ANN BAILEY: Varmints getting a little too close for comfortWhen you live on a farm, wild creatures are part of country life and as long as they keep their distance, my family and I don’t have a problem sharing our space with them. Lately, though, a couple critters have been getting too close for comfort. One is a skunk — or a family of them — that is living under a building near our garden.
When you live on a farm, wild creatures are part of country life and as long as they keep their distance, my family and I don’t have a problem sharing our space with them.
Lately, though, a couple critters have been getting too close for comfort. One is a skunk — or a family of them — that is living under a building near our garden.
Our dogs discovered the skunk(s) the other morning. I let Maggie and Minnie, our yellow Labs, out of the house to run around for a while and they didn’t return when I called them. I gave them another half hour or so, figuring that they must be chasing a scent.
When they still didn’t return, I got in the car and drove around the section, occasionally stopping and calling their names. They didn’t respond to my call, so I went back home and called some more.
Finally, I heard barking that sounded like it was coming from near the garden. I walked out to the edge of the garden and saw the dogs digging furiously under the outhouse. I didn’t have to walk much closer to figure out what they were trying to catch. They reeked with skunk odor, mixed with mud. For the next week, they slept in the outdoor kennel.
The skunk or skunk family moved, at least temporarily, after the dogs’ attempt to get it out from underneath the building and we haven’t seen it (or them) since. If we do, my sons and husband likely will shoot it. Skunks are susceptible to rabies and we can’t take any chances of them biting our children or dogs.
The other wild animal that hasn’t been acting very wild lately is one of the many coyotes that share our section with us. The coyote has been following my husband, Brian, on his every-other-day runs. It waits at the end of the shelterbelt and follows him and the dogs down the road for a few hundred yards before returning to the shelterbelt.
Last Sunday, I saw the coyote for the first time when I went on a walk with Brian, our daughter, Ellen, and our three dogs. This time we also had Rosebud, her golden retriever, with us. Maggie and Minnie were off of the leash and Rosebud was on a leash. It’s a good thing I was hanging on to Rosebud because when the coyote called to Maggie and Minnie, they ran out into the middle of the CRP to meet it. I’m pretty sure Rosebud would have followed them if I wasn’t holding on to her.
The coyote started nipping at the dogs and when Brian called to them, they turned around and started running back toward us. The coyote followed them, nipping at their heels. It followed them until it got close enough to the road to make Ellen scared. I assured her that the coyotes were interested in the dogs, not us.
That didn’t quell Ellen’s fear much, though, because she loves the dogs and is especially protective of Rosebud. I told her that I was hanging on tight to Rosebud’s leash and that I wouldn’t let anything happen to her.
The coyote continued to follow us for several hundred yards before it went back in the trees.
After that near confrontation with the coyote, I decided that in the future I would walk the other direction. Brian’s running route, however, isn’t as flexible so he needs to continue running by the coyote. He may have to leave the dogs at home until the coyote moves to another location. If it doesn’t move we’ll have to consider hunting it. As with the skunk, if it’s necessary to shoot the coyote to keep our dogs safe, we will.
Closer to home, squirrels, deer and raccoons are a perennial challenge. The squirrels eat seeds out of the “squirrel-proof” bird feeder and like to chew up things, the raccoons eat our sweet corn and the deer munch on our garden greens.
My philosophy regarding the squirrels is to buy enough seeds to feed everybody and try to keep anything that is chewable out of their paws. Similarly, we plant enough corn and greens to feed our family and human friends and our deer and raccoon friends, too.
We’ll continue to make live and let live our philosophy — with possible exceptions for skunks and coyotes.