Some of these stories are from my website posts; others are from my Jest for Grins humor column that was published in the Journal-World. I wonder if you can guess which.
Raccoons, those cute little
Ray versus Raccoons
Ray places the feeder in the can . . .
Ray loves one of his birthday presents: a shiny galvanized steel trash can with a length of chain and a combination lock. I bought it to secure the birdfeeders from the raccoons after they chewed through a heavy-duty locking plastic trash can and ate ten pounds of expensive black oil sunflower seeds. So far, they haven’t been able to chew through steel or pick a lock, but I wouldn’t put it past them. Only time will tell.
. . . then he locks it up for the night.
The coons have been an ongoing problem for years, ever since I encouraged the first little coon visiting our deck high above ground by buying him dog food (Purina doesn’t make coon chow). Ray has safe-trapped many coons and taken them to the tree-lined banks of the Wakarusa River four miles away. It seemed like a great location for raccoons, but they apparently didn’t like it and beat Ray back to the house. They are, after all, Kansas coons and have bought whole-heartedly into the slogan "There’s no place like home."
Ray even threatened to shoot them after they destroyed an $80 bird feeder and dug up all his big plants in containers, but when he caught them red-handed and had the opportunity, he didn’t have the heart to do so. Bottom line: raccoons are cute! We’ve become accustomed to shoveling off the deck the poopy gifts they leave nightly for us — whether in gratitude for their midnight snacks on those occasions their cunning allows them to reach the feeders . . . or in frustration when they cannot.
Ray says Gabe's sketch is pretty accurate.
A couple of nights after Ray began using the locked steel trash can, he heard a noise and turned on the deck lights. A raccoon was sitting on the lid of the can, ringed tail dangling behind him, using his front paws to yank hard on the chain. So concentrated was he on his mission to reach the feeder, the lights didn’t deter him. He yanked for about ten minutes before he gave up and Ray turned out the lights. The next morning, a dozen or so tropical plants were lying on the deck. I’m thinking it might be cheaper to buy dog food.
Note: if you would like to read about Ray’s catching the raccoons dead to rights and refusing to shoot them, even though he was armed, clickHERE.
Raccoons, 2 - Home Team,
Ray has gone to war with raccoons and so far the raccoons are winning! Ever since the coons discovered an easy source of food in the birdfeeders hanging on the deck high above the ground, Ray has tried to foil them. The score: Raccoons, 2, and Ray, zip! The raccoons’ score reflects two birdfeeders destroyed, one of them a super-dooper three-tube feeder that cost $79.99.
I heard the little bandits at work that night and turned on the floodlights which lit up the deck like a prison yard during a jail-break. The blinding lights didn’t even make the twin coons look up from their dastardly work; they simply continued rolling the disassembled feeder across the deck and pigging out on sunflower seeds.
With the loss of that high-dollar feeder, Ray said angrily, “That’s it. No more Mr. Nice Guy. I’m going to shoot them.” I laughed when he said that because this is a man who once carried a frog across the road because he was afraid a car would run over it.
Nonetheless, Ray placed an apple as bait inside a trap which would harmlessly capture the coons and allow him to move them out of our territory. He also found his trusty old air rifle and placed it by our bed. That very night, Ray heard the masked marauders after our new feeder, grabbed the air rifle, flung open the door to the deck, and set off the security alarm.
The coons reacted to the loud wailing siren the way we hope human burglars would. When the alarm went off, they took off. Ray barely had time to get back inside before the phone was ringing. Usually when we accidentally set off the alarm, Ray gives a detailed explanation of what we did to cause it. This time he didn’t and I’m sorry about that because, at 4 a.m., I think the security dispatcher could have used a good laugh.
When Ray came back to bed, he said sheepishly, “Well, at least I found a way to get rid of them.”
“Yeah,” I said, “they’re probably back home saying to their coon buddies, ‘Man, when you touch that new feeder, all hell breaks loose!’” However, I’m pretty sure these coons are created in the mold of General Douglas MacArthur, and I believe they shall return.
In the meantime, Ray has another problem. A large turtle has found a home in our water garden and is busily stampeding the goldfish. Unfortunately, turtles don’t react to sirens the way raccoons do. When turtles hear a siren, they do what submarines—from Captain Nemo’s Nautilus to today’s modern nuclear subs—do. They dive!
Frankly, I think we ought to turn Grandson Gabe loose on the turtle. He’s done a great job scaring the frogs that sit on the lily pads out of the pond and, if goldfish could walk, I’m not sure they wouldn’t have found a new place to dwell safe from the threat of a 5-year-old male who has twice fallen in the pond—once while trying to “touch a fish,” the other time from running when he should have been walking.
Moles have been a bit of a problem in the yard near the road. I don’t approve of poison peanuts because of curious grandchildren and the fact that a bunny rabbit might mistakenly eat one. Ray assures me that bunnies don’t eat peanuts, but you never know when one may decide to top off its meal of flowers and seedling trees with a peanut for dessert. So the moles are safe as long as they stay away from the house.
Luckily, Ray’s main varmint concern when we moved to the country—squirrels—hasn’t materialized. “I can’t understand why you’re so worried about squirrels,” I said once, “they just hang around in the trees and look cute.”
