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Turtle crossing the rural road

The term “roadkill” was coined in the 1940s, according to Merriam-Webster, entering the lexicon alongside “DDT” and other harbingers of a dystopian technological age that runs roughshod over the natural world. In the 1990s, the word became a cheeky insult when a rival called then-House Speaker Newt...

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BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
Mother and three kids on a nature walk

We zigzag from tree to tree, seeking refuge under the leaf umbrellas. Drizzle turns to deluge as we dash beneath a tall canopy to plot our escape. The sky booms. My dad takes my hand, and I look up to see if he shares my sense of foreboding. But he’s smiling at me, his eyes twinkling. He says...

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BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
woodchuck in the grass

It starts out mildly enough: Heading to work on the subway, you realize you forgot your wallet. No big deal, you think. I’ll borrow money to get home. Soon the lights go out and the train hurtles toward the sky, speeding through the atmosphere. Time passes—it’s hard to tell how long. The subway is...

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By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
baby raccoons in a hollow tree

Wherever you are in the U.S., a coyote may be taking up residence less than a mile away. If you live in the city, you’re more likely than your rural cousins to encounter raccoons. And regardless of geography, you probably share your home with dozens of species of insects and spiders. These facts...

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BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
Gray squirrel eating in a tree

In 1749, Pennsylvania put a bounty on Eastern gray squirrels—threepence per scalp. Their crime? Eating too much corn. It wasn’t the first time humans waged war on the bushy-tailed rodents: Massachusetts had already offered fourpence. A century later, cities along the Eastern seaboard began releasing...

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BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
Green snake in grass

They slip soundlessly through our landscapes, cloaked in a rainbow of colors and patterns that help them become one with bark, rocks, leaves and soil. Often the only sign of their existence is what they leave behind: ghostly shed skins imprinted with shapes of eyes and scales, traces of pigmentation...

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BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
Coyote on an urban sidewalk

Coyotes go out of their way to stay out of ours: They’re partial to open areas but seek hiding places in cities. They’re naturally active in daylight but adopt nocturnal lifestyles when living near humans. They can follow traffic signals and cross roads after rush hour. They even try to “escort” dog...

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By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
A frog jumps to safety out of a pool using a ramp to rejoin the other frogs on the safety of the grass

It seemed like a good idea at the time: Buy a house with a two-acre property, let our energetic herding dog have the run of the place and spend blissful summer days digging side by side in the dirt with her. And it was blissful, watching Mattie carve out her napping spots behind the ferns and tall...

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By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
overhead view of a woman tending her garden

Walk into a roadside restaurant after a long day on the highway, and you can practically taste your meal before sitting down. The familiar smells of fresh-baked pie and salty fries need little introduction en route to your belly. That sensory experience is similar for wildlife coming upon lush...

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By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
Hummingbird stopping at a flower to eat

The distant view from Kelly Brenner’s Seattle living room was enviable, a testament to the engineering marvels of modern human habitat. But much closer to home were sights even more spectacular than the Space Needle rising hundreds of feet in front of the Olympic Mountains. Against the backdrop of...

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BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
a dog points in a field of grass and wildflowers as a rabbit looks on

Many Marches ago, as I mindlessly contorted myself to pull a deep-rooted weed from the garden patch, my thoughts turned longingly to the smell of fresh basil that would eventually grace what I saw as a still-barren vegetable graveyard. This spot was not so lifeless as it appeared, I would soon learn...

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By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
small mouse hiding in brush

The mountain lion known as P-47 survived fires, freeways and hostile ranchers. But in March, the 3-year-old big cat—tracked by California biologists since his kitten days—succumbed to a hidden hazard: an insidious form of food poisoning. Six anticoagulant compounds—chemicals used to kill rodents...

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BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
Wearing gloves, Lori Thiele relocates the baby squirrels to a cardboard pet carrier

To most people, the tiny voices rising above the din of traffic would have registered as everyday birdsong. But to Lori Thiele’s finely tuned ears, the high-pitched staccato emanating from a neighbor’s yard last spring was unmistakable, a sure sign of distress. “I was getting ready to go out on a...

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BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
woodpecker on persimmon tree

As my neighbors and I stood 10 feet apart and swapped tips for scavenging kitchen staples this spring, the wilder residents of our community shared no such concerns. Squirrels twirled maple seed clusters like bouquets to reach every tidbit. Bumblebees made a mockery of social distancing in their...

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BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
a bluebird sits on a tree with a loud weed whacker in background

Sitting on her porch in the desert one afternoon while recovering from surgery, Christine Hass closed her eyes. The operation to fix her detached retina had been difficult, and she sought respite from the lingering pain. “Suddenly I could hear all the birds singing. It was March—the migrants were...

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BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
Mom bird feeding her babies in a nest

Decaying logs and miniature bogs, hollowed stalks and piled rocks, nutritious pollen and leaves fallen: They’re not the stuff of traditional nursery rhymes and baby showers. But if wild mothers-to-be had gift registries, these natural supplies would top the list. Though the basic elements for...

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BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
brown rabbit in the grass

Somewhere between childhood and middle age, people’s natural affinity for wildlife often melts away, overtaken by exaggerated fears of marauding armies of deer, insects and raccoons intent on invading our gardens and homes. Scorn for rabbits, the sensitive stars of many a bedtime story, is...

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By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
native seed packets

They were like moths to a flame or, more accurately, butterflies to a native plant. No sooner had I unloaded two joe-pye weed perennials from my car last August than three tiger swallowtails dive-bombed the pots, as if to validate my purchase. If only my fellow shoppers knew what they were missing...

Article
By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
fat caterpillar curled on a leaf stalk

As my beloved seedlings languished untouched on the display table, I improved my sales pitch: “Would you like a late-flowering thoroughwort to help migrating butterflies refuel? What about an aster that’s the only pollen source for some bee species?” But unlike the animals who would devour these...

Article
By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
Monarch butterfly in a field of grass

Standing in the street and admiring each other’s gardens one day, Sherrie Pelsma and her neighbor made a discovery: They’d become hosts to a buzzing block party. “We could actually see the air traffic of bees and butterflies crossing the street between our two habitats,” recalls Pelsma. “I said,...

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BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER