morning and evening)
Camels (both feral and herded)
Partridges (I want to catch a few…they’re supposed to be yummy)
Falcons, Eagles & Hawks (several species live in the mountains along my route)
Hares (mostly in the early morning)
Donkeys (the pack animal of choice for the local Arabs)

In addition there are less common animals that I have yet to see (but I’m keeping an eye out for them), including:

Wolves
Leopards
Jackals
Wild Boars
Ibex
Lynx

I was troubled to read recently that despite a well developed National Parks system and a well subscribed Society for the Protection of Nature, we Israeli’s continue to inadvertently develop, pollute and poison some of our more endangered species out of existence.

However, to put things in perspective…According to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs'‘ web site, Israel has 116 different species of land animals (compared with 140 in all of Europe, which is 300 times larger). Not a bad ratio. No wonder hiking is such a national obsession here!

I suppose that taking a little more care while driving to work is a small price to pay for the living scenery I get to see along the way.

Posted by David Bogner on May 14, 2004 | Permalink

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Wow, David - that's really nice. Here in my town near Tel Aviv the only 'wild' creatures to be seen are the street cats and some pigeons and a few other winged creatures. Do you keep a camera in the car with you to photograph them? If not, you ought to (not while you're driving, though {:<) )

Posted by: Chaya Eitan | May 14, 2004 1:43:32 PM

You are lucky to have such a wide
selection of animals to admire.
We only have coyotes, squirrels,
doves, crows, other birds, and
house cats and dogs to see. At
my dad's there are only crows.
And whats a partridge? (Pardon
my ignorance).

Posted by: Cecile | May 15, 2004 6:08:36 AM

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