“Yeah,” said Ray, “but soon they’ll be eating the nuts from the walnut and pecan trees I planted.”
The trees in question are all of 18 inches tall and that is why I replied, “Not these squirrels! Maybe their great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren!”
Ray was not in the slightest amused. I think he is beginning to realize that the most troublesome creature with whom he has to deal is a wife!
Hi-tech coon capture
Ray is having so much fun with the new Trophy Cam that son Greg and family gave him for his birthday. But his prize photo captures aren’t of six-point bucks he plans to shoot — although he hopes to capture photos of the many deer that use our yard to graze or pass through on their way to our neighbor Belinda’s deer feeder stocked with corn.
No, Ray hopes to capture a raccoon pulling on the chain of the steel can that nightly secures the bird feeders to keep them out of coon hands and the sunflower seeds they contain out of coon tummies. He came close on the first night's photo and — who knows? — perhaps the coon in the photo at right did climb on the can and the shot just missed it. To ensure that isn’t the case next time he visits, Ray has set the Trophy Cam to take short video clips.
Better yet, if the coon manages to figure out the combination lock on the chain (I wouldn’t put it past him), Ray might have a winner on America’s Funniest Videos. You’ll be among the first to know.
Photo captions by Ray(Click on photos for larger images).
Bandits strike in the
still of the night
Ray's trail cam caught this coon trying to raid the birdfeeder near the birdbath. To watch the short video, clickhere. This thievery isn't unusual.One night a couple of coons teamed up to shake the seeds out of the feeder. Another time, they bent a shepherd's crook to the ground, making it easy for them to chow down on sunflower seeds. There's a reason God gave these guys masks.
The trouble with coons
We thought our coon troubles were over last summer when Ray harmlessly trapped two and set them free at the Wakarusa River. However, twin masked marauders attacked our birdfeeder a couple of weeks ago. This time, before Ray opened the door to scare them away, he remembered to turn off the security alarm so no siren encouraged their speedy departure. However, yelling “Shoo! Scat! Git!” at the top of his lungs worked almost as well. Satisfied that they were gone for the night, Ray came back to bed. He checked the clock—3:00 a.m.—plumped his pillow, pulled the covers up to his chin and said with a weary sigh, “The ‘coons are back!”
The next evening, Ray brought the trap out of the basement and set it up with apples as bait. Prudence won out over my urge to suggest that he bait it with the dog food which I had been surreptitiously buying for a little raccoon who had become my buddy. Each evening he’d come to a glass door on the deck and cock his head at me. Then, before departing, he’d leave an offering by the door in appreciation of the good food I had given him. Every morning I’d shovel his gift off the deck. It’s easy to tell where it landed as the grass is decidedly greener in that spot.
Ray went to work the next morning without checking the trap and when I looked out at mid-morning, there was a coon curled up in the trap sound asleep. He slept all day except when I awakened him to give him some dog food and offer a drink of water. Late that afternoon, Ray hauled the still drowsy raccoon to the river. “Boy,” said Ray when he returned, “that was a really big coon; he was heavy!”
The next night, my small raccoon buddy decided to polish off his meal of Kibbles ‘n Chunks with an apple for dessert. Slam went the trap. At least he was easy for Ray to carry. The third night, we caught nothing and I told Ray I was sure there were only two coons.
The fourth night, Ray baited the trap with cake.
“That won’t work,” I said. “Raccoons don’t eat cake.” Maybe not, but that night one did. I suspect it may have helped that the cake wasn’t baked by me. Ray took that coon to the river on his way to work.
The fifth night, I broke down and offered the dog food. Ray was astounded. “I can’t believe it!” he exclaimed. “Why would you buy dog food for a raccoon?”
“Because,” I replied, “I couldn’t find anyplace that sold Purina Coon Chow.”
“And I suppose if we had monkeys coming to the deck eating from the bird feeders you’d be buying them bananas!”
Sometimes you just can’t reason with a man!
Ray opted to use the cake instead of dog food and about midnight another coon with a sweet tooth took the bait. However, the sugar apparently made this coon hyperactive because he bounced that trap all over the deck. Bumpity . . . bump . . . bump. And because our bedroom adjoins the deck we had great audio of his energetic thumping. Just when we’d think he had settled down for the night, he’d start in again. Ray lasted until 2 a.m., when he got up and drove the coon to the river. “Can you believe that I had to literally shake him out of that trap in order to set him free?” Ray asked as he crawled into bed.
The seventh raccoon we caught was a mellow fellow. “When I turned on the light,” Ray reported, “he was lying on his back scratching his belly. He looked at me as if to say, ‘Hey, Pal, douse that light, willya?’”
We were certain we’d trapped all the raccoons in our part of the county, but the very next night, I heard a noise on the deck and found a big raccoon—I dubbed him The Great Wallenda Coon—cautiously walking the deck railing toward the birdfeeder containing sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds appear to be a raccoon magnet . . . along with dog food, apples and cake.
Because all raccoons look pretty much alike (same mask, same pointy nose, same striped tail) it’s impossible to say whether these are new coons or if the old coons have simply walked the four miles home to an easy food source. Say, maybe I could sneak tiny locating transmitters into the Kibbles ‘n Chunks. That’s the ticket!
