Saturday, May 24, 2014

Critters

May 22, 2014

Yesterday I tried to kill a fox. Lord knows, am I smart enough to kill a fox? So I called the Warden Service, and they are supposed to call back tomorrow. One of the banty roosters got clipped right in front of us. It is hard to get a clear shot with my trusty Remington 22. I am almost blind, and too old to get out there and after 'em before it has dodged out of my sight. My wife thinks it is a vixen with pups, but it is not that simple. Usually foxes are monogamous, and the male will assume the duty of feeding the pups if the female is unable. Whether male or female it is bold as brass and won't take no for an answer. I shot at it once, scared it away for a few minutes. Sunshine did brave work chasing it off. It was sort of funny, old man old dog both paralyzed and half blind with age chasing said fox down the driveway. It's bushy long tail, held up high was an insult. It is about the size of a Border collie, and whippet quick. They say foxes live on the average five years. No wonder if they are irritable. When I quit chasing, it turned around and sat there for a long time looking at me, it's face white with small black nose like a ghost in the just greening brush. But move forward and get within fifty yards and off it goes, an agile, handsome creep. Maybe it has gotten a couple of our wild cats. It seems there are less around than usual.

It was a banty rooster the despot snatched in front of us. Once secured in his mouth, his prey still alive, he booked it out of the dooryard. Banties are pretty tough, they have a good amount of stamina too, so once in the spirit of the chase, they'll continue with it for long enough to bore any attacker. The guinea hens will flutter around soulfully. They can fly very well, but they are too easy going to defend themselves with it, and they may just take off a mite too late and get snatched out of the air. We have had a chicken hawk around lately also. Kathleen says neither a chicken hawk nor a fox will bother a goat, but I don't like the looks of it.

May 23, 2014

Today I got a call back from the wardens' service. I asked for a trap. Can't trap because if the mother was taken out of the equation the pups would die. The reasoning here is spurious, as mentioned above but still possible. At this time of year, it is time to have pups. Since the pups can't move, for a few weeks the vixen can't move either, so foxes are stuck with the problem of getting enough protein for pups and themselves from a relatively small range. It may do out of desperation what it usually wouldn't do, such as become a problem to anybody who might have a gun to shoot them with.

I think this critter has been circulating in our area for awhile. My neighbor said he was hunting turkey nearby when a good-sized fox came into his sights. He had recently lost two of his house cats. He gave the dirty deed some thought, squared the fox up in his telescopic sights, got a good look, and decided to save it for another day. Hunting is big in Maine. Getting the deer is important. Getting the fox or the turkey is important. I myself have taken care of my share of destructive varmints but usually nothing larger than a raccoon.

I have lived on this spot on this land for twenty-two years, hardly leave it now I am retired, pride myself in knowing as much about what is going on as anybody. Who is doing what and what is happening where, and these discoveries are to be honest all of what is my food for thought. Call it senility, what is distant from my personal experience rarely amuses my mind.

A fellow up on a neighboring hillside has probably had more to do with why I have not seen many foxes or coy dogs or bob cats or fishers or wolverines in the last twenty-two years, years which an abundance of such critters would have made miserable. He has dogs to hunt them with, but I imagine he is getting older; and now he has taken his time, I expect to see more and more of these critters on our hillside. The warden service hires private hunters to get really troublesome critters—when I say troublesome, I mean it has to be really bad, including attacking one of the neighborhood two legged critters. They tell you: make sure it has one of your farm animals in its mouth. I imagine myself with fox attached to my leg trying to focus the camera on my smart phone.

So one day many years ago this fellow, the hunter, and the local warden were standing beside a pickup parked beside the road. They said they were hunting coy dogs. They had got one, whose body lay stretched out in the back of the pickup. It was about the size of a medium size dog, more like a Border than any other breed I can think of, handsome face, athletic build, powerful yet quick. The coat of very fine fur was a daring bluish white color around the neck and shoulders slowly turning to pure white toward the chest with spots of the light blue, azure, maybe?, along the flanks. His eyes, it was male, were also blue. I gasped. "Beautiful, ain't he?" Said the hunter. "Another one down in the hollow." I could hear the hounds on the scent down below beside Moose Pond and moving closer. "They'll be up by in awhile." "Good luck," says I. I did not want those critters anywhere near my barn in amongst my wife's champion goats. Goats have no defenses against them; they run them till they drop, nagging them, and kill them and then they may drag them off, but otherwise have their way and depart. They are silent and stealthy. But also deep down it hurt to see such a beautiful force of nature dead, whether up to good or ill.

And thus do we think of our fox. The warden told me "they move on shortly but if you get in a situation which is a disaster, you have to take care of it. But report it within eighteen hours." "Sure," I replied. But now I am wondering who is kidding who.

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