We live in the midst of nature. Sometimes nature lives amongst us. I am reminded of this when I hear a scream calling me to come and squish a spider. I don’t mind spiders. Mice however, are a thing with me. We seem to get them seasonally in the pantry. The entry point, I am not sure except that it seems a mouse can enter through a hole as small as a dime. On a contractor radio show, I heard that 80% of homes have mice. They will likely be inside your walls but you won’t see them unless there is a ready food source drawing them to come to inside the house. Hence, all the food in our pantry is in sealed glass or plexiglass containers. I don’t like mice at all. They carry disease and leave their droppings everywhere along with a strange odour. Forget the glue traps and the “relocate” strategy. The only solution for me is an old fashioned mousetrap holding a very dead mouse. Dead works. The mouse won’t be a problem after that.
I recall in our old house, we had a playhouse I eventually tore down. When I removed the steps, a family of mice was underneath, a whole nest of about a dozen baby mice. They stared up at me dumbfounded and momentarily frozen. Instinctively, I brought my boot down on the nest and destroyed them all, while the lady next door screamed and screamed. I thought she was screaming from fear of the mice but it seems she thought I was a monster for killing the mice.
This is a head scratcher for me. That, and people who feed uninvited critters like racoons and squirrels. They don’t get it that these are wild animals. Squirrels are friendly enough, but they will chew through the wiring in your house in short order if they find a port of entry. Racoons look fluffy and cute, but they instinctively will bite your nose clean off as first tactic if encountered up close. If you doubt this, look up racoon attacks on Google. Coyotes are another predator that is becoming common. They lose their shine a bit after they eat the family dog for lunch. And yet, people still feed them.
It’s that knee-jerk reaction that some people have to incursions from unwelcome parties. “They are innocent. They don’t mean any harm. We have invaded their habitat”. Think that, and you will soon be overrun in ways you don’t like. I don’t give any quarter to interlopers. If you invite them they will come, and then you will have to figure out how to get rid of them once they are established.
There are things which attract animals. Back yard ponds are one of them. We had one for a season on special request of my wife. I buried an old bathtub and bought a pump. It was cute for a while, but you quickly run into problems with the pond getting slimy and green if you don’t treat it, as the water is on a closed cycle. It will also bring skunks and other varmints.
That following spring, my brother was looking out the patio door. The snow had just begun to melt and we had not been in the back yard all winter. “Did you know you have a dead racoon in your pond?” he asked. I laughed. I thought he was joking. Then I looked out the back door, and sure enough there was a grand daddy of a racoon slumped over the edge of the pond, dead. it was huge. It had likely ingested some kind of poison and gone out looking for water… found our pond and then died in it.
My first reaction was to call the city, but my brother warned me off. “They will think you did something to the racoon. It’s like a murder scene. When you find a body, you are the first suspect” he said. I thought it over. I didn’t want any problems from bureaucrats. Still, when you find a body, disposal is your own problem. Thinking about the possibility for disease and wishing I had a hazmat suit, I double gloved, and cut up the rubber liner, and removed the pond along with the brackish water. The racoon was truly huge. I didn’t know they could grow so big. I had to double bag its corpse in a contractor sized garbage bag, then go and scour my hands with disinfectant. Getting rid of the body made me feel like I was living an episode of The Sopranos. I had to find a surreptitious spot off the side of the road, where I could pull over, go into the woods a bit and bury the body. Motorists driving by stared at me when I went into the woods dragging an oversized garbage bag and carrying a shovel, at dusk. I wondered if anybody would call the cops.
Animals where you don’t want them, are inconvenient. And yet you run into interference if you broker the idea of getting rid of them. It’s the confusion of priorities, whether human or animal wins out. I am sure if you are of a generous nature, rats, mice, racoons and squirrels would love to invade your home. You can add bears to the list if you live in the country. They don’t need much more than a ready food source, and enough contact with humans to make them bold. Canada Geese are a great example of how a wild animal becomes a horrible blight. Because they are protected, they have lost their natural fear of human beings. Artificially empowered, they hiss and attack if you get too close. They befoul any park or nature area where they encamp and it makes me wonder how they would be if they were again legal to hunt. Maybe the natural barrier between wild animal and human being would be reestablished just like the old adage about good fences making good neighbours. It reminds me of a waiter in Florida who brought an alligator steak to my table. “Just goes to show you there ain’t nothing a shotgun won’t tame”, he quipped. He was not getting his predator priorities mixed up it seems.