Raccoons create a racket
at our house
A dustmop can be a handy crutch when you have a cramp.
My husband Ray did it again! Set off the burglar alarm when he opened a door to the deck to confront the raccoon making a meal of the birds’ sunflower seeds. Armed with a dustmop, clothed solely in the rosy flush of interrupted sleep and limping on his left leg because of a cramp in his thigh, he threw open the door and sent the raccoon scrambling when the siren began its mournful wail.
Utilizing the mop as a crutch, he headed for the alarm box to shut it off, giving me a dirty look as he limped past the kitchen counter where I was doubled over in helpless laughter. Let’s see . . . how many times have I had to explain to the security company that the alarm was set off in this manner? THREE! But who’s counting?
You have to wonder how the raccoon explained his hasty departure from the deck when he got back home. “Have you ever heard that guy scream when he opens the door? What a set of lungs he must have!”
“I heard him last year,” says another coon sympathetically. “Scared me out of three years’ growth and turned the black mask around my eyes pure white.”
If only raccoons weren’t so darned cute, you could kill ‘em! And if only the traps Ray uses to catch them and transport them out of our territory weren’t so darned ugly! I work and work trying to make the deck look nice. Chairs, table—but no umbrella (too windy on our hill)—and lots of potted flowers adorn the deck, while one big ugly trap, baited with cake, spoils the whole scene.
Oddly enough, the coons haven’t attempted to dine on the fish in the water garden. You’d think they’d delight in that captive link in the food chain, but our coons must be vegetarians. Only a neighborhood cat has shown interest in a diet of goldfish, while—thankfully—exhibiting no enthusiasm in going for a swim in order to indulge that interest. Oh, yeah, and that darn snake, now pushing up daisies, who serially-killed some of our fish and frogs. For the moment at least, Ray and I are fairly confident that the fish and frogs are safe from every creature but grandson Gabe.
Speaking of predators, the other day I saw a red-tailed hawk sitting on the deck railing. The hawk obviously was not a practicing vegetarian seeking birdseed, so I could only assume that he was waiting for the female cardinal that attacks our windows to knock herself out and become his helpless victim. And I had to ask myself: would I try to rescue her sorry unconscious carcass from a bird of prey with talons the length and sharpness of pitchfork tines? Probably, although I might first take time to set the security alarm before heading out the door.
Some of the cutest animals viewed from our deck aren’t wild at all, but are Vic’s and LaDonna’s domesticated black Angus calves which frolic in the pasture behind our home. I’m pretty sure that the individual who coined the word “frolic” had to be watching baby calves when the word came to mind. Likewise the words “gambol,” “cavort” and “romp.” The cows are fun to watch, too, especially when they follow the hay wagon in winter—they’re real easy to see in the snow—in a long drawn-out line. But it is the small ebony calves who give me the most pleasure and hold my attention longest. Ray’s, too, even though as a farm boy he was partial to the little white faces of Hereford calves.
Earlier this spring, Ray glanced out the window and saw a tiny heifer crawl under the fence and sprint across our back lawn. Vic rolled under the fence in pursuit of her and by the time Ray got out the door to head her off, she had vanished without a trace. The calf’s owners searched for her until dark and, at sunrise, were happily relieved to find her back on their side of the fence contentedly nursing her mother.
When Ray and I built our home in the country, some of our neighbors who are engaged in agricultural pursuits worried that the lowing of cattle, braying of donkeys and trumpeting of swans (yes, swans) would cause us city folk to complain. Not likely. The critters were here first. And, besides, nary calf nor coon has registered a complaint about our siren going off in the wee hours of the morning.
Frustrated husband trying
to outwit raccoons
“This is the alarm company. May I have your name and password?”
As I complied, I grinned in anticipation of the next question: “Is everything all right?”
“Yes, my husband just opened a door to shoo raccoons off the deck and forgot that he’d set the alarm.”
It’s happened before — many, many times — but not lately and, frankly, I’ve missed the excitement. As the siren began wailing and Ray rushed to shut it off, he said in his defense, “At least I had my clothes on this time!” (He did and, trust me, it’s much more exciting when he doesn’t.)
The coons still visit nightly in hope of pilfering the birds’ sunflower seeds, but Ray thinks he may have outwitted them by placing the feeders in a 55-gallon plastic trash can. Oh, the coons know the feeders are in there — the can is riddled with teeth-marks — but to date they haven’t chewed their way to the goodies. Neither have they managed to knock off the locking lid when they tip it over each night.
The first night he secured the feeders in the can, the raccoons were so frustrated that they pulled the pole stabilizing Ray’s prized tree of paradise out of its pot. Then they batted all the oranges off our miniature orange tree. And — while they always leave a few poopy greetings on the deck and railing to show they were there — the next morning, the deck was littered with raccoon poop. I’m convinced they were sending us a message.
Ray has employed every means imaginable — short of shooting them — to outsmart our ring-tailed visitors. Once he did threaten to shoot them, but wasn’t able to follow through on the threat. I think it’s because God made them so darn cute. He trapped several and released them at the river, but I’m pretty sure they were back home before he was.
