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The Wild Empire Strikes Back

I can’t figure out why society is so enamored of movies about invaders from outer space when we have a real life invasion going on from earth’s inner space. Squadrons of deer, raccoons, opossums, skunks, chipmunks, rabbits, squirrels, moles, wild turkeys, crows, robins, wolves, black bears, feral hogs, to mention a few, have unleashed an attack upon homes, gardens and farms unprecedented since the 1800s. It is worse than a century ago because we don’t have nearly as many hunters now as we did then. In the 1940s when I was growing up, there was not a deer in our county. Now they roam at will across the farm fields, towns and highways, laying waste to everything that grows and causing far more deaths on the roads than bombs do in Afghanistan.

If you garden at all, you will get a laugh or at least a sly smile from the cover of the New Yorker for July 2 of this year. It shows a cartoon by Edward Koren, of a man mowing a little plot of lawn surrounded by woodlands and an army of wild animals staring out at him from the underbrush. In your mind, replace the lawnmower guy with a gardener tending vegetables, fruits and flowers. Now you have a picture that would be worth a thousand or million words. That this cartoon should appear on a decidedly urban magazine cover rather than in a farm or garden publication is especially significant because it indicates that urban America is getting the message: the wild kingdom is out to get us.

I am not going to tell you how many invaders from the wild I and my neighbors have caught and killed just in the past two months because all those nice people who don’t raise food will condemn us for being savages left over from the Neanderthal era. All I can say to them is that when they see those cute little raccoons, they should think cute little rat, except that the raccoons have become more destructive overall than any rodent. Or is a raccoon a rodent too?

I thought I was winning a few battles if not the war until a couple of nights ago. Raccoons wiped out my first planting of sweet corn despite electric fencing (they know precisely when the corn is a day away from proper harvest). Then a fox or coyote got two hens. Okay, I can live with that. Foxes and coyotes at least help keep the squirrel, rabbit, groundhog, mole and mouse population down a little. But then I ran into a skunk, adept at gas warfare which is supposed to be forbidden by the Geneva Convention. It had occupied the henhouse and gave every indication of setting up campaign headquarters there. Skunks don’t often attack grown hens but this one was only ten feet from the broiler chicks in the other part of the coop and I didn’t want to take a chance. How do you get rid of a skunk in the henhouse without getting gassed?

Necessity being the mother of invention, I seized upon a plan of attack that you might find helpful some day soon. I dipped a bucket of water out of the rain barrel nearby, stealthily sidled up to the doorway of the coop but still out of sight of the skunk, and swooshed the water into the henhouse. In the same motion almost, I ducked behind the building. Skunk let out a strange yelp such as I had never heard before and don’t want to hear again, and came barreling out of coop and into the woods, its tail flinging noxious fumes all the way.

So far skunk has stayed away. I assume that the wildlife empire is working on a way to deal with this new adaptation of water-boarding.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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