But we do in Canada. When I saw a coyote strolling through the green area behind our home, I called the city. I thought they would bring someone to kill the coyote. Seems I was wrong. They will put up signs in your neighbourhood, to warn you that yes, coyotes are dangerous but they will not further protect you. You are truly on your own. The lady who answered my query asked me. “Is the coyote hurt?”. “Not yet”, I said. “It might be if I had a gun”. The lady was not amused. She told me that taking matters into your own hands was illegal. Her bureau only HELPED predators, if they were injured or sick. It seems she also had her priorities mixed up.
I have seen the same phenomenon in criminal courts. The head scratching that comes up when predators escape a halfway house and reoffend. They outfoxed the social workers and said what was necessary to get paroled, so that they could recommit the kind of crimes that got them in trouble in the first place. The judicial system would like to reform them, but it is not that simple once a person had become a predator.
Robert Hare, a Canadian psychiatrist, has written a book called “Without a Conscience” about serial offenders and psychopaths. He notes that as much as ten percent of the population are psychopaths, and predators. They live amongst us. We don’t detect them because we think of the caricature of a psychopath as carrying an axe and chopping people up. It seems that they are better disguised than that. They also come in all shapes and sizes and in all walks of life. Chances are if you think back, you have dealt with a romantic partner or a boss who was a predator, and you found out the hard way. Knowing your predators is a good life skill.
How people get that way is puzzling. Chances are you can remember the kids in your neighbourhood who seemed a bit “off”. I remember coming back from the creek with a bucket of minnows. A neighbourhood kid laughed, poured them on the lawn, and promptly ran over them with a push mower. The same kid used to torture cats, tying firecrackers to their tails. Good chance he grew up to be a predator.
I recall court sketching at a criminal case in Calgary where a kid sixteen years old and barely shaving, had chopped up his parents with an axe. It was the usual story, a ne’er do well who quit school and couldn’t keep a job because he didn’t like getting bossed around. One night he just walked upstairs where his parents were sleeping, and chopped them up, then went downstairs and ate a sandwich. There was so much blood on the walls, the police initially assumed that the weapon was a shotgun. The most disturbing evidence was the mother had a lot of defensive wounds. She had not died easily He had killed her methodically after first disbatching his father, the one most likely to stop him. In court, he had a blank and disinterested look in his face the whole time. He was likely bored and wondering when it would be lunch.
Of course, the best defence against predators in general, is to recognize them, and not allow them into your lives. The other defence is to not harbour any false illusions about how to rehabilitate them. Some people just have a talent for evil, and you might find out the hard way.
In our old house, my kids started complaining to me about scratching noises in the ceiling. I could hear them too. Going up into the attic with a flashlight, I shone the beam in and saw a row of eyes on the other end. Racoons. We had racoons living in our attic. When I called the animal control people, their price was usurious. I decided to take matters into my own hands and brought home a live capture trap, the kind of cage where the animal enters and the door swings shut behind them. The idea is to relocate the animals still alive, to a place in the country. I have to admit I had other ideas bouncing around in my brain.
I baited the trap with bacon, sardines, peanut butter, all manner of things that would attract the racoons. Every single day they would eat the bait without springing the trap. It seems I would have to employ another method than a trap. Reading up on racoons, it seems they are nocturnal. They sleep during the day and then roam about at night when you are sleeping. This, you can use against them because racoons like other predators will only stick around if they like your diggs. If you create an environment hostile to their interests, they will leave.
Seems that like teenagers, racoons like to sleep in. They don’t want to be disturbed. And so… I put a ghetto blaster in the attic and put it on a loop with an Usher CD that my daughter had. Every day when we left for work and school, I would put on Usher, full blast. Soon, the noises in the attic ceased. It seems the racoons moved off and found some other place where it was quieter to sleep during the day. It was a bloodless victory.
It’s nice if your predator problems can be carried out as smoothly as that, but fact is, a predator is called a predator for a reason and your worst dreams in life will be awakened if you somehow inadvertently invite them. It’s the old folk-lore about vampires only getting past your doorway if you unwittingly ask them in. There’s a reason that advice has stood the test of time. Don’t mix up your priorities. Predators, human or animal, are not your friends and recognizing them up front will make your life easier.
Still, I have a soft spot for the racoons. Seems they don’t like loud rap music, and that makes them just a little bit better in my books. Sorry, Usher.
Coyote catching mouse as seen in our back field.