It’s not that we begrudge the coons sustenance, but they don’t stop at eating a reasonable amount. In only one night, they consumed 5 pounds of sunflower seeds and a brand new suet cake. Until Ray wired it shut, they used to pry open the suet holder; now they dig out the tasty fat with their claws.
As troublesome as coons are, I think Ray might like them if they dispatched venomous snakes. Since learning that possums are impervious to the bites of venomous snakes and often kill and eat them, he has developed friendly feelings for the rat-like animal. Clearly, any enemy of his enemy is a friend of Ray’s.
A possum recently gave him a good laugh when he drove down our long drive to retrieve our newspaper. The sun hadn’t risen, and a mother possum with six babies chose that moment to cross the driveway. When the headlights hit her, she turned so quickly that two of the four babies clinging to her back were thrown off and she knocked over the two walking beside her. Fortunately, Ray avoided running over the four rolling baby possums as well as their mother.
Good thing! I cannot see myself feeding baby possums eyedroppers of milk every two hours as Grams did. She also tried to save their mother who was hit by a car in front of her house, but the possum’s injuries proved fatal. She cruelly bit Grams — possums have more than 50 sharp teeth — before expiring, but Grams raised her babies and released them.
Grams knew that possums, at 75 million years old, are claimed to be the oldest surviving mammal and are very intelligent creatures, as smart as pigs. Raccoons are said to be as smart as primates. Given that possums, like primates, have opposable thumbs (albeit on their back feet), I’m grateful that they don’t have a hankering for sunflower seeds.
I think possums raiding the feeders would push my husband over the edge ... and not even their snake-killing ability would save them from the wrath of Ray.
Raccoons IV: The saga continues
We spied this coon sleeping in a tree at Clinton Lake until we awakened him.
They’re BAAAACK! I’ve known for some time that raccoons have been making nocturnal visits to our bird feeders (it’s impossible to ignore the nightly gifts they leave for me to surreptitiously sweep off the deck), but I didn’t want to tell husband Ray who has been threatening to shoot them when they returned.
Not to worry. In the wee hours of a recent rainy morning, I woke to the beeping of the security alarm when Ray—I know it’s hard to believe—actually turned it OFF before opening a door to the deck. He flipped on the perimeter lights and the yard lit up as if we were in the midst of a full-scale prison break (no siren, though).
Having earlier told Ray that Sally, my friend Jean’s sister who lives in California, shoots troublesome raccoons off her roof with a garden hose, I hoped to hear the sound of running water. But I quickly jammed the pillow over my head when I saw that Ray was armed with the .22 rifle he received as a Christmas present when he was 14. If I couldn’t save the raccoons, at least I didn’t have to listen to the shots that dispatched them.
Within two minutes, Ray was crawling back in bed, fizzing with laughter. “I fully intended to shoot them,” he confessed, “but they were so wet and bedraggled looking! The larger one immediately hauled tail; the little one walked toward me until he was about six inches away from the gun barrel, sat back on his haunches, gave me a pitiful look and held up his right paw in surrender. All I could do was laugh.”
I should have known that the only raccoon Ray could shoot would be the one that fired on him first!
He didn’t even shoot at a raccoon on a long-ago winter night when my father persuaded him to participate in a coon hunt. Ray, whose boots crashed through the ice into the Wakarusa River as he and the other men followed the dogs pursuing the coon, came home wet and bedraggled himself. Snorting with disgust—hard to do when his teeth were chattering with cold—Ray described the hunt in less than glowing terms: “The good news is that the coon got away. He was the only sane creature out and about tonight since his only reason for being out in such lousy weather was because the dogs were chasing him!”
It was Ray’s first and last coon hunt. As for Dad, as soon as he had enough material for a magazine article, he, too, gave up coon hunting.
Lately, Ray has had a much bigger problem to worry about than raccoons. The deer that we were so thrilled to see grazing in our yard developed a voracious appetite for tulips and phlox. After the deer ate the tops off 60 tulips and left the bulbs on top of the ground, Ray purchased a pricey cayenne pepper spray, advertised to deter deer and other critters from plants they shouldn’t be eating. Unfortunately, we don’t know if the spray works or not because, immediately after application, the sky opened and a Noah-sized rain washed it all off.
The next day, Ray was grousing to our friend Martha about the destructiveness of the deer, telling her he supposed he’d have to buy more expensive spray. “What you need to buy,” said our usually-compassionate friend, “is a .30-.30!”
However, I am not in the least concerned for the safety of the deer. Ray has long proclaimed that he could never shoot deer because of their soulful brown eyes. I suspect that even a full-grown buck, caught red-hoofed with a tulip dangling from his mouth, would be safe from being shot by anything other than a garden hose or video camera!
While I won’t attempt to name the deer (too many to keep track of), I am considering naming the raccoons now that I know they’ll be with us for a while. And I’ll need a lot of names because the other night when I heard a noise on the deck, I turned on the lights and discovered five tiny raccoons clinging to the same bird feeder.
Ty Coon is a good name for one, I think, and perhaps another can be dubbed Bandit. How about Ringo for a ring-tailed critter? Zorro might be appropriate or The Lone Ranger. Oh, yes! I’ll definitely call one The Lone Ranger! (“Who is that masked critter?” . . . “Heigh-ho Silver-tail! Away!”)
