She first appeared last August. I discovered her in the morning, but I knew she had spent most of the previous night in the doorway to my apartment. I knew this because I was wearing the result of her night’s labor; a fine mesh of silk that caught on my forehead as I walked out the door. As sleepy as I was, my new hairnet jolted me awake, and I turned around quickly to see a plump spider scrambling up the tattered remnants of her web. Looking at her, I felt a pang of guilt for having destroyed what must have taken her a lot of time and energy to create. If my neighbor had come out of his apartment at that moment, he would have seen a man of questionable sanity issuing a formal apology to his door.
I am not always the fastest learner, so this scenario was repeated the following two mornings. On the fourth day, as I opened the door, something clicked. I stopped in my tracks. My brain finally had accepted that my old routine no longer applied, at least if I wanted my head to remain web-free. At that point, I had several choices to consider. I could ignore my realization and continue with the same routine, I could remove the living obstacle to my routine, or I could change my routine. I chose to change my routine.
The spider simply was asking to use part of the space that I use. It didn’t require a huge change in my behavior to accommodate her. My new routine was very similar to the old one, except that I began to duck as I passed through the doorway. Eventually it became automatic. As the months passed, visiting guests were asked to mimic the behavior. The spider thrived. The web in my doorway became my new norm, just as an unobstructed doorway had been the norm before the spider arrived. I realized this when I came home one day and she was gone.
Returning from a holiday get together, I found an empty web in my doorway. The spider was nowhere to be found. I should have felt relieved, but instead, I felt a sense of loss. I had come to enjoy the spark of life that the spider brought to my doorway. For several weeks following her disappearance, I found myself ducking under the tattered remnants of the spider’s web rather than taking them down.
We receive hundreds of calls at PAWS from members of the public who are having conflicts with wildlife on their property. Metaphorically speaking, these callers have just acquired a spider web hairnet and they are weighing their options. Their choices are the same as mine were with the spider. They can try to ignore what is happening and continue with their routine, they can remove the living obstacle to their routine, or they can change their routine to allow for the presence of the animal involved. Right now, the second option, destroying or removing the animal, seems to be the most widely used. I think it would be a better world, both for humans and their wild neighbors, if when faced with the metaphorical spider web in the doorway more people would find their own way to duck.
Reprinted from "Wild Again" —a bi-weekly e-newsletter that celebrates the releases of the PAWS Wildlife Center. "Wild Again" is written by Kevin Mack, PAWS Naturalist. To sign up for "Wild Again" go to www.paws.org, and click on "PAWS e-mail network."