Until last year, when I was walking through the golf course into The Big Empty, I never put it together that deer can hide because their coats match the ground and their antlers look like branches. Such excellent camouflage. I hope “my” deer are there this year as they were last year, and I hope by their season (a month or more away) I’m there, too. (Come on foot, heal!!!)
Nature’s mimicry is so cool. One of my favorite bugs is the stick bug — a mantid-like-creature that looks like whatever kind of grass and sticks into which it was hatched. The first one I saw was in the chaparral. I had sat down on a rock to have a drink after a run and before starting an uphill. I stared aimlessly at the grass at my feet when one of the blades crawled slowly up on my leg.
This little guy — the Northern Pacific Tree Frog — can be green or tan depending on what’s happening with nature. You can’t see them unless they happen to be sitting on a red flower or something. They look exactly like the leaves of any oak tree in the Southern California mountains — green when the trees are green and tan when the leaves are falling. They were always coming into my CA house and once I found one in my blender (truth). No, I didn’t run the blender. One of them liked my (tan) telephone and would sit there most of the time.
Snakes have mastered the whole thing of mimicry and some of them even mimic each other. Gopher snakes, non-venomous friends to man, resemble and behave like rattlesnakes as a way to protect themselves. They will even coil and wave their tails about. If you happen to have the chance to get familiar with these guys, you soon learn there are many obvious differences between a gopher snake and a rattlesnake, but I can’t imagine anyone NOT taking several steps back seeing a gopher snake coil and rattle.
It got to be a thing with me all those hiking years to SEE what was there to see — owls against the bark of a tree, snakes in the lower stories of bushes along the trail, Spike, the little California horned lizard.
I love how a coyote can blend into the scenery. A person could hike through the midst of a pack without even knowing it. I only saw a mountain lion once, but I’m sure she saw me countless times. Hunter or hunted, nature seems to say, “Stay cool, blend in, and pay attention.” That is advice I should have heeded on the day I hurt my foot, but not all our foes are, uh, visible — or animate.