The furry, smelly or cute:
Road kill: Possums and skunks
and 'coons, Oh my!
It has been brought to my attention that, when writing about country critters, I have not given sufficient attention to the smelly and ugly. "What about skunks and possums?" one reader questioned me in the supermarket, "Where are they?" Thanks to my daily walks, I could tell her. "Flattened on the road, that's where!"
As my husband Ray and I walk our county road, we have become adept at avoiding road kill. At least he has. "Watch out!" he'll yell as I am on course for a flat furry spot on the blacktop. It is amazing to me that possums, fat as they look in life, can be squashed so thin.
Possums are marsupials and, like kangaroos, carry their young in a pouch.
Such was the case of the possum that was hit by a car in front of my grandmother's home. Grams, who had an abiding love and sympathy for all creatures, took the mother possum and her entire brood inside her home to nurse them. The mother possum bit Grams cruelly before expiring, but Grams successfully raised the orphaned babies by giving them milk from an eyedropper every two hours.
My friend Betty, uprooted from her native South and transplanted in Kansas, told me about her first encounter with a possum in her Midwestern home ... well, garage to be exact. Her screams quickly brought a neighbor to the scene. "I just saw a HUGE rat!" Betty cried.
Think about it ... gray body, pointed nose, sharp ears and a hairless tail. Lots of people might think a possum was a rat on steroids. What surprised me was that Betty hadn't EATEN a possum. I freely admit that, despite spending a year of my early life in Georgia, many of my conceptions of the South are derived from reading way too many Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings books while growing up. Seems to me that Rawlings' Southern characters ate a steady diet of possum and sweet potato pie.
Defunct skunks are found in abundance on country roads. I'm fairly certain that no driver would deliberately run over a skunk ... or even come close to one given the option. My friend Martha, a school nurse, learned the dangers of proximity the hard way when a skunk hitched an 11 mile ride on the motor mount of her car's engine. "When I first smelled it, I thought it was road kill," she explained, "but the odor didn't go away."
Apparently traumatized by whizzing into town at highway speeds, the skunk didn't avail himself of the opportunity to escape from his perch when Martha parked at various schools on her rounds, although he rather forcefully expressed his displeasure each time she started her car. "At every school, I'd ask the secretaries if they could detect a skunk odor on me," Martha confided. "They said that they couldn't ... until they got close."
When she deduced the skunk was actually her passenger, she drove to a fire station where a fireman liberated the skunk. And you thought firefighters just put out fires!
Unfortunately, no firefighter was handy when Ray, then 7 years old and newly relocated to the country, saw a cute black-and-white kitty while he was walking home from his rural school. To this day, Ray regrets that he was faster than the kitty. The experience resulted in a hasty burial of his clothes, while Ray was repeatedly doused with tomato juice.
I can visualize that scene and also a similar one involving my friend BeeJay and her cat Dorf. When Dorf caught a skunk (or vice versa), BeeJay used tomato juice on the reluctant cat and got in the shower with him to do it! Greater love hath no woman than one who will shower with her cat ... especially that particular feline whose personality was so nasty I dubbed him Ghengis Kat.
While I have written countless times of the raccoons who raid the birdfeeders on our deck, I never have mentioned the many coons who find their final resting places on country roads. I loathe seeing ringed-tails flapping in the breeze over prostrate bodies. Not Ray, though. "Well," he'll say with apparent satisfaction, "there's one coon that won't be eating our sunflower seeds!"
But his seemingly callous attitude doesn't fool me because I haven't forgotten that he didn't have the heart to shoot a coon when he had him dead to rights. I judge a husband by what he does, not what he says. So coons are safe on our land. But on the road? No guarantees there!
Anorexic coyote spurns food
What a pathetic specimen of coyotekind.
Okay, if you looked this skinny and pathetic, would you walk away from a plate of delicious dog food? I don't think so . . . and yet our little coyote pup did.(Click on photo for larger image.)
He'll take a few bites, then leave. Doesn't he know coyotes are starving elsewhere? No, wait, that's here they're starving . . . though through no fault of ours.We bought him food but, like the proverbial horse who can be led to water, but not made to drink, we can't force feed our coyote. Well, perhaps we could, but we're smart enough not to try.
Our anorexic coyote will eat a few bites then walk away.
Grandson Gabe, who is bunking with us while attending college, is gradually getting used to the many coyotes that frequent our neck of the woods. But he has decided that listening to them yip-yip-yoooing in the distance is far preferable to hearing them fight under his window over the meat scraps that husband Ray persists in throwing under our deck in the hope that a neighbor’s dog will eat them.
We're hosting an even smaller coyote pup than the one pictured above, but he is too shy for me to photograph. However, starvation is the least of my worries about him after my friend Heather told me about a traumatic incident she once experienced. Her family was entertaining guests from Texas on their urban Kansas patio while Roxie, the guests' much-pampered tiny dog, complete with diamond collar, enjoyed the outdoors. Suddenly a red-tailed hawk swooped out of the sky, grabbed the dog in his talonsand took off into the blue.Neither Roxie nor her collar were ever seen again.
