Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘raccoon

Absolutely Disgusting

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Now, I did not choose today’s title just because it is election day in the U.S. I witnessed something yesterday that was nauseating, but it had nothing to do with politics.

To spare you the horrific image, I did not take any pictures of what Delilah and I came upon during our afternoon walk. In fact, here is a difficult to discern shot of our cute cat playing queen of the pillows for you to view as a mental image cleanser after –should you choose to continue reading this post– you read my description of this unsettling experience.

Content Warning!

If you have a weak stomach for graphic details, avert your eyes now.

Delilah’s nose sensed it first, but luckily, the disgusting find was off the trail and I spotted it in time to shorten her lead to keep her from reaching it.

It looked like a basketball-sized animal had been turned inside out. I think it was a rib cage that was most prominent.

We kept walking.

When I got her a fair distance past the carcass, I secured Delilah’s leash to a gate in the pasture fence and retraced my steps for a closer viewing. I wanted to know what it was. I was also curious whether I could see a clue as to what animal was responsible for the kill.

I knew right away the dead animal wasn’t a chicken because my initial glance had caught sight of a hairy hide. Plus, there were no feathers around. It was also bigger than our chickens.

I spotted a foot and a tail that told me it was a raccoon. It was laying in plain sight in the middle of the main drainage ditch –currently saturated and flowing due to a continuing wet period of days lately– that forms our southern property line.

Having the gross spectacle so prominently exposed next to our pasture, within sight of the chicken coop and horses, made me a little uncomfortable, but I wasn’t much interested in dealing with it while walking the dog on our way to feed and clean up after the horses.

I settled for tossing it from the middle of the open ditch to some brushy growth on the far side, toward the neighbor’s property. When I picked it up by the tail, the surprisingly intact entrails dangled out from the gut. In the world of nature’s predator/prey relationships, I would say this was only a half-completed job.

It was also one of the most disgusting things I recall ever picking up.

Later in the evening, long after darkness had settled in (which now happens around 5:00 p.m.), I felt conflicted over having left the gruesome carcass where it would continue to attract attention.

Maybe I should have bagged it and thrown it away. At the same time, I would rather have local predators feeding off raccoons than my chickens. But, it was uncomfortably close to where our chickens roam.

Interesting side note: On Sunday, I spotted a beautiful bald eagle perched in a tree along that same drainage ditch. I fretted over the possibility it was eyeing our chickens. Maybe it was looking for raccoon carcasses, instead.

Now I want to go look at some cute cat pictures for a while.

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Written by johnwhays

November 6, 2018 at 6:00 am

Following Up

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Picking up right where I left off yesterday, the story is rain and more rain, and a raccoon that needed to be dealt with once and for all.

Tuesday was a crazy day for Cyndie at home. First, she had to move the horses into the barn for an appointment with Marcus to trim their hooves early in the morning. After cleaning up from that project, she started calling around to see what interest our local authorities might have in our ailing masked bandit.

Since no humans had come in contact with the raccoon, Public Health referred Cyndie to the DNR. They said they didn’t have anyone who could come out, but gave out the number for their biologist. They also suggested she could call the Sheriff.

The Sheriff’s office suggested she call the DNR. Figures.

Eventually, the dispatcher offered to pass on the issue to a Deputy who would call Cyndie back.

Cyndie said she was finally trying to have some breakfast around 10:30 when Delilah started a barking fit at the front door. It was a Deputy Sheriff.

The officer asked if we had any firearms. Nope. Then she offered to shoot it for us.

In her estimation, there was a good chance the coon was suffering from distemper. Regardless the affliction, ailing wildlife is not something you want around for other predators to eat, so she assured Cyndie that it was the right decision to call.

The Deputy elected to use a shotgun, so she could keep a distance. Cyndie said the weapon was almost as long as the petite officer was tall. After several warnings that the shot would be loud, the results possibly messy, that it would startle our horses, that it would be very loud, and that Cyndie didn’t have to look if she didn’t want to, the deed was done.

By the way, this was all accomplished in the rain.

The very kind and helpful officer stayed around to give Cyndie a hand triple-bagging the body and putting it into a closed garbage can for storage until our trash gets picked up.

One good thing about the rain is that it washes away any residual mess that might appeal to our dog on her many walks past that spot in the days ahead.

Delilah is more interested in the sound running water makes as the mini-waterfalls pour over the edges of washouts in the drainage ditch cutting across our fields.

Seems like that water is going to be flowing for days, so she’ll have plenty of distraction.

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Written by johnwhays

October 10, 2018 at 6:00 am

Gettin’ There

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Well, in case you haven’t noticed, today is June 14th. It just so happens, the Tour of Minnesota biking and camping week starts on June 15th. Holy COW, that’s tomorrow! I suppose I better start getting ready to go.

Today is my last day at the day-job before starting this annual biking adventure. After that, it’s a quick stop for some supplies, a rush home to get some grass cut, and then it will be time to start packing.

