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Esther Cepeda / Politics

April was the cruelest month

CHICAGO -- Mother Nature has been in a bad mood this year and she's taken it out on the animals.

After an unusually mild winter -- in my neck of the woods, at least -- a hot, record-busting March came in like a lamb and left the deadly lion behavior to April.

On the first day of April, all the animals seemed to burst into the yards and the streets at once.

Batches of baby bunnies and bunches of fat bullfrogs started swelling my neighborhood's backyards, startling the men folk out with their lawn mowers and weed eaters.

And then came the cold.

A few days after temperatures had soared into the 90s, setting records, the bottom fell out. The thermometer flirted with the 30- and 20-degree marks, and I succumbed to the maternal instinct of saving the babies from the big freeze.

Breaking the rules of nature, I took four baby bunnies into the warmth of my kitchen, and felt I had done the right thing after finding the big frogs in my grass shriveled up dead from the sudden change in temperature.

Stories in my local newspaper said that all sorts of snakes, toads, bats and other creatures were dying because they'd been out too early and had run out of food at precisely the time that prey was retreating out of the cold snap.

My bunnies got fat on fresh timothy hay and food pellets during the coldest April temperatures recorded in my area in 12 years. My sons initiated an aggressive campaign for us to permanently adopt the rabbits, but we knew we needed to return them to the wild.

We had meant to keep them for only a few days, but the cold dragged on and, after seven days, they started dying. The last one made it until the afternoon of the first non-freezing morning in a week and I let him go with the hope that he'd be better off in the fresh, if chilly, air. Thankfully, he's still out there, hopping around.

The geese, too, seem uncharacteristically crazed by the weather. They usually never nest near busy streets but this month I've seen lots of them in dangerous spots. A mom and dad set up camp out behind a nearby pond, which flows up to a busy county road. I can see it from my kitchen window, and I've been on high alert, worried that their goslings would wander into traffic.

I'd sworn not to intervene but just about lost it on Sunday. My heart went into my throat as I watched one of the adult birds step right in front of a car going 40 mph.

Thankfully the humans in the area have more compassion than April's weather and, though traffic backed up suddenly, no geese -- or motorists -- were hurt.

I cursed April for its unexpected cruelties -- its southwestern heat also pushed the Gulf Coast sea turtles into an early nesting season and its record northern snowfall has the Alaskan moose foraging in the middle of highways and on people's roofs -- but rejoiced as the month turned.

Good riddance, April. I've never been so happy to see you go.

Esther Cepeda's email address is estherjcepeda@washpost.com.

Copyright 2012 Washington Post Writers Group



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