We have many red-tails in our vicinity and, while I once saw two hawks fightinghigh in the skyover a snake, I wouldn't want to repeat that experience with a little coyote pup.
Dog food for a coyote pup
Hunting for grasshoppers?
Why, you ask, would we buy dog food for a skinny little coyote pup? Easy answer: Purina doesn’t make Coyote Chow.
I am beginning to think that mother coyotes in our neck of the woods abandon their babies far too early. For the past two years, tiny little coyotes have prowled our yard seeking sustenance. Ray swears that our current coyote pup is so desperate that he is eating grasshoppers. I don’t know if that is the case, but the manner in which he hops after his prey indicates it may be true. Surely, there cannot be that many field mice in our back yard.(Click on photos for larger images.)
By the time we bought dog food for last year’s coyote pup, it was too late. After three days roaming our front acreage, he never returned to eat the dog food Ray put out for him that fourth day. The previous night, coyotes in our area had howled, barked and generally raised a ruckus loud enough to wake neighbors a mile away, causing me to fear that adult coyotes might have killed our little guy. Coyotes don’t eat their own, do they?
Telephoto shots taken from window.
This year’s coyote is little, but still bigger than last year’s pup which I first mistook for a stray Chihuahua. So I’m taking no chances with this tiny guy (or gal, hard to tell). On day one, I offered him ham; day two, Canadian bacon. I couldn’t be sure he was the one who ate the meat, however, so we bought dog food to put out several times a day and hopefully catch him in the act of eating it. So far, no luck. Only Bob (so-dubbed by Ray because our neighbor’s cat has no tail) was spied chowing down on our coyote’s dog food.
It’s not like we need more coyotes, but neither Ray nor I can bear the thought of a hungry baby animal. Also dog food is cheaper (though not by much) than ham and Canadian bacon. And — in case our pup is of the Jewish persuasion — it just may be kosher, too.
Three little stinkers who love
Burger King french fries
Aiming my camera was a signal for the skunks to run away.
"Marsha, come quick!"
I almost didn't hear Ray's stage whisper calling me from the solarium on our lower level. I scurried down the stairs and saw a mother skunk and her twin kits.
They were there because Ray had thrown some leftover Burger King french fries off the deck for any wandering dog, cat or coyote that passed by. He didn't expect a trio of skunks, but one little skunk found the world's longest french fry and was, according to Ray, "happy as a clam."
I ran upstairs to retrieve my camera and returned just in time to see them running toward the rose bush. I guess they like the way roses smell.
A real stinker!
SKUNK ON THE RUN. You'd think he/she owned the place. Hopefully, Critter Control will trap and move him/her (I'm betting her) before we have juvenile skunks to contend with. And, yes, we know we need to set the correct date and time on the camera. Photo was taken in the wee hours of 02/27/2015.
Cute if you've lost your sense of smell.
When Ray was 7-years-old, his family moved to a farm. Walking two miles home from school one day, this transplanted city boy saw a cute little black and white kitty. He chased it, hoping to take it home for a pet. To this day, he regrets he was faster than the kitty. He says immediately upon catching said kitty, he could neither see nor breathe. He says he bawled every step of the way home, and his parents buried his clothes and gave Ray multiple tomato juice baths.
Fast forward many years. We arrived home from a trip to Vegas to learn the hard way that a skunk had died under our front porch. Not only did we have the smell of deceased animal, he (or she) did not go gentle into that good night and let out one last spray. Smarter people would have moved out. We stayed put but purchased a liquid from our Extension Service that, when saturated into cotton balls and placed under furniture and drapes, removed the smell. Ya think? Then we bought several cans of aerosol spray from a pest control business. That worked better, but nothing helped much.
Me . . . smelling dead skunk.
The next day a magazine I’d written an article for wanted to send a photographer from Wichita to take my photo. “I don’t think you want to do that,” I said, explaining that I figured the photographer would have trouble taking a photo while holding his nose. He came anyway and I expect he regretted it all the way home.
As I write this, I am awaiting a visit from Critter Control because a skunk has again built under our front porch (different house). I discovered that last night when I heard a racket and turned on the porch light. TWO skunks were fighting (or mating, hard to tell) and were not at all deterred by the light. I realized then that a week or so ago when I was awakened by those same noises and assumed raccoons were fighting on the deck, it was skunks outside our bedroom window . . . which explained why the next two mornings when I awakened, I smelled a skunky odor.
Now the front of the house has a skunky odor even though — thank goodness — they didn’t spray. Skunks just naturally stink, especially when they’re mad or aroused (again, hard to tell). Critter Control assures me they will trap them in a humane manner (not that humane is a high priority for me right now). However, I told them if I were a skunk who was trapped and someone picked up the trap to move me, the first thing I’d do was use my defense mechanism and turn the air into a fetid smog. The Critter Control agent named Chad tells me he’s never been sprayed. I don't want our resident skunks to be the first to spray him . . . and by propinquity . . . us.
Cost is up in the air. It’s $129 to set up the trap and check it, plus $69 for each skunk trapped. I know we have two, but I told Ray perhaps we should put a limit on how many skunks we’re willing to have removed. Depending on what they use for bait, they could be attracting skunks from all over the county. Stay tuned for more about the little stinkers. Ray set up his wildlife camera and I hoped to post a video he got of a skunk caught red-pawed, but I just learned I can't upload the video we have of him/her. However, we've set the wildlife camera to photo and as soon as we capture a picture, I'll post it for you.
