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Wild Life Is Wild - And Plentiful!

I live in the country. I expect to see a reasonable amount of wildlife, but recently, ZOMG! Wildlife has been popping up all over the place, and most of it with young in tow.

Unfortunately, there are two types of people in this world. Those who bring their camera everywhere, and see much of life through a lens, and those who only think well after the fact, "Well gee. I shoulda snapped a picture of that!" Unfortunately for all of you (Sorry, Naz!) I am one of the latter. In my defense, I do not have a cell phone (I'd have to drive 5 miles into town to use it, and reception is very spotty on the roads around here) so I'm not able to pull out the cell phone I keep in my pocket for a quick snap. I have to run upstairs and grab the digital SLR out of the camera bag. So I will have to share with words instead.

[Announcer Voiceover]:

Last time on Fretful Porpentine:

I removed a porcupine kit from the garage using a shovel. I thought the mother had already left, because we were not able to locate her anywhere in the dim post-midnight garage. We didn't think much of her Darwinian parenting skills, but we closed up the garage, and toddled off to bed.

And now, tonight's installment:

[Regular Thothmes Voice]:

The next morning (Saturday before Father's Day) was my husband's call weekend, so while his family slumbered he got up and left for a morning at the clinic, only to meet with Mama Porcupine in the dim garage. Both parties backed away from each other, and my husband got in the car and drove off, leaving the garage door open, assuming that Mama would head out in search of Junior. When he returned that afternoon, there was no sign of Mama he cleaned up the sign Mama had left behind, and depositing the pellets in the trash bin, he looked around for her, and seeing nothing, closed the garage door. Porcumergency over, DefCon back to a nice comfy high number.


Father's Day dawns, and the seven year old (who is a holiday enthusiast of the first order) actually chances to sleep in. This is not normal Whirlwind of Distruction holiday behavior,which tends to run more to the up-at-the-crack-of-dawn-and-in-your-bleary-eyed-face variety, but we'll take it. For once we are both awake, without having used any alarm, and can chat a bit before arising. The subject of porcupines comes up. Now I know that if this were a fanfic, we'd be discussing/doing something more...*ahem*...romantic and interesting, but we've been at this parenting thing for over 25 years, and we know the moment we try anything like that, the Whirlwind of Distruction will be bounding downstairs and engaging us in conversation through the door. Those of you who had particularly obtuse and gregarious college roomies will know the feeling. So porkies it is.

I mention to my husband that my father once had a practically brand new Toyota Landcruiser, and drove it offroad into a field with a few spindly saplings, and when he drove out the next morning, the lights didn't work any more. He went to the dealership fuming about cars designed to go on safari in Africa hundreds of miles from any repair shop that couldn't handle a few little saplings. The dealership did the repair, but brought out the wiring to point out that the culprit was not saplings. It was a porcupine with a taste for wiring. This made my husband nervous. He hadn't actually seen Mama Porcupine leave. Headlights are convenient at night, and he never gets out of work before dark.

So much for lounging in bed. We got up (and so did the Whirlwind), ate breakfast, and my husband moseyed out to the garage.

He did not come back. I went to investigate.

There is stairway from the back of the garage to the basement and it is enclosed to keep the heat in in the winter, but not walled in. This means that from the top of the door framing, parallel to and roofing the stairwell, there is a sheet of plywood sloping down to a small door into our library. The small door is a pass-through situated right next to our wood stove, and we can pile up a couple of days wood on the plywood slope, and it's handy and not clogging up the library. At the top of the plywood sheet, right up at the top of the door framing, was Mama Porky. She was trying to ignore my husband, who was poking her with a rake, trying to annoy her enough to leave. I grabbed another rake to join in the "fun", and began to harass her from over the door framing.

Mama Porcupine's basic assumption (not unreasonable under the circumstances) was that we were bears. We were out to flip her upside down, rip through her soft and unprotected underbelly, and enjoy Porcupine Tartar. Now as it happens, our pet name for each other is "Bear" (Shut up! We were twenty, and... No one should have to explain pet names to anyone outside the couple. Ever. *blushes* *scuffs feet*) so my husband thought that Mama was being especially perspicacious, and we were laughing over this, when the Porcupine got tired of being poked, and decided to leave. She began to climb down my rake.

This struck me as a Very Bad Idea. I shook my rake, and she retreated, right down the little slope to the area by the little door. There, surrounded by the last two days worth of our three cords of wood, hoarded against the possibility of power outages, she hunkered down, and as threatened porcupines will, turned her back on us, and simply ignored with all her might. She might have been there still, if it were not for the fact that my husband got the bright idea of putting some paint thinner under her nose, in the hopes that the stink would drive her out. I got a mop, poured on some paint thinner, and put the plan into action.

It worked like a charm. Except for a brief moment when she tried to climb the furnace flue as a delaying tactic, we finally had her on the run. On the run, that is to the doorway into the house where the Whirlwind of Distruction had tucked her self, to be out of the way and still get a front seat to the action. We proved categorically that a charging porcupine at top speed can easily be outrun by a small child. The small child emitted a shriek that was loud enough and high enough to alert every single bat in the county and annoy and puzzle all the dogs for miles around and leapt over the porcupine and ran to the far side of the garage, while my husband and I prodded the resigned Mama Porcupine out and onto the grass, where it trundled in its prehistoric and waddle-y way off towards the barn. Porcupines have few natural predators and can survive on such slender pickin's that they really have minimal need for intelligence. Nature is never wasteful. They don't have any more than they need.

