National Geographic : 1932 Feb
BEFRIENDING NATURE'S CHILDREN An Experiment With Some of California's Wild Folk BY AGNES AKIN ATKINSON With Illustrations from Photographsby Spencer R. Atkinson IN THE canyons and mountains near the foot of Mount Wilson, only a few minutes' drive from Pasadena's Civic Center, live many wild animals-little ani mals differing in size, shape, habits, and disposition. They are hunted by men, beasts, and large birds. Men catch them with baited steel traps, which they set in thick bushes under leaf mold and in any secluded spot where the little animals walk most frequently. Because of this, these hunted creatures have learned to be suspi cious of everything unfamiliar until they have cautiously investigated the strange objects and places. They possess an un canny sense of discretion-of determin ing whether a person is friend or foe. Most of these little animals sleep during the day under rocks, in caves, and in any secluded spot where daytime prowlers are not apt to disturb them. When night comes they shake themselves awake and go out into near-by places to find food for their young and themselves, at times going miles before finding enough for all the family. PREPARING A DINING TABLE FOR THE. WILD FOLK When we learned that some of these animals lived near our home, which is built on the bank of a deep arroyo near Eaton Canyon, above Pasadena, in the golden State of California, we determined to try to make them our friends by placing some table scraps and raw meat in a bare place near our house, hoping the animals would find them. Each morning we would go out to see if our hospitality had been accepted. Much to our delight, the food would be gone, and we would find tracks in the sand. We fed these wild guests many nights; they always came and ate the food. Hav ing succeeded in attracting them, we de cided to try to see them, too. But how were we to accomplish this unusual feat? We spend most of our evenings in our big living room, which is only a few feet from the edge of the arroyo bank. In this living room there is a large plate-glass window which extends from ceiling to floor, thus giving us an unobstructed view of the canyon and mountains. Just out side, and only a few feet from this win dow, is a big, flat rock extending from a low, uneven rock wall which was built to keep the children from tumbling over the edge of the bank. From this big window, during the day, we can plainly see the rock and surrounding yard. Could we induce these animals to come so near our living room to eat the food ? Perhaps we could later on, in some way, light this rock, and thus be able to watch the animals eat. We sifted sand around this flat rock, making a splendid place for the wild folk to leave their telltale tracks. To get to this rock they would have to climb over the low rock wall or come up our zigzag, narrow steps that lead down into the arroyo. Just before dark we placed some table scraps and a small quantity of raw meat on the feeding rock-the animal table, we now call it. After we had eaten our dinner and everything around the house was quiet for the night, we turned out the lights in the living room and sat quietly on the floor, where we could be comfortably still. We silently watched and waited, but could not see anything. It was too dark outside. We wanted to get them accustomed to the new feeding table before frightening them away by using a light. Though we saw nothing, we were rewarded; not a scrap of food was there next morning. We could scarcely wait for moonlight nights; and when the full moon did peep over the mountains, here came the little animals, one by one, climbing over the rock wall-the skunk, fox, raccoon, opossum, and many others. We watched closely, but it was difficult to make out our friends in the dim light of the moon. OUR GUESTS SHUN THE LIGHTED ROCK We were delighted with the hazy forms we saw, but we were not satisfied. We wanted to be able to watch them more closely and to see these new four-footed friends every night.