Invasion of the critters

By Regena Handy
It’s been a fight all summer.
No, no, I’m not talking about the presidential candidates. Nor the RNC and the DNC. Or even any conflicts going on in foreign countries. And certainly not me and my husband.
Nope, I’m talking about what’s going on right here in my backyard.
Living in a rural area, we expect it, know it is going to happen. Though from what I hear we shouldn’t feel too special, as it goes on in more urban areas, too.
Yep, I’m talking about the invasion of the critters. Or varmints on the days we’re feeling really unhappy with them.
First of all, a word about our domestic animals. We have one dog, an Australian Shepherd who is fairly old now, mostly blind and deaf, but still brave enough to tackle anything except our aged gray cat who weighs maybe all of three pounds. Besides these two, we have a big, black mouser whose bulk makes up for his little house mate’s size but is (pardon the pun) a real scaredy-cat.
In the summer time, they are all outdoor animals with their food storage bin located conveniently on the porch. And, therein lies part of the problem.
The deer used to be the culprits. They would raid the vegetable garden, eat the flowers and shrubs, but the current dog when he was younger along with ones we’ve had in the past kept them pretty much in line.
Now with the heavy rains we had this summer, we mostly see them grazing in the lush surrounding fields. They watch us from a distance and flick their little white tails as if warning us away. Kind of a ‘you don’t bother us, we won’t bother you’ type of signal.
The raccoons showed up some time ago, two of them. First they simply ate the leftovers in our animals’ food dishes and would flee at our appearance. But as their bravery increased, so did the frequency of visits and their ingenuity in fending for themselves.
I stood at the dining room window one night and watched one of them lift the lid of the bin, climb inside and help himself. When I shooed him away, he waddled to the bottom of the porch steps and stood looking back at me, his little paws together as if in supplication. Adorable little thief!
We set humane traps with intentions of releasing them in a remote part of the mountain to be someone else’s problem for a while. Yeah, I know, I hear you mountain top folks saying :Thanks a lot.” But I think the little scalawags have been through this before, as they somehow edge around the trip wire, eat the cat food we’ve used for bait, and leave us with an empty cage.
Thus we’ve called in a pro—a teenager who has done this before. He caught one of them so my apologies to any of you folks who might find a fat little raccoon roaming around. He’s been well fed up to now and will no doubt be looking for another handout.
So, we were starting to feel like we might have the wild animal population under control, that perhaps between leaving feeders for our own animals and kind neighbors to check on them, we could comfortably take a vacation. But this morning we discovered the cornstalks in the vegetable garden had been flattened. Too large an area for a raccoon to do that much damage so now we’re certain we have the company of a bear. Or two.
Though we’ve only seen them once or twice, bears are often sighted in the area. However, I can tell you with no uncertainty, if they’ve decided to take up residence with us, unlike the situation with the raccoons, this old girl will not be doing any shooing away.
Raccoons and deer and bears, oh my!


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