In wide world of animals, it's year of rebellion


Brian Cary Sokolow owns a 1970 red Mustang convertible that he treats with the care and tenderness that some men squander on women.

He babies that car; he coddles it; he drives it but 1,000 miles per year. And every winter, he moves it off the streets of Baltimore and into storage in Hagerstown.

Soon it will be spring again, however, and Sokolow will retrieve his scarlet dream machine -- and the trouble will start again.

The animals will come to get him.

Last month, I wrote about how deer and other wild animals are attacking people in increasing numbers in the Baltimore area. Some people thought I was joking. Brian Cary Sokolow knows just how serious I was.

"The Wild Kingdom is mounting an ever-increasing offensive against its humankind brethren," he said (which is a lot better than any animal could put it, I think you will admit).

"I know, because I've experienced first-hand the furry fury that only four-legged treachery can produce. A small woodland creature took up residence in the trunk of my one true love and proceeded to knosh on the tail-light wiring. Result: A police-generated repair order, money spent and much aggravation, not to mention the safety aspect.

"Then twice my car suffered flat tires and each time an animal's tooth was extracted from the tread."

Sokolow took the teeth to a University of Maryland extension agent, who told him that they belonged to either a raccoon or a possum.

"Coincidence?" Sokolow said. "I think not. Sabotage more likely. These wee beasties are literally fighting me tooth and nail. I'm not a hunter, but rather a backpacker and hiker. But I do so now with a baseball bat and an occasional wary over-the-shoulder glance."

As proof of how serious the situation has become, Sokolow sent me an article from the March 1990 Outdoor Life magazine titled "When Deer Become Dangerous."

It told the story of Bill Bevins, who "in the past 12 years has shotgunned 10 bucks. . . . Four years ago, however, his hunting season ended 30 minutes after daylight. That was the morning Bevins was attacked by a huge whitetail buck."

The buck ran Bevins down, tore up his ligaments, ripped up his tendons and shattered his kneecap, causing Bevins to spend a year on crutches.

(I guess the magazine wants us to have sympathy for Bevins, but hunters do say that hunting is a "sport" and my dictionary defines sport as a "competition." So I guess we'll give this round to the buck.)

And recently a reader called to say that another magazine had an article about deer in the Baltimore area and how angry some people are getting with them.

Some of these people have spent good money to turn their back yards into the Tuileries gardens, and now creatures are coming along and eating their azaleas.

But this article, the reader said, goes farther. Deer are attacking people. Killing their dogs. Chasing their children home from school. Making calls late at night and using Call Blocking so Caller ID cannot track them down. ("Do you have Prince Albert in a can?" the deer ask. And then all you hear are snorts and hoofs pawing the ground.)

Apparently a couple in Baltimore County came home one day to find they had been locked out of their house. When they looked through the window, they found a family of deer had taken their place: There was a stag listening to the CD player on headphones; the doe was using the stair-walking machine, etc.

The couple was furious, and while the woman stayed to make sure the deer did not find their "private" videotapes, the guy drove to his office so he could call the police.

But when the guy got there, he found a deer sitting behind his desk. The guy ran to his boss and asked what was going on. "That's a deer at my desk!" he shouted. "Are you going to tell me you don't realize that's a deer!"

"Of course, I know it's a deer," the boss said, "but he does damn good work, and he only takes 20 minutes for lunch."

Now, I am not sure if this story is completely true, but what else are magazines for?

And it is not just mammals who are striking back. Luther Young, science reporter for The Sun, wrote Tuesday that sea levels in the Chesapeake Bay are rising alarmingly and that by 2100 there may be "a thousand feet of shoreline retreat" obliterating some islands that have been inhabited since Colonial times and threatening Kent and Smith islands.

What is going on here? you ask.

Well, animals that have been caught for years by Maryland watermen are now getting their revenge. And so who will be the only residents of Kent and Smith islands years from now?

Crabs. Rockfish. Oysters. Narwhales.

Well, maybe not narwhales. But you get the idea.

Sure, we could try to strike back, but we have been killing animals for centuries now, and there are still more of them than there are of us.

No, if we really want to fight back, we will have to prove that we are just as valuable as animals and that we have earned the right to coexist with them.

And for starters, I'd try taking only 15 minutes for lunch.

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