Tent, check. Sleeping bag, check. Bike, check. Helmet, check. Bike shoes, check. As long as I pack those essentials, I will be functional. The rest is just superfluous accoutrements.

Okay, maybe I’ll bring a camera, and some clothes, a sleeping pad, sunscreen lotion, and ibuprofen. But that’s it. That’s all I need.

Oh, and a toothbrush. Spare shoes. A raincoat. A hat.

I found our old original Foxtail toy. I’m bringing the Foxtail

After dinner yesterday, in order to check off a couple of chores from my pre-departure list, I pulled out the diesel tractor and attached the loader. Cyndie and I transferred three large piles of composted manure to a remote location, to provide plenty of open space in the compost area before I go.

Whenever I was off dumping a full bucket, the chickens would show up to check out what Cyndie was doing. I could see them scamper away each time I returned. Eventually, I paid them a visit on foot to offer my regards.

They are just starting to show hints of what they will look like when they mature and start producing eggs.

As of last night, we still have all twelve birds. This kind of success is what breeds our willingness to keep trying the unencumbered free-range life for them.

After they start getting hunted again, our thoughts will change, I’m sure.

Speaking of them getting hunted… while the world was all caught up in the escapades of the downtown St. Paul raccoon that scaled a 23-story building in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, we had our very own varmint contemplating a climb up the side of our 1-story coop.

I admit, it wasn’t nearly as exciting, but it made for a cool capture on the trail cam.

You can almost read his mind, as he computes the potential reward of maybe gettin’ up there.

I wonder if I should be electrifying the hardware cloth that covers the windows. I’m hoping there is no reward whatsoever should he or she actually decide to make that climb.

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Written by johnwhays

June 14, 2018 at 6:00 am

Night Visitors

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I finally relocated the trail camera. It’s still viewing the same general area, but it now sees from the other direction. Instead of facing the coop, I attached it to one of the legs so it is facing out from the coop.

If there was any question about whether the fox was still hanging around, or not, we got our definitive answer Monday night.

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I think it’s cute to see how the fox tips its nose up in the direction of the coop window. Might be picking up a familiar aroma there…

There are still plenty of rabbit sightings, and last night there were a couple of dark figures in the distance that defy positive identification. I get the impression that one of them was a local barn cat. Cyndie didn’t seem convinced, although neighbor cats are frequent visible visitors around our place.

There was no question about one other regular attendee to the coop area, although there are likely many more than just one trekking past throughout the night. Exhibit A:

I found some online advice yesterday about ways to keep foxes away. One farmer swears 100% success with his method. It’s urine. But, there’s a trick to it. The instructions insist you have to actually pee on the fox’s den. Oh, I suppose you could just collect specimens and dump them on there, but where’s the fun in that?

My problem with that solution is that I have no idea where the fox’s den is located. I should have followed tracks when there was still snow on the ground.

Putting out a live trap would catch more barn cats and raccoons than fox. The common opinion is that a fox is too smart to fall for that trick.

Last evening, after Cyndie brushed Delilah, she took all the dog hair down and distributed it around the coop. Delilah can’t stand guard there, but her scent can hang around all it wants, for whatever good that might do.

Frankly, we are growing more wary every day that a daylight attack on the chickens, similar to what occurred about this time last year, is not only possible, but likely.

In last night’s fading sunlight, I was hanging out with the flock as they lolled about between the coop and the paddock. Many of them showed a fondness for perching on the bottom board of the paddock fence, which reminded me of the behavior of last year’s flock, right before the June 16th massacre that dwindled their number.

For the time being, we’ve still got twelve chickens, and we are enjoying each of them to the fullest. And they seem to be enjoying us, as measured by their cute little hustle of approach when we are in their vicinity.

I wonder if they know how many visitors show up to their coop every night while they are sleeping.

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Written by johnwhays

June 6, 2018 at 6:00 am

Wild Life

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Lately, the night views at the coop have been dominated by the masked bandits. Luckily, despite their regular visits, there isn’t anything left out overnight to reward them.

Doesn’t prevent them from checking, just in case.

The only other (not-so) wild life we captured shots of recently was a neighbor’s cat. It sat for over ten minutes with its body facing the camera, but the head was always twisted side to side or around backwards. I don’t know why it didn’t just turn around.

I think maybe it was trying to see where that rabbit went that had been filling our memory card with pictures the previous week. That critter was pouncing back and forth across the view all night long.

The other wildness we have been enjoying was in the sky. Cyndie snapped this panorama as a thundering shower loomed large over the ranch.

I had just finished mowing and was putting the tractor in the garage when the first giant drops started slapping the ground.

It was a wild day of chores yesterday, after I squeaked in a short bike ride to start my exhausting day. Our grove of trees by the road was expanding to obscure the view of traffic coming down the hill, so I hauled out the pole chainsaw and did some highway crew style pruning.

No mercy.

