Wednesday, December 31, 2008

WARNING: Graphic content follows

So, one of the many interesting nuances of living in an area that can still be considered semi-rural is that we receive occasional visits by roaming wildlife. Most of these visits are relatively friendly, but some are rather invasive and violent. Yes, yes, I know that my home sits on land that was once a mere foothill where deer and vermin and predators and so on could roam free. But this land was cultivated and altered by man many years before I ever got here and certainly several generations prior to any wildlife that currently strolls around down here.

That being said, I generally welcome most of these visits. I put out feed for the wide variety of local birds and find their antics amusing. We even encountered a deer once that had come over the embankment at the back of our property to get a drink in our pond. I've run a snake or two off the property as well for Dave's sake - he gets the spiders, I get the snakes. We have a completely symbiont life system taking place on our small little patch of earth that even includes us.

You see, we have also brought our own animals to live on and share this land. This has an affect on the wildlife as well. We feed the wild birds, but we also have ducks that require a similar grain-based feed. Mice and rats have a hard time reaching the bird feeders and the scraps that fall don't seem to be much of a lure when there is an ample and easily accessed supply in the duck pen. Snakes are then attracted to our property for the relatively easy access to our resident rodents. We are not in the least bit adverse to poisoning or even shooting any of these pests and do so when necessary. Though, to be fair, the only dead snake we have ever recovered from our property was not poisoned but run over in the driveway. Think what you will of all that, but these are both dangerous and possibly diseased animals that I do not want living in that close of proximity to my family if I have any means to do something about it. So, we occasionally utilize our means.

Our beastly dog, Ebony, generally deters most larger wildlife by her presence alone. Her scent is all over the yard and she adds to it everyday. But sometimes the lure to our wild yard is just too strong. There are regularly hawks and small eagles circling our neighborhood, but I've only once ever seen one actually in our yard and it didn't appear to be hunting. We have seen several raccoons, or possibly the same one several times hanging about our garbage can at night. Among all of these, the only critters that ever really bother me are the raccoons and rodents. Even these, however, are rarely ever actually seen - mostly just the evidence of their presence. In the winter, for instance, we will see rat trails in the snow going from hole to hole leading up to their food supply in the duck pen. Aside from disease, have you priced chicken scratch lately? Corn prices have shot it through the roof and I simply can't tolerate (or afford) sustaining a bunch of rat babies.

I have always worried about having the ducks out in the yard because of all of the wildlife activity, but in nearly five years of keeping ducks we've not once had a predator attack. Until two nights ago. They have a sturdy coop and are fenced in behind a 4' fence on one side and even higher on all other sides. There is a hill, however, that comes up to level with the top of a small part of the 4' fence and that was the point of entry and exit for our vicious visitor. Like the others, it left evidence. More than just the wreckage it also left distinctive tracks that I have deduced down to most likely coyote, or possibly a large fox.

I was in a rush to leave that morning because in my arduous job searching lately, I've been going through the multi-step insanity that is the Postal employment hiring process and had to make it out to a medical assessment within the hour. As I always do, I took a quick peek into the pen as I drove past it after rounding the corner and saw a crumpled looking white pile and I knew something had happened. My first thoughts were directed to the rat poison I had just put out the day before. I had jammed some way up under the coop where a rat hole had been dug and worried that one of them had managed to get their head down the hole and eaten some. What I found was decidedly worse in some ways. Only made slightly better by the fact that I wasn't directly responsible for killing my own pet, I found that two of my three ducks had been brutally massacred sometime in the night. As my pets, however, I also have a responsibility to protect them. Sometimes there's only so much you can do, but I am finding now that there is far more that I can certainly do to keep my remaining girl safe from harm.

*Graphic Warning*

I couldn't say if this creature built up in ferocity as it went or if it started strong and ended lamely. I tend to believe the former because of what I found. When I spun my car around and rushed down the yard to assess the situation I was greeted by a gruesome and infuriating scene. The back of my drake's neck was completely missing and his upper back had been rather brutally gouged into as well. The rest of him remained virtually unscathed aside from a few minor punctures. The female that was killed had also been attacked from behind but only insomuch as to end her life. I found the remaining female that had survived cowered in a corner next to the lifeless and mutilated bodies of her companions. Upon initial inspection she appeared to be okay aside from being terribly frightened. I was in such a hurry that all I knew I needed to do at the moment was to move the bodies. With Christmas having just passed I happened to have a few boxes that worked. These were no small birds mind you, weighing in at about 10-12 lbs. each and being roughly twice the overall size of the average house cat.

I called Dave once I hit the freeway to let him know the contents of the two boxes so as to keep the dog away from them and for him to dispose of them while I was away because I simply couldn't do it. I replayed the visions of the wounds over and over again in my head on the way to my appointment becoming more and more upset. I tried to push my thoughts elsewhere, but could not succeed. I am not the person who feels bad for the gazelle when the leopard finally makes that swipe that takes it down. I have compassion for the fact that the predator/prey relationship involves pain and suffering. This was not a predator seeking a meal. It was a slaughter. As awful as the scene was and this may sound, I would have felt much better to have cleaned up my good friends if they had even been partially devoured. It just feels like senseless destruction, almost malicious.

At any rate, Dave and I built a door for the coop to lock my lonesome gal up at night for the immediate future and managed to find a chain link dog run for sale on craigslist that has a roof structure and 6' walls. Who says functionality can't be cute?

Much as I would like vengeance on the sneaky bastard, I will instead seek my peace of mind by doing everything I can to outsmart the instincts of such critters. The Perkins residence will soon be home to a venerable duck Fort Knox.

In memory of Dr. Drake Remore and his Little Nurse (lighter). Big Nurse (darker) already misses them both.

1 comment:

meg 'n' rich said...

OOHH! I am so sorry! That is just horrible! I am glad you beefed up you pen. I hope it protects your last little duck!!