Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Late Night Encounter with My New Neighbors

I stared into the thick bushes and I could hear them. Shifting their weight, pawing the earth. Grunting. I couldn’t see them in the dark, or smell them, but I could sense their presence. There were two of them and they were large, and hairy, and very wild. And they knew I was nearby.

I had heard that a family of wild boars had made its home in the wilderness near my home on Moshav Neve Ilan. A shadow-filled photo depicted a late-night gathering of adults and piglets stomping around a traffic circle, sniffing at the earth. There were traces of them in my own garden – clumps of upturned dirt and hoofprints. But, for some strange reason, I never believed that they were real.

Long ago, when Jodie and I went for a walk in the forest, a boar nearly knocked into us as it charged across our path. In the past, I spotted deer from a distance on my many nature treks. But after a major fire swept through the Judean Hills in 1995, it seemed that most of the wildlife had vanished. More recently, the loss of natural habitat due to the construction of new neighborhoods on the moshav led us to believe that animal life was gone from the Judean Hills for good.

But then we began to hear the mournful howls of jackals late at night. Jackals howling in unison, or not in unison, from somewhere in the valley, crying out to each other, causing the dogs on the moshav to bark hysterically in defense of our homes. I had seen jackals from afar when driving out of the moshav in the early morning hours, but I had never seen one up close.

One night when I was babysitting my granddaughters, a jackal showed up at the back door just two meters away from me. It stared through the glass into the living room. It was larger than a fox, thinner than a dog, and it was panting heavily. If the door had been open, it might have dashed into the house. Before I fully registered what I was seeing, the jackal was gone.

And then I met the boars. Last week, Jodie and I returned home just before midnight after attending a screening of “Joni 75” – a musical tribute to Joni Mitchell. We parked the car and began to cross the street. Suddenly, they ran across our path. Two huge, hairy, grunting boars, dashing from the greenery near our house to the bushes on the other side of the street.

I pulled out my phone and approached their lair under the shrubbery. I could clearly sense their presence. I heard their panting. Their grunts.

“Don’t get too close!” Jodie warned me.

I stepped back, although it wasn’t out of fear that the boars would charge, targeting me with their tusks. I stepped back because I realized they would probably run away too quickly for me to snap their picture.

Days later, I am still shaken up from my close boar encounter. I wonder when I will next meet my new neighbors.

Photo: Taken by a moshav resident and shared on social media.

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