Being clever, I put the battery charger on the truck before heading out on my bike ride earlier, thinking I might want to load the cuttings into the pickup so I wouldn’t have to work on chipping them near traffic.

There is a phantom load draining the battery that we haven’t been able to identify. I have finally heeded advice from a smart thinking friend and purchased a switch to protect the battery. After all the branches were loaded in the back, I parked the truck at the shop to install the device while the battery had some life to it.

I bought a unit that will automatically switch out the battery when it senses the voltage drop to a certain point. To reconnect, we simply press the brake pedal or toggle the headlights and the switch re-engages the battery to start the truck. This way, we don’t have to pop the hood and open or close the switch every time we use the truck.

We never know how long an interval it will be between uses, and both Cyndie and I are prone to forgetting just this kind of occasional detail.

With the installation complete, I moved on to the lawn tractor to finish the yard that I started Thursday afternoon, before that round of all-night thunderstorms. On my bike ride in the morning, I saw a lot of farm fields with brand new lakes in them. Our rain gauge indicated over 4-inches had fallen overnight.

Low on gas, and running out of time before the next thunderstorm, I wildly hustled to the arena to mow that, too.

By the time Cyndie and I called it a day, the clock had reached 7:30 p.m.

Another wild day in our wild life.

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Not Silent

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When Delilah suddenly barked at the door to the deck, Cyndie asked me if I had heard what set her off. I missed it completely. She said it was howling of some dogs or coyotes.

Nope. Didn’t hear that.

It’s not rare for Delilah to jump up and bark at some distant sound. Honestly, more often than not, I don’t hear what initially sets her off. When thunderstorms are on their way toward us, Delilah provides an alert well before I perceive the first rumbles. When it’s not thunder, it’s usually gun shots or barking dogs.

She is always quick to add her statement to the chorus. It is a general robust report of a bark, or sometimes several. When we don’t react to her concern, she often loses interest in short order.

Later, Delilah suddenly erupted with a distinctly different explosion of barking. It was pretty obvious that this time she had actually seen something that was setting her off. Cyndie went to the door to have a look for herself and Delilah almost pushed her over in frenzy of reaction over whatever was out there.

The last time I saw something similar from her, I discovered several deer standing right outside the front windows, almost as if they were teasing her by not panicking over her outburst.

Whatever she saw last night must have vanished immediately. Cyndie couldn’t get Delilah to settle down, so she walked her out of the bedroom. I decided to step out onto the deck. With no critters in sight, I wanted to listen for something that might explain the doggie dramatics.

I spoke loudly to be heard through the closed-door, telling Cyndie I’d seen nothing and it was silent out.

Except it wasn’t.

As I paused with hope of detecting some sign of an animal invader, it struck me how not silent it actually was.

Off by the barn, or maybe around toward the front yard, there was some repeating shrill chirp or tweet at a steady rate loudly making itself known. The silence I was interpreting was with regard to barking, howling, rifle reports, or grumbling thunder. There was none of that.

However, once I recalibrated my listening threshold, I became aware of a multitude of additional sounds. By this time, I was well past finding anything to explain Delilah’s flip-out, but I was wonderfully entertained by the growing number of sounds I was beginning to notice.

There was an obvious large truck taking up more bandwidth than was pleasant. Several other small bird calls were suddenly adding warbles to the audio track. Somewhere in the vicinity of where I was standing, a small critter sounded to be picking at some tree bark, but my eyes failed to locate it.

I suddenly stomped on the deck, hoping to startle a potential stowaway. Tuesday night/Wednesday morning there was a raccoon on the deck that had Pequenita smashing into the glass door somewhere around oh-dark-thirty. Our kitty was showing some territorial concern, but the ‘coon almost looked as if it had amorous intentions.

Nothing reacted to my stomp.

The night went back to being silent, except for all the ways that it was not.

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Written by johnwhays

April 12, 2018 at 6:00 am

Chicks Exploring

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I have no idea whether the raccoon Delilah alerted us to outside our sunroom in broad daylight yesterday afternoon had anything to do with the new presence of our 8-week-old chicks roaming the property. It was certainly a surprising and uncharacteristic sighting.

Daily, our chicks have expanded their excursions from the coop, and yesterday achieved milestones that gave me great satisfaction. Cyndie found them marching along the edge of the woods toward the compost area where they quickly unleashed their best chicken behavior on the piles.

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Later, after running with Delilah to follow the scent of the raccoon, we moved behind the barn to check on the birds. When they spotted us, they scooted from the paddock over toward the coop. The paddock is the other spot I hoped the chickens would frequent. My two primary goals realized in the same day. Huzzah!

While I am grateful that Delilah is attentive enough to call out the presence of a raccoon threat in our yard, I’m not yet convinced her concern for the chicks is as altruistic as we would wish. While Cyndie was cleaning the barn, Delilah held an uncomfortably intense focus on the compost area.

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Written by johnwhays

May 22, 2017 at 6:00 am