We backed the cars out, swept all the droppings and quills up, brought the cars back in, and closed up the garage. Then we went inside to celebrate the day with homemade blueberry muffins, and a few gifties.

I was upstairs checking my email when I heard a peculiar "chatter, chatter!" I wondered if it was Mama and Junior reuniting (although the sound was not quite right, somehow. Porkies are actually more grunty.) so I looked out the window, and there was a wild turkey hen, with seven or so young. I grabbed my camera, and dashed downstairs to tell my husband and the Whirlwind where to look (Middle Daughter still being off at her sleep-over), and dashed out the door, hoping to snap a picture. I should be easy, I thought, because the young were only about a quarter the size of the adult, so no doubt she would be hampered by the fact that they could not fly. Wrong. I tiptoed around the corner, and they all took flight before I could even bring my camera to bear.

When I went out to exercise that day, a woodchuck kept me company for the length of a stone wall. On the pond at the half way point the grebe had three ducklings. The Canada goose, defending his wife and five goslings hissed and flapped at me as I passed. By chance I was upstairs at the computer at dawn (a computer mini-crisis required much investigation and tinkering, and I have a loooong attention span when something catches my fancy) and I heard a delicate clop-clop, and saw deer walking desultorily down the middle of the street (posted at 50 mph by our house), their coats sleek and russet red in the dawn light, with an accompanying and swelling chorus of bird song. My favorites (more common in the deeper woods than in the verges of our field) are the hermit thrushes, so liquid and musical, and so redolent of the wild woods.

Other recent sightings of note:

Alas, on the road there was a dead raccoon kit. Two days later, he was joined by a sibling.

There was a hawk (red-tailed, I think, but I didn't get a very good look) being mobbed by crows.

A grouse ran across the road doing her wounded act in an attempt to keep me from discovering her young. I just kept running.

I ran across a turtle with a shell about 4 inches by 5 inches up near the pond today. Further down the dirt road there was a rather enormous one stumping along. Its shell was closer to 8 inches by 10 inches. Both were Snapping Turtles.

A week ago there was a murder of crows up in the woods. It was clearly some sort of crow rumble, and it was easy to see where the collective term came from. I sort of worry about what they were being so darn raucous about.

With all the rain we've had the salamanders are out in force, and suspect I'm building up some bad karma because it is awfully hard to run on the dirt roads and be sure not to tread on a single one.

This morning there was a Biblical Plague of Slugs on the dirt roads. It almost made me wonder if the Town road crew has been wetting down the back roads with stale beer.

Still, my favorite WTF animal sighting while jogging was from last summer. I rounded a corner in the woods to find myself face to face with a big old Sow, another pig (possibly Papa) of the same size, three adolescents, and ten spotted piglets. They had escaped from a farm back up in the woods. Fortunately they were taken off guard and scattered, rather than getting aggressive to defend the young.

There was an article in the paper recently about a man who saw a bobcat. I'm jealous. Over the years I've seen moose, bear, fisher cats, otter, mink, deer, raccoons, skunks, porcupines, foxes, cottontails, coyotes, beavers, and weasels, but I've never seen a bobcat around here in the wild.

Edited to pretty things up. These are not the edits you are looking for. Pay no attention to the man behind the lj-cut. Nothing to see here. Move along, move along....


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 29th, 2010 02:15 pm (UTC)
I'm really glad that we don't have porcupine infestations like that here. We live in a small town, but we've had dear walk right through the yard, and this morning our garden-munching rabbit was back. He spent the winter huddled on our back deck, occasionally coming up to look right in the back door at the cat, so he's not even interested when we were leaning out the window and yelling at him to get out of the garden. There is now a small collection of yo-yo's, a key fob, and a handful of pennies (it was early and that's all that was at hand) that got thrown at him in an effort to scare him away that I have to pick out of the garden. None of it worked.

One of these days I'll tell you the story of the bear who was a mouse in spite of itself. Wild animals can be so entertaining. :)
Jun. 29th, 2010 09:49 pm (UTC)
Alas, that rabbit sounds hardcore. My neighbor up the hill has had good luck in his garden with stakes about two feet tall that have a bit of string about a foot long tied to the top and aluminum pie tins tied to the other end. The wind blows the tins about, and they bang in to the stakes unpredictably and scare varmints off. But your guy sounds like he is made of sterner stuff.
Jun. 29th, 2010 03:55 pm (UTC)
simply ignored with all her might

This image makes me laugh quite a lot. I'm also kind of tempted to try this technique at work ;)
Jun. 29th, 2010 09:28 pm (UTC)
Oooh, I've worked with that when I used to work daycamp in the summers. Nothing like having a mass of 45 six and seven year olds running amuck while you try and convince the fourth counselor to come out and work to ratchet up the tension. I really should have known about the paint thinner trick back then!

I can see it now:
"Okay, kids! Who wants to hold the pole under Hank's nose?"

Revenge is sweet, even if it is only in fantasy!
Jul. 1st, 2010 08:48 pm (UTC)
He did not come back. I went to investigate.
in the movie, this would cue creepy music, LOL

Biblical Plague of Slugs
oh my, been a few years now since I lived in Slug-lad and cursed the things and their garden-destroying...

a farm back up in the woods
...wow, totally threw me into Patches there, lol. you ever find some sets of words you just cannot read or say without them coming out with the rhytmn you once heard them in? whether song, or a character's particular 'way'

your place sounds like absolute heaven as I sit here in my itty yard surrounded with houses and city. cheers
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )



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