September 04, 2003

All God’s Creatures

A few days ago I wrote about finding some newborn residents in the space under my backyard shed. I did say that it was going to bother me, and it has.

In an effort to score some cosmic karma points, I’ll tell you about some other encounters I’ve had with local fauna.

About three years ago we had a bat get into the house somehow. It finally flew into our bedroom, and I closed the door on it while sending the girls into the basement to fetch badminton racquets. No, I wasn’t planning to half-volley the terrified (and terrifying) little beastie into a wall, I wanted something I could catch it with. Armed with racquets, we entered the room and proceeded to poke around behind curtains and furniture trying to find his hiding place. Oldest daughter indicated that she’d spotted him by screaming at the top of her lungs in a most helpful way (Karen Kinmont eat your heart out), and eventually the bat landed on the carpet. At this point I placed the racquet gently over the top of the bat, and then with even more care I slipped the other racquet under him, sandwiching him between the two sets of strings. This gave us a chance to take a close look at our visitor, before taking him outside and releasing him. I hope he lived a long and happy life, eating his weight in insects each night.

Now the rest of these stories need some background. We live in a townhouse, and for several years the house next door has been owned by what can only be called a slumlord. The backyard was overgrown with weeds and trash, and the single mom who rented it was nice enough, but never went into the backyard, nor did she allow her kids back there (wisely I might add). With her permission, twice a year I would toss a few rat-baits over the fence into her yard to keep the rodent population down. She wouldn’t do it, and her landlord certainly wouldn’t do it. Even so, we’d spot an occasional mouse coming through the fence between our yards, usually to snack on birdseed at the base of our feeder. My response was more rat-bait.

Last fall, I was in the downstairs and heard some rustling sounds in the room. We had had a problem earlier in the year where squirrels discovered our birdseed stash and decided to help themselves. To prevent that, the birdseed is now kept in a plastic bin with a locking lid. I figured that the squirrels were back, looking for a meal. I never saw any evidence of unwanted guests, but kept hearing that rustling sound on occasion over the next day or two. One day one of our dogs was downstairs and started ‘hunting’. That was it, we were going to get rid of the visitor. I placed the girls – once again armed with racquets – at the foot of the stairs leading up to the main floor, and in the doorway to the rest of the basement. Next I opened wide the back door (walk-out basement). I started moving furniture, and looking through boxes until I found it. It was a rat who had decided to nest in a box of sewing fabric that my wife had. The side of the cardboard box was chewed through, and this rat was turning it into a comfy little home. Not a cute little field mouse from the meadow behind the house, but a rat. It immediately made a beeline for the door and ran out and under the fence next door. Obviously it had come through the doggie door, and had no fear of our dogs. The only thing I could think of to do was to close the doggie door off and toss more rat-bait over the fence.

For the next couple of evenings, I’d look out the back door glass and this little bastard would be sniffing at the door, looking for a way back inside. He’d run off when he saw me, and I just didn’t know what else to do. I was waiting for him to die from eating the rat-bait, because it can take several days. I don’t know if he ever did or not, but we’ve not had that problem this year, and the doggie door is open again.

One huge improvement was our new neighbors. They have kids, and wanted to reclaim the backyard. Early this spring they started hauling the crap and junk out of their yard. I pulled on my gloves and pitched in, because it could only help the situation. At one point, we were moving a pile of lumber, and I stopped everyone to point out a copperhead snake we’d uncovered. Mom was freaking out, and the boys thought it was cool (they didn’t know it was poisonous). I went to my place and got a bucket and a hockey stick. The snake was pretty groggy from the coolness of the season, so I pushed it into the bucket with no problems and we took it down to the creek to release it.

They’ve really kept their backyard nice since then, especially when I told mom that the snakes loved the tall grass in the yards. Another time I had to go over there because they’d found a common garden snake under a wheelbarrow, and her son was trying to kill it with an axe. I was afraid the kid was going to kill himself swinging that stupid thing, so once again I grabbed my trusty bucket and hockey stick. It was full summer, and this snake was active and pissed off. He was striking at my hockey stick, doing his damndest to bite and refusing to get into the bucket. I eventually managed to steer him towards the gate, and he slithered off into the meadow.

I’ve also rescued a bird or two in distress. We keep a feeder full of seed year round, and have a couple of birdbaths full of fresh water. Several years ago, I had to remove the tree limb where our birdhouse hung. The birdhouse was pretty cool, because the kids and I built it using two sides of clear plexiglass and you could watch what was happening inside (the birds are ok with this). After an unfortunate incident where I waited too long to clean out the previous years’ nest and accidentally destroyed two newly laid eggs inside, the birdhouse was ever after referred to as the “birdhouse of doom”. The girls really know how to rub it in.

So basically I have a clear conscience about those newborn rodents, because I have a pretty good record when it comes to the animals I share this neighborhood with. Yes, what I did bothered me, but it was the right thing to do, if not the quickest way. I couldn’t bring myself to end it quickly, preferring the cowards way of ‘letting nature take its course’.

Posted by Ted at September 4, 2003 07:27 AM
Category: Boring Stories

I have bat and snake stories, too...maybe I'll tell them sometime.

Posted by: Susie at September 4, 2003 08:53 PM

Sounds like a series for Munuvinia! Everyone tells their best animal stories.

Posted by: Ted at September 5, 2003 09:46 AM
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