Friday, May 04, 2007

Pesky Critters

I've been worried about whatever kind of critter took up residence under my house. It's living under the bath tub. You can hear it moving around, especially in the morning. I was worried it might be skunks again.

Some years ago we had a skunk living under the house that eventually turned in to seven or eight skunks. We finally ended up getting rid of them with the help of Chase Comfort, of Wildlife Services, and some #6 birdshot from my 16 gauge shotgun.

After we finally cleared them out, I went around the house and blocked off any possible avenue of entry the critters could use to get back under the house.

Skunks aren't actually as big as they seem. They just have a lot of hair.

I found that out when they were under the house and I saw them go under the house through an opening under the kitchen I thought they'd be too big to get through. That opening was closed by nailing a small board across it.

Problem was, that location was my location of choice when I'd put out rat poison- having a running battle with rats under the house despite having three cats at the time. So, I didn't nail the board on too tight so I could pry the board off to put poison in that spot.

I either didn't replace the board once, or something pulled the board off because we could hear things under the house again. I finally noticed the board wasn't in place and something had pushed through some downhanging parts of the wall to get under the house. I was hoping it wasn't skunks again.

Maybe it was the possum that's always coming around at night to eat the cat food left outside? I was hoping so. From the scratching I could hear on the bath tub it sounded like it could well be.

Finally, I saw the possum going under the house this morning- in broad daylight. After it went under the house I realized I should have taken a picture of it for this blog. Too late.

Then, not ten minutes later, I'm sitting here and see something next to Stinker on the back stairs. It's that damned possum eating the cat food. Stinker's maybe a foot away just watching him.

I actually went to get the camera and then realized I wasn't sure where I'd left it. Besides, I'd have to put batteries in it and then go through the hassle of putting the pictures on the laptop and transfering them to this computer. For some reason I can't get this computer to download pics straight from the camera.

I gave up on the pictures and went out to remove the food. Hey...he can fend for himself. Besides, this is some really expensive cat food the wifey bought for Stinker. He's got a skin problem the wife thinks might be from eating corn. This cat food doesn't have corn it it, and it was pricey.

So I open the door and the possum just stands there. I tell him to leave and he just stares at me. I motion like I'm gonna hit him and he cowers a bit but doesn't leave. I finally reach for the bowl and he moves down to the sidewalk. I bring the bowl inside and yell at Mr. Possum to leave. He starts waddling away and then turns and bares his teeth at me and finally walks out of the yard going through the side gate.

Pesky little critter. While it's kind of neat having some wild animal around that seems used to you, it's a bit too familiar with people for my comfort.

Still, better than having the skunks under the house.


At 8:33 AM, Blogger Rose said...

Urban wildlife. They are cute, though, Fred. :)

At 9:45 AM, Blogger Fred said...

Kinda. I actually think this possum is kind scruffy looking. I thought the skunks were real cute when they were under the house.

One morning I was sitting here at the computer and hear something scratching at the back door. It's one of those window type doors. I look over and three baby skunks are on their hind legs scratching at the door wanting in so they could have some of the cat food just inside the door. They were looking at me, pleading with their eyes.

They were so Cuuuute!

At 10:00 AM, Blogger Pogo said...

Yeah, skunks are cute but don't ever get into a pissing contest with one. They are like the orks, trolls and other leftists who show up here routinely.

At 10:05 AM, Blogger Carol said...

I once lived in a place where baby racoons would eat the cat food. They were cute, too, but hissed at us and flashed their teeth. Then momma showed up and she was fierce. We banged the pots and pans, so the cat could eat.

At 10:39 AM, Blogger Hayduke said...

We had raccoons under the bathtub. Did not know what they were, but kept hearing scratching in the wall. Cut a hole in the outside wall and there were all these baby raccoons. Sealed up the hole, and as soon as they were larger they left. Then I sealed up the hole next to the drain pipe they were using to get in. Skunks and raccoons (along with mice and rats) can get through an amazingly small hole. However as long as you leave cat food outside you are going to attract wild animals.

At 10:48 AM, Anonymous Steve Lewis said...

Purina cat food is a universal food. It seems all animals like it--from cats to slugs to raccoons to possums to birds..

But back to dealing with wild critters. I know this may sound a little strange to our European mindsets but having done it on several occassions I can swear it's authenticity. One can make deals with wild critters and they will honor the contract made. I successfully made deals with raccoons, ants, paper wasps and spiders including black widows and on our commune in the old days stuck smack in the heart of rattlesnack heaven in Butte County, we successfully made peace with our countless rattlesnake co-residents. It can be done. It's like a lost art in our culture, something akin to horse whispering.

Here's how I made the deal with my raccoon neighbors where I used to live on Price Creek. I had gotten a new kitten, Nina, and was living in a funky old trailer. Because I always give my cats freedom to roam as they please I had cut out a kitty door in one of the trailer's wheel wells and put a board down to the ground from the opening so my kitty could go in and out. But this meant any critter could also go in and out of my trailer if it wanted to. And raccoons were definitely there already harrassing the neighbor's over their garbage ala Fred and Rose's report. Big raccoons..

So here's the deal I made with the raccoons. I told them (in English because that's the language they hear us humans speak) when they came around at night checking out the new food plate (my leftover dinner scraps) on top of the trailer roof I had left for them. Couldn't leave it on the ground because the local dogs would eat it. I said "I will leave food scraps on the roof most every night in exchange for you guys not hurting my kitty Nina or coming into the trailer when I'm gone. The raccoons came every night on the roof for their little treat and never once bothered Nina while they still scared the daylights out of my neighbor frightening her off her porch one night when she tried to get them out of her garbage can.

