As many of you know, I live in a rural area where wildlife abounds. It’s quiet and seemingly peaceful. To some, this setting would seem idyllic, and it is, up to a point and that point involves the natural order of things. Animals must eat.
The deer stop regularly at my pond to drink. I have enjoyed watching an early spring herd browsing not twenty feet from my bedroom window. The fawns are adorable and it’s amusing to watch them play – until you realize their mothers are munching on the new shoots of your hostas.
We have a Mallard duck couple who arrive every year to spend a few days paddling in our pond. I’ve never seen them fly. They waddle in from the woods and when they leave, they waddle off down my driveway heading for the larger pond one road over where they will nest beneath the willow and raise this season’s ducklings. Every time they leave, my goldfish numbers are depleted by half. I consider myself lucky since the Great Blue Heron cleans them out completely.
I tell you this, so you know I’m not entirely heartless. I do my best to get along with the wildlife with which I share my existence. I like my squirrels, which mercilessly raid my bird feeders, but leave my gardens alone. I have close to a hundred varieties of narcissus because the deer won’t eat them. Almost everything else (except the hostas) is deer resistant – not deer proof mind you, because few things are. I will buy new goldfish at the bait shop where they are cheaper by the pound.
I hate raccoons and silently give thanks every time I see a casualty on the road, but will even tolerate them, as long as they cause minimal damage. I fence my pear tree and pick early each year to minimize my loss. And before you issue that sympathetic tsk-tsk, let me assure you, they aren’t the sweet little masked bandits people think they are. They are omnivorous which means they not only decimate your corn and other veggies, they’ll eat your eggs, your chicks, and any newborn kittens they come across. They will rip your dog to shreds. Get one in your attic and it can cost you a small fortune before you get them out. I have been forced to eliminate one or two over the years, and I do it quickly and humanely (because I’m an excellent shot).
There aren’t enough natural predators to make a difference in the numbers of my garden marauders. The skinny gray fox I’ve seen down by the creek will hardly make a dent in the rodent population and the few coyotes seem to favor hunting trash over game. The human hunters don’t come close to keeping the deer in check.
In the past, my faithful pets have helped me keep the wildlife under control, at least in the confines of the fenced part of the yard and the garage. Not so my current furry babies. Terry is one lazy-assed cat who only rouses himself from sleep long enough to do his business and wait impatiently for his supper. The mice, who take up residence in the garage each winter, laugh behind his back.
Buck, my big bad hound, has an excellent nose and can easily sniff out a rabbit’s nest in any flower bed, where he will faithfully stand guard until the babies are big enough to enjoy the fruits of my labor. He’ll then happily sit amongst them while they nibble my green beans to the ground. I swear he’s the one that showed them the hole in the fence. He loves the company of deer and tiptoes through the yard so as not to disturb the flock of wild turkeys destroying my berry crop. And neither animal appears to care when a snake falls on my head as I open the shed. Yes! Snakes have invaded my shed and okay, they’re garter snakes and fairly small, but it fell on my head! And it happened more than once. I now open the door and leap back while Buck wags his tail, waiting for me to make that hilarious screeching sound again.
I am fighting a losing battle. I know it and for the most part, I’m resigned, except for one small critter who will remain my enemy until I die or they do. Chipmunks!
I’ve always been a fan of Chip and Dale, both the cartoon characters and those gorgeously sexy men, but the real thing is quite different. They’re destructive little buggers and they eat my lily bulbs! I love lilies. They’re one of my favorite garden flowers. They’re a gift that keeps on giving, because unlike their tulip cousins, they don’t wear out. The bulbs will multiply, giving you more and more flowers each year that bloom when most summer perennials are done for the season. The colors are so vibrant, they shine like beacons of light against the greenery. That is, if you don’t have chipmunks.
There are only three or four of them. It shouldn’t be that hard. I will set traps, both humane and plain old mouse and rat traps. I will try every remedy I can find. The little bastards are just too small and quick to shoot. You’d think the hawk that hunts in my backyard, or the Great Horned Owls that live in the woods across the street would help me out, but no, catching the little buggers probably takes too much effort. I have one lily left and I am determined to save it from those menacing munchers. I’m a researcher. I have my trusty laptop. I will prevail. Or so I thought.
I found what should have been the omen of my future success lying in the driveway today, proof that they can be killed. The UPS truck must have got him. I thought I should cheer, but my heart wasn’t in it. He was a pretty little thing and his coat looked so glossy and soft. Seeing him lying there in the gravel, my lilies suddenly didn’t matter so much. The little fellow was just like all the other animals in my yard, getting by the best way he could in a changing world, doing what God intended him to. I tried to steel my heart against any sympathy I might feel for the little devil, but it was no use. I buried him next to my one remaining lily. In the natural order of things, his tiny body will now fertilize the plant he loved so much and maybe act as a deterrent to his brethren. Or else I’ll buy more lilies to feed the next generation.
My traps will stay on the shelf in the shed with the snakes to await my next war. This one’s over before it even began.