Sunday, November 16, 2008

Home sweet home

It’s been nice and quiet in the woods this week. The chilly, wet weather has kept a lot of the other hikers at home and encouraged the birds to sleep in. Gun season for deer doesn’t start until tomorrow, and muzzleloader season ended last weekend, so there hasn’t even been the sound of distant gunfire. The only commotion I’ve encountered on the trail was a squirrel that decided to bless me out this morning. I didn’t do a thing to bother him, but he still squawked at me and gave me the propeller tail. I think he was bored.

Here at our place things have not been so serene. Twice, my morning loll in the bathtub has been disrupted by the yowl of triumphant coyotes within a stone’s throw of the house. Hard to know just what they killed, but I’m pretty sure I heard the scream of a cat on one occasion. That made me cringe, of course, but really, it’s not a bad thing. They’re just thinning the herd. Our sweet, elderly neighbor has gone from feeding one or two feral cats to maintaining a 24-hour buffet for a horde of felines, some homeless and some not. I’m not sure how she can afford to buy enough food to keep them all coming, but it’s not unusual to see a dozen or more hanging around her house, which is about 50 yards from mine.

The cats are pretty helpless against the coyotes, but they administer justice down the food chain. I recently moved my bird feeders to an open area nearer the house, in part to make my own birdwatching easier, but also in hopes of discouraging predatory felines. Silly me. The day after I moved the feeders, I looked out the window and saw an obese gray tabby underneath them, happily chewing the innards out of a cardinal.

Later that same afternoon I was startled by a tremendous thump outside my office window, which opens onto the roof of a carport. Birds like to peck around on the flat metal surface to see if anything tasty has landed there. A couple of big maple trees loom above the roof, and a clever cat had hidden in their branches in order to leap down on his prey. Score another one for the carnivores.

So, that’s life chez BitterGrace: a steady parade of murderous canids, and bloodthirsty fur balls falling from the sky. No wonder I flee to the woods.

A Dog and a Cat Fighting, Alexandre-François Desportes, 1710. Image from Web Gallery of Art.


Margaret said...

So, I actually like housecats, and I miss having a housecat of my own, but feral cats are another matter. The word "muzzleloader" leapt to mind in a completely non-deer context when I read this post.

BitterGrace said...

Ha! I hope you realize we may both need a muzzleloader to protect ourselves from the feral cat lovers.

Seriously, we have tried everything short of firearms to manage the problem, and the coyotes are accomplishing more than we ever did. It's a sad fate for the kitties, but the alternatives are not any better.