Chad of Critter Control
is our new best friend!
Chad set a trap and caught our little stinker camping under the porch on the very first night! At 7:33 p.m., he almost caught a neighbor's cat, nosy enough to explore the trap, getting all but its left hind leg and tail inside (Ray's wildlife camera recorded that near trap experience).
At 8:31 p.m., the skunk approached the trap. The video didn't run long enough to see her (it was a her) get inside and hit the trigger sealing the cage, but the next video an hour later showed a big male skunk (his gentleman parts clearly visible) approaching the trap while the much smaller female jumped around inside it.
When Chad picked her up the next day, he placed some grass and twigs into the hole that was her entrance under the porch to ensure he had caught the problem skunk. That night, the camera recorded the male skunk as he dug out the grass in a futile effort to reach his honey (who had been humanely released near a lake about 20 miles away). Even if we hadn't had video proof, Chad said he would have known the grass was removed from the outside, because the debris was on the outside. Had the skunk taken the grass out from the inside, it would be on the inside of the hole because skunks can only pull with their front paws, not push (who knew?).
Ray says the $198 we spent to rid ourselves of the little stinker was well worth it. If you had visited our previous home where the skunk died— after emitting an expiring spray — under our porch, you would agree! My hubby is presently busy filling in the hole and adding more dirt to both sides of the sidewalk where the ground has settled. No more stinkers under our porch if we can help it!
Squirrels are nature's acrobats(and
they're cute, too!)
Squirrels aren’t Ray’s favorite mammal . . . especially when they pilfer the birds’ black oil sunflower seeds. I remind him that squirrels have to eat, too, but when he sees a squirrel at the bird feeder, he opens the door, yells, grabs a nearby broom and runs him (or her) off. The squirrels (sometimes there are two) head for a big tree nearby where they have a cozy nest.
This squirrel likes to swing while eating.
But squirrels are no dummies. Recently, one appeared outside the double glass doors in the living room that lead to the deck. He (or she) stood up and peered into the room to see if Ray was near. Not seeing him, the squirrel decided the coast was clear and headed for the bird feeder to chow-down on sunflower seeds.
While browsing the Internet today, I saw a cute T-shirt with the picture below. I made a poster of it for Ray with my notation at the bottom that I hope will make him cut the squirrels a little slack.
Moving the birdfeeders gave our
squirrels and birds a welcome
change of scene
Great Wallenda Squirrel: Click to enlarge and check out his little foot which has a death grip on the crook. It looks like he has an opposable thumb, but he doesn't.
It took the birds about 20 minutes to find where Ray had moved the deck birdfeeder; it took the squirrels 19 minutes and 59 seconds less. Ray thought the shepherd's crook made out of wrought iron would not allow squirrels to climb it and reach the sunflower seeds. Wrong!
Aren't these orioles pretty against the background of greenery?
For some reason, we rarely see orioles at the deck feeders, but they seem to love the hummingbird feeder that hangs alongside the seed feeder on a double shepherd's crook near the garden with the birdbath. I love to look out and see these bright orange male birds and their softer-colored mates. Ray snapped the photo below.
OK, you looked for the naughty body parts first, didn't you?
I cannot close without posting another squirrel photo. Ray focused immediately on the squirrel's naughty body parts, pronouncing him a male. I, on the other hand, was looking at his foot (or is that a hand?) grasping the crook. We have decided to leave these feeders by the birdbath and move the single feeder and another hummingbird feeder to the deck once it's completed.
Share the feeder!
This squirrel prefers to eat upsidedown.
You would think that the squirrels would scare birds away, but they don't. However, big woodpeckers and bluejays do. So, occasionally, will doves in spite of their gentle nature.
This feeder is in the front yard near a birdbath. The squirrels usually use the feeder on the deck and the only thing that scares them away is Ray who runs out yelling and stomping to shoo off squirrels whenever he sees them.
Here's a question: where do snowbirds spend their time when it's not snowing? The only time we see them at the feeder is when it is. One snowy day, a snowbird flew into the glass doors in the living room that lead to the deck. When I looked out, he (or she, hard to tell) had his (I'm going with boy) head buried in the snow.
I figured if he wasn't dead, the snow would suffocate the little guy, so I went out and used his tail to lever him upright with his head out of the snowdrift. I checked on him periodically and feared he'd gone to that great feeder in the sky when he was still there a half hour later. Happily, the next time I checked, he was gone.
Ray says birds are our cheapest entertainment. So, I contend, are upsidedown squirrels.
Snakes, fish and frogs (but
no puppy-dog tails):
Cute critters perk of country living
His fingers remind me of ET's.
Critters are one of the most fun things about living in the country. Each day, as Forrest Gump would say, we "never know what we’re going to get" with regard to unexpectedly coming face-to-face with the many critters that share our acreage. And when the face-to-face is with cute baby critters, the surprise is even better.
This tree frog is likely not a baby, but he’s (or perhaps she’s) so tiny (a little larger than a quarter), he looks like a baby. I first photographed him at an angle from indoors as he was clinging to the outside of the door leading from our living room to the deck.(Click on photos for larger images.)
