After years of living in close proximity or at the very least, sharing the same aquifer, you should probably ask yourself how well you really know your neighbors.
Perhaps you think you know them pretty well already, but indulge for a moment if you would, while we run through a few names just to be sure.
There's Dasypus novemcinctus, Cynomys ludovicianus, Geomys arenarius, Perognathus flavescens, Dipodomys ordii, Lynx rufus, of course, oh and let's not forget that contentious Taxidea taxus.
If those names aren't ringing a bell, maybe you know them by their aliases: The armadillos, black-tailed prairie dogs, desert pocket gophers, plains pocket mice, Ord's kangaroo rat, the bobcat family, and that cranky badger bunch.
Actually to an overwhelming degree, the neighbors are rodents, most specifically, mice, with a couple dozen different species of the little fuzzies sharing our chunk of dirt.
But there's also more than half a dozen kinds of bats, not to mention squirrels, skunks, porcupines and a host of other mammals tucked somewhere out in all that tall grass around us, with probably a 6:1 ratio of edible species for each of the carnivore types that knock around these parts, and that's not even counting the flying and slithering occupants.
Turns out cattle are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to our region and even though more often than not the visual from the road is a sea of black and white bovines, the animal kingdom in our neck of the woods is really quite a bit more diverse.
It's so diverse, in fact, you have to wonder where all the critters live when there doesn't appear to be anything to hide behind for miles in any given direction.
Yet hide they do, and well enough that most of us will never see a water mongoose, but the water mongoose is among us — even as water deprived as we are — and it's been counted and mapped.
Making the Census look like child's play, a bunch of web developers and scientists from leading universities and biodiversity groups put their heads together and created not just a world-wide critter Census, but an interactive map that puts the animal kingdom on record.
Taking Google map technology to an all new level, www.mappinglife.org creators aggregated scientific data from all over the world and put it together, making it possible to explore critter populations anywhere on the planet, run searches, download reports and follow links to species information pages.
Just to put in perspective the magnitude of what the Map of Life has accomplished in the short time it's been up and running, the names of almost 72,000 species of amphibians, birds, mammals, reptiles and fish have added to the map, supported by literally millions of records that have been cataloged for users to view.
For example, who knew we had a significant bat population in common with Portugal, or that despite obviously drastic differences in geography, Sweden has badgers too.
And while most every continent seems to have more rodents than any other mammal, if you're looking to go where the mice don't, Siberia might just be the best bet, because — while they do have flying squirrels, chipmunks, lemmings and voles — the mice and rats don't appear to like the cold anymore than anyone else.
Interestingly enough, mapping all the critters across the globe doesn't just cast a spotlight on diversity, ironically, it also shows the similarities and somehow makes the neighborhood seem a little bit smaller.
Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at:firstname.lastname@example.org or on the web at: www.insearchofponies.blogspot.com