Every time I welcome a first-time visitor to Los Angeles, I always feel the need to defend this city - not from a housing, business, lack of murderous rampages kinda way - but from a nature perspective. What you may not know is Los Angeles is knee-deep in some pretty cool wildlife.
When the words ''big city'' are spoken, most people conjure images of concrete, traffic and lots of people. But apart from whatever city of the future featured in the movie Blade Runner - the reality is a lot more varied. Or at least it is in Los Angeles.
I live near Beverly Hills and Century City. Our neighbourhood looks much like yours - single family homes, streets with footpaths, children riding bicycles and gangs murdering each other. I'm kidding. We don't have any kids on bikes.
Seriously - it's a suburb like your suburbs, but with quite different neighbours.
One night driving home there was a coyote quietly jogging down the middle of the street towards me. He looked like a skinny, greyish german shepherd with a big bushy tail, and seemed very comfortable on the street. There was no roadrunner to be found.
Just this week a barn owl visited the powerlines outside my house. Which probably explains the half a mouse I found on my front path a few weeks ago. Seems mister or miss owl is a new arrival, and a messy eater.
All year we're constantly buzzed by hummingbirds - who are much smaller and much more fragile looking than you think, and yet appear to get genuinely annoyed when you intrude - they'll even hover less then a metre from your face and stare menacingly. It's like they have absolutely no idea they wouldn't win a fight with a mouse … or they simply don't care.
We also have our fair share of rats - apparently they're ''native rodents'' - but they still freak out my wife, and we always have squirrels running around. One for a while thought scavenging for food inside the house was acceptable. He was politely corrected with the broom.
We also have raccoons - which are beautiful and annoying rubbish foragers. And possums - but not the cute, furry menace you have. Ours are technically opossums. They're black and white with long, pink noses, beady little eyes, a rat-like tail and coarse fur. Adorable they are not - which explains why they've never become a jolly little cartoon character.
So the next time you're tempted to stereotype Los Angeles as a big city with nothing but cars, crime and celebrities, remember amid all of the often bizarre humanity is a rich and diverse wildlife, who occasionally leave half a mouse at your door in the spirit of neighbourhood togetherness.