He seems happy, doesn't he?
He looks like he is suspended in mid-air but the little suction cups on his tiny fingers and toes are gripping the glass for dear life. When I moved outdoors to photograph him from the other side, my presence didn’t scare him at all.
That same day, Ray discovered this nest of baby bunnies when he was trimming around a flower bed. I planned to photograph them again a couple of days later, but they were gone. It worried us because cats and dogs (none of them ours) and coyotes (ours if they’re anyone’s) wander through our yard. Still, we were encouraged that there was no sign of blood or fur.
There are four baby bunnies in this cozy nest.
According to information I found on the Internet, baby bunnies leave their nest as early as three weeks, so we hope that is what happened and that we see some adolescent bunnies hopping around.
Ray will be happy that they made it until they bite off some of his newly-planted trees. "I wouldn’t mind so much," he said on a previous occasion when bunnies did just that, "if they’d eat them, but they bite them off and leave them just for spite!"
Hopefully, these bunnies have better manners.
For albino tree frog, being green
like Kermit might be easier
Click on photos to see larger image and note faint patterns on his body.
If you read A Bathroom Surprise! (down at the bottom of this section) about the tree frog we found sitting on our toilet seat when we returned from a long-ago vacation, you will understand that we have a plethora of tree frogs around our home.
However, yesterday we were surprised to see an albino tree frog on our glass doors leading to the deck from the living room. I don’t know if he (or she . . . hard to tell) is a true albino because his/her eyes are not pink and you can discern a faint pattern. Still, as you can see by the photos, this dude (or dudette) is bright WHITE!
The photos were taken with the camera set to macro and, other than the tree frog, everything you see is a reflection in the glass . . . including me taking one of the photos. Actually that photo has one element that is not a reflection: our dining room windows, and the front yard beyond, on the other side of the house.
Good thing the albino didn’t get in the house and sit on a white toilet seat. He would have been much harder to see and might have been squashed!
Looking through the house makes the dining room windows visible.
A tree frog's gotta eat . . . bugs
The camera flash gave this bug a red eye.
If you read the next post, you will learn about the tree frog that once invaded our bathroom, taking a seat on the toilet.
While the little guy pictured at left didn't actually make it into our bathroom, he put on quite a show outside our bathroom window as he stalked a bug drawn to the light. This tree frog had better luck securing a meal than an earlier tree frog on the same window. When that tree frog (perhaps the same one since they all look alike) lunged at a bug, he lost his grip and fell off the window. It was a long drop and Ray and I looked at each other in dismay, hoping the bridal wreath spirea under the window had broken his fall.
Hard to digest when you're standing on your head.
The current tree frog didn't lose his grip and fall, but his whole world turned upside down as pictured at right. He worked really hard for his meal.
Too bad the bug didn't work equally hard to avoid being eaten.
A Bathroom Surprise!
Wouldn't want to sit on this little guy!
I am the mother of sons whose frequent question when they were growing up was, "Hey, Mom, have you seen my snake?" Thus, there was no panic when we returned home from a six-day trip to find a surprise in the bathroom. The luggage was unpacked, the first load of clothes was in the dryer and the second in the washer, when husband Ray loudly exclaimed, "You’re not going to believe what is in the bathroom!"(Click on photo for larger image.)
Sitting on the toilet seat was a tree frog, who wasn’t at all disturbed as I snapped photos of him (or her, hard to tell). After the frog’s photo shoot, Ray released him on the deck. We believe he entered the house on the big Boston fern we keep in the bathroom which Ray gave a good soaking on the deck before we drove back East.
Much later I realized that one of us (guess which?) might have sat on the frog during a nighttime toilet visit. It would have been a shocking experience for me and a crushing — likely fatal — experience for the frog.
One long ago summer, as a preteen chasing my sister in our yard, I landed on a frog with my bare foot, instantly sending him to frog heaven. It is disconcerting to think I might have killed another innocent frog with a different portion of my anatomy, so I plan to flip on the light to avoid any future frog surprises.
Note: ClickHEREif you would like to read the original column,"And now, a Moment of Silence as we Remember . . . a Squirrel,"in which I wrote about squashing a frog with my bare foot.
It might have been worse
I recently received an email from a friend that makes my tree frog toilet story seem tame by comparison. Here it is:
My wife, Julie, had been after me for several weeks to paint the seat on our toilet. Finally, I got around to doing it while Julie was out. After finishing, I left to take care of another matter before she returned.
She came in and undressed to take a shower. Before getting in the shower, she sat on the toilet. As she tried to stand up, she realized that the not-quite-dry epoxy paint had glued her to the toilet seat.
About that time, I got home and realized her predicament. We both pushed and pulled without any success whatsoever. Finally, in desperation, I undid the toilet seat bolts. Julie wrapped a sheet around herself and I drove her to the hospital emergency room.
The ER Doctor got her into a position where he could study how to free her (try to get a mental picture of this).
Julie tried to lighten the embarrassment of it all by saying, "Well, Doctor, I'll bet you've never seen anything like this before."
The doctor replied, "Actually, I've seen lots of them . . . I just never saw one mounted and framed."