Saturday, May 01, 2010

Clever Varmints

It's the first time in several years that I've felt well enough to plant the garden and I've gotten off to a good start. Planted the corn too early and must reseed but everything else is going to plan. My lettuces and radishes are coming up nicely and the sugar snap peas will be breaking the surface and twining their tender vines skyward any day now.

I decided to start my trapping early and wage a pre-emptive strike against the varmints. I have one of those "Have-a-Heart" humane traps big enough to handle a good sized raccoon. Though--in my case it might be more aptly named a "Have-a-.22 caliber bullet" trap. My neighbors have the same trap, but give their raccoons to the local coon hunters. It does absolutely nothing to help the situation since raccoons teach their young where food sources are and they have excellent homing skills. You can drop a corn-loving coon off 20 miles away and he will unerringly make his way back to the place where Momma's best forage spots were taught to him as a wee kit. So, after being tormented by hounds, the PTSD-shocked beast comes back with revenge on his furry mind.

Before going all waaah-you-kilt-the-woodland-creature on me--I do eat what I kill--or make the dogs something nice. I'm not wasteful and these animals are by no means scarce here. And I find that leaving bits of dead critter relatives, strategically placed around the garden or chicken coop, sends a message. Just as they register places where easily obtained food is to be had, they also register where murderous chickens or coon-eating carrots reside.

One of the challenges in the spring, when food is plentiful, is what to bait the trap with. Some prefer catfood, others like sardines, but I use peanut butter on bread. You need something stinky and peanut butter has a pleasant odor that doesn't worsen over time.

I seem to have attracted something with a college degree. The bait has been taken and the trap unsprung several nights in a row. This last time, it made off with the bait jar (a small peanut butter jar) as well. At first I thought it got its head stuck a la Fat Buddy in the jar, but if it did so, it did this after carefully removing it from the trap. Surely getting its head stuck in the jar would cause a panic bad enough to spring the trap? But now I need to find another bait jar. Perhaps I'll use a jelly jar.

Then, I'm a little glad it hasn't sprung the trap. There are a few creatures here clever enough to do this and all are members of the weasel family with the exception of the foxes. And I think a fox is too big to get in and out of the trap without springing it. Foxes are also too clever to approach something that reeks of humans. So that leaves weasels, minks and skunks.

I haven't trapped a skunk before. There's a special procedure, I believe it involves a tarp, for extracting them. And the spotty ones are so durned cute, I'm not sure I'd be able to kill one. Weasels and minks are another matter--not cute at all and vicious animals. But at least the peanut butter is keeping them away from my kale and kohlrabi transplants and the tender things coming up.


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