June 19, 2013, by Orion staff
Why are some species admired or beloved while others are despised? An eagle or hawk circling overhead inspires excited sounds and the whipping-out of binoculars, while gulls and rats are ignored or openly reviled.
From pigeons to prairie dogs, Trash Animals: How We Live with Nature’s Filthy, Feral, Invasive, and Unwanted Species, out this spring from University of Minnesota Press, offers reflections on reviled animals and their place in contemporary life. Each essay in the collection focuses on a so-called “trash species”—coyotes, carp, cockroaches, magpies, and lubber grasshoppers, among others—examining the biology and behavior of each in contrast to cultural assumptions about them.
The collection includes work from fifteen different contributors, including Orion friends and contributors Kathleen Dean Moore, Lisa Couturier, Jeffrey Lockwood, Michael P. Branch, and Andrew Blechman, the magazine’s managing editor.
Here’s Kathleen Dean Moore on packrat philosophy, from her essay “The Parables of the Rats and Mice”:
In a mountain cabin in Colorado many years ago, when Frank and I were very young, we were annoyed each night be a packrat. It was a lovely brown rat with a softly furred tail, but it pooped on the dishtowels and skittered and crashed all night long, chewing up tin foil and Styrofoam cups. Plus, it was a prime suspect in the disappearance of a bike-lock key. Not really capital offenses, as I think about it now, but we decided to put out poison. In those days, rat poison was a waxy substance in bottle caps. Fools, we put out two. In the morning, one of the bottle caps was gone, and in its place, the rat had left a quarter.