Like I say, I've successfully made deals with lot's of different creatures and unlike humans, they stick to their end of the contract. Kinda amazing actually..

At 10:59 AM, Anonymous Steve Lewis said...

Because we are going to be having more and more encounters with wild critters like bears, it behooves us to start thinking of ways to teach these large animals how to deal with living in close proximity to human beings without causing problems. The garbage, feeding pets, all the things we do that attract wildlife, are going to have to be rethought if we are going to keep peace with our wild neighbors. Although we are taught to be frightened of these animals they were here before us and the native peoples learned to live in peace with them--including grizzlies. The Peaceable Kingdom can happen if we consider our neighbors as including our wildlife friends as well.

At 11:10 AM, Blogger Stephen said...

I've posted the chapter from my Creating Climax Civilization book that gives more details of my experiences making contracts with animals.

At 11:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow steve, thats great news. Here, let me set up a contract with you.

Shut your fucking mouth, now.

At 1:20 PM, Blogger Stephen said...

Anons, don't ya just love 'em? Their intelligent comments add so much to the community dialogue it boggle the mind. Less.

Grow up, anon 11:18, and get some ethical guidance counseling.

At 2:40 PM, Blogger Rose said...

My neighbor and I were feeding a mama raccoon and her babies for awhile. They were very cute, and she was very protective as carol describes. We also noticed that our snail problem disappeared. No need for Sluggo. We looked up care and feeding - but it doesn't exist - all the info out there is how to trap 'em and kill 'em. They moved on, and the snails returned, much to our dismay.

At 5:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd be worried putting rat poison out, with 3 cats Fred. Ever have any problems with the cats eating half dead poisoned rats?

At 5:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd rather have skunks and racoons than those bastards from the Arcata illegal camping protest

At 7:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:18 Too Funny!!!! Steve you are a nut!

At 8:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those illegal campers were squirrels.

At 8:04 AM, Blogger Carol said...

What do skunks eat? Do they eat slugs, too? We have a skunk lair just down the road from our house.

At 8:07 AM, Blogger Fred said...

The eat cat food and they LOVE peanut butter. Peanut butter was recommended to us as bait for the skunk traps and it works real good.

As far as in the wild, I believe they're omnivorous but I know they eat grubs and such. You can tell when skunks have been cruising your lawn by the inverted cone shaped holes in the lawn. They sniff around, find grubs, dig them up and eat them.

At 2:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's a skunk trap Fred? Is it lethal?

At 2:45 PM, Blogger Fred said...

They're those Havahart traps: long square metal boxes with an opening at one end. When the skunk or possum steps on the trigger inside, the door shuts and they're trapped.

Not lethal, in and of themselves, as they advertise them as catch and release traps, but the ones caught by Wildlife Services aren't caught and released. They're caught, but "destroyed".

At 7:40 PM, Anonymous terry said...

It's the mice that have me behaving like a crazed predator....I don't even care about the skunks, racoons, or possums cruising around the homestead, the mice were in my STOVE!

At 8:04 PM, Blogger Carol said...

"You can tell when skunks have been cruising your lawn by the inverted cone shaped holes in the lawn."

That explains what happens to our west lawn in August every year.

"the mice were in my STOVE!"

One time I had mice living in a piano. We wondering why two octaves would not play.

At 8:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up in ths suburbs of San Francisco, where wildlife was not often seen. That's probably why I love living here, right in the middle of the biggest city for miles and miles, where all kinds of critters live close by and visit from time to time.

We had some very pleasant racoons visiting us for the last two years or so. Unfortunately, they stopped coming around after one lost its tail in a dog attack. I didn't see the attack, but I did see the poor racoon's tail on the sidewalk. I really was more horrified than one would expect of a full-grown man. But we used to talk to those racoons and they were like friends.

I wish people wouldn't let their dogs roam around loose at night.

At 8:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve Lewis, your ideas on communicating with critters reminds me of the book "Kinship with All Life" by J. Allen Boone. It was first printed in 1954. Boone's experiences with animals seem very similar to yours.

Do me a favor, Steve? Would you explain in some detail how you get ants to respect your living space? They don't seem to understand when I talk with them.


At 9:23 PM, Anonymous Steve Lewis said...

I've got the toughest hardcase ants I've had to deal with here in Rio Dell. They're generations of ants that are conditioned to move upwards when the rains come in earnest and that means they move into the houses to get out of the rain and for food.

The ants I had trained in Redway were easy compared to these guys. There they listened and seemed to agree to the terms of the deal--they could roam the countertops for food scraps but three raps on the counter meant scaddoo--and they did--hundreds gone in less than a minute or so. But my Rio Dell ants wouldn't listen the first year I was here--constant battle between us where they'd come in every day onto the counters and no amount of rapping made the slightest bit of difference to them. They were quite willing to sacrifice hundreds everyday when I made a sweep of the counters when they would leave.

I tried butter barriers and cinnimon but to real avail. They'd just go around it or wait til it got old and marched over it. The second year was a little better than the first.

But by the third year, even my Rio Dell ants are behaving. They stay off the counters and go to the garbage pail only--they're allowed there. Oh, every once in a while they'll screw up and hit the counters but that's rare now and I just scold them the few times it happens.

Hope this helps..

At 9:26 PM, Anonymous me again said...

typos--"..when they wouldn't leave.."

and "..but to no real avail."

At 6:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Steve.
I hope you will have a look at the book I mentioned. Kinship with all Life by J. Allen Boone.


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