My homestead (like many) is awash in wildlife. I need to co-exist with it. Urban folks might not know what that’s like but then again they’ve got their own critter issues. All my critter encounters involve ones with four feet so I think I get the better deal.
Recently a critter and I tangled. It caused me to reflect on my “two rules of critter cohabitation”. Any animal that follows these two rules will get along with me just fine. One that violates either rule will face a reckoning. The rules are as follows:
- Stay out of my house.
- Run when you see me.
Ten words. I’m a simple man. Failure to heed them is punishable by shotgun. I don’t do warning shots.
My rules cover all situations and their meaning is highly refined. They form a superb, fully thought out, contract between me and mother nature. They’re more carefully planned out than the Code of Federal Regulations. They surely win hands down in any comparison of internal consistency.
The words have meaning which handle extraneous situations. For example; “stay out of my house” really means “stay out of my stuff”. “House” protection extends to barns, vehicles, the chimney, my hair, the BBQ grill, etc… It also extends to the garden, certain fruit trees, and becomes a blanket injunction on messing with my chicken flock.
Some animals know the score and violate it anyway. I admire their moxie but hunt them ruthlessly. Mice, for example, invade the barn in droves and make regular assaults against the cat based security system. (I’d rather have a trained cobra but my wife vetoed my excellent “killer snakes” idea.) The cats maintain border integrity and constantly patrol; which is the only reason I keep them on the payroll.
Larger animals go above the cat’s pay grade. Raccoons who threaten my chickens face defences that stop just short of land mines. Occasionally they’ll get a chicken but scofflaws rarely live long. In the long term, things that mess with me have a 0% recidivism rate.
On the other hand, some raccoons pass by and keep on moving without harassing the flock. They know the score and stay safe. We live in peace. There’s room for both of us in the world.
Skunks really annoy me. Their scent ruins things even if they just sit around, so they get an expanded definition of “house” that includes the woodpile and the yard. Skunks seem to need a refresher course every spring. I have to send a few each year to skunk heaven (everyone else’s hell?) to remind the rest that there are nice places to live that aren’t my woodshed. I try hard to deliver the news early in the season because baby skunks are so cute that I hate to blast them. Though I worked hard on the firewood and I’d blast anything this side of a Leprechaun that messed with it.
The second rule, “run when you see me” means I’m the top of the food chain and I damn well intend to keep it that way. Do forest creatures see a Prius in my driveway? No they don’t. They see a deer stand in the back field. That’s the hint that I leave appeasement for politicians and other losers.
That doesn’t mean I’m a monster. I’ll happily tolerate a natural zoo so long as the party breaks up when I stride past. Deer frolic and robins chase worms (if the chickens have missed any). We’re all pals; so long as the robin flits away and the deer doesn’t come begging to the porch. I’m entirely laid back about creatures that leave me alone. We’ve got cranes fornicating on the front field and it sounds like velociraptors doing jello shots but I’ve grown fond of the sound. If river otters and Kodiak bears are playing poker in the pines…fine with me. Luckily bears are hunted locally so I don’t have to teach them the facts of life.
Anything, no matter how small, has to follow the same rules. A squirrel that stands his ground will be history in short order. I’ve been known to stomp a mouse to death. (He had it coming!) I even keep an eye on the hummingbird feeder because those little buggers are aggressive dive bombing maniacs on amphetamines.
The end result of all this? A pretty darned peaceful time for all. Clearly understood rules lead to self policing critters. I’m the benevolent dictator of a government which governs best by governing least. Except things went south yesterday…