Critters vs. Me

So, it finally happened:  The local critters have ganged up on me.

Last week I had rolled our garbage carts out to the curb and retreated to the house to wash my hands and grab my morning cup of tea to enjoy on our front porch.  About fifteen minutes later, I heard the distinctive sound of a garbage cart being rolled over asphalt. And we don’t have neighbours who live close enough to interfere with our garbage carts.

I craned my neck.  Sure enough, a big black bear was batting our kitchen waste cart around, about a hundred yards away.

I jumped up and yelled, “HEY BEAR!  GET LOST!”

The bear glanced up and a thought-bubble appeared above its head:  “Why is that annoying little creature disturbing my breakfast-to-be?

Since my primary goal is to not die of my own stupidity, I didn’t press the point in person.  Instead I got into my car and drove to the front gate, where I bravely honked the horn from behind our 8-foot deer fence.  The bear ambled off into the forest, and after a respectful pause I scooted out to retrieve our garbage cart (fortunately bear-proof) and replace it at the curb.  But I’m pretty sure the bear was the master of that situation.

The next marauding critters were robins.  The cheap plastic mesh we used to protect our strawberries two years ago has rotted away, so we’re constructing a new permanent enclosure with chicken wire.  But we’re behind schedule, so the ripening berries are unprotected.  I’ll say no more; and simply refer you to my post from two years ago:  https://blog.dianehenders.com/2019/06/12/flipped-off-by-the-bird/.  It’s an exact repeat.

I wasn’t surprised by the behaviour of the bear and the birds, but the crowning insult of my week was being bested by a bunny.

After discovering that some of our newly-emerged beans and sunflowers had been nipped off by bunny teeth, I deployed a rabbit fence around the garden.  I was short on time so I shoved the posts into the ground by hand and strung a two-foot-high barrier of chicken wire between them.  It was wimpy, but I figured it was strong enough to stop a not-too-determined rabbit.

And it was.  No more rabbit problems.

But the bunnies got the last laugh:  A couple of days ago I was striding across the garden with my attention elsewhere and my gaze fixed on the horizon.  Moments later I was doing a graceful slow-motion faceplant when the damn-near-invisible rabbit fence tackled me around the knees.

On the bright side, I was lucky my makeshift posts weren’t solidly rooted. I easily broke my fall with my hands in the soft earth, and the only injury was to my dignity. Plus, I made an important discovery at the same time.

Science tells us that rabbits don’t vocalize, except for a truly horrifying scream when they’re attacked.  Well, science is wrong.

’Cause I distinctly heard a rabbit laughing.

Anybody else have run-ins with rabbits? Or do things like that only happen to me?

Book News: Book 16 is available in paperback now! If you’re interested, purchasing links are available on my Books page. And Book 17 is swirling around in my brain. No formal plotting yet, but it’s slowly taking shape. Stay tuned…

31 thoughts on “Critters vs. Me

  1. Did you know that rabbits can jump, Diane? I’m not sure how high, but I’ve seen them jump and they looked as though they could jump higher. I’m sure if needed they’d be able to jump as high as necessary should your black bear return!

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    • My research tells me that rabbits usually won’t jump a fence that’s more than two feet high, but jackrabbits (hares) can jump three. And you’re right — if there was a bear on their tail, I’m sure they could jump higher. I know I would!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Because of Covid, my workplace has split the crew into two and I’ve been working the evening shift for the last six weeks or so. I get off at 10:30 pm and have almost an hour drive home, much of it on a stretch of dark highway. I’ve seen many critters every night, including three bears in the past two weeks. One was ambling across the road and made its way up somebody’s driveway. The following week, I saw two more fairly close together, one of which was right in the middle of the roadway of the the oncoming lane. I’d never seen so many. I only saw my first bear last year. Same situation. I see deer almost every night, raccoons and porcupines quite regularly and lately, quite a few foxes. I actually have a nest not far from my house with a mama fox and two kits. I also have a swallow couple nesting right above my door, under the carport. Occasionally, I see skunks as well. I smelled one tonight but didn’t actually see it. I’m surrounded by critters.

    Jo-Ann

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    • Wow, that’s a late night when you have to work the evening shift. I hope the restrictions ease soon and everybody can get back to “normal” (whatever that is).

      Your wildlife sightings are amazing, though — a bit of compensation for your inconvenience. It would be cool to see the foxes! I’ve only seen a couple in the wild, and they’re adorable, particularly the kits. Raccoons are very cute, too, but I prefer them to stay well away from my house and garden. I haven’t seen any around our place, but I occasionally see one squished on the highway, so I know they’re on the Island. Ditto skunks.

      We have had Violet-Green Swallows nesting under our deck for the past two years, too, and the Barn Swallows just arrived. It’s such fun to watch all the birds! I particularly enjoy the bright Western Tanagers and Goldfinches, and the snazzy Spotted Towhees that forage in the undergrowth. And of course the hummingbirds. Rufous and Anna’s hummingbirds stay here year-round, and there are always a couple buzzing around our garden. Ahhh. Surely this is paradise. 🙂

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  3. I’m a bit speechless and we know that is an unusual thing. I have to say I would not have thought to get in my car and go after the bear with the horn. I was thinking more along the lines of a telephoto lens from the house deck. Your approach clearly more effective at bear clearing. I’m glad to hear the bunnies didn’t get to see an ambulance carrying you off with a broken leg.

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    • Wouldn’t that have made their day! Not mine, though. And a telephoto lens would have been my first choice of action with the bear, if not for the fact that I was worried it would actually succeed in getting the garbage bin open. Once they’ve had a tasty treat for the first time, they’ll be back. I’m hoping the bear will keep foraging elsewhere now. I know the bears stay in our area all summer, but I MUCH prefer them a few kilometres down the road. 🙂

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  4. You and your critters! 🙂 I remember that previous post about the birds. Has that really been two years already. Wow. Time flies. And, gardens grow and need lots of attention. While I have tripped over low obstructions like that (once breaking my thumb), none of them involved rabbits. But, talking about rabbits, I’ve been seeing baby bunnies every day now, in town! They are taking over the planet, so be careful out there!

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  5. I had to laugh at the rabbit fence….so something I would do. Having just spent 2 weeks in Seattle and walking our daughters dog twice a day through their neighborhood, I have learned that those rabbits aren’t as timid as the kind I grew up with. The dog would bark and try and get them (leashed so to no avail) and the rabbits would just look at him and proceed eating whatever drew their interest. Now mind you, this is an established neighborhood with a fair amount of dog walkers always out and about, along with just walkers and runners (friendly group of folks I might add)….so the rabbits ignore not only the dogs but the people. Everyone has the chicken wire you described and I almost did the same thing you did when I wasn’t looking and drifted off the sidewalk. I could hear the snickering coming from under bushes. The bear encounter freaked me out. I know bears are out there, but have always put them out of my mind when I have done my many hikes in the forests up there…love this post!!

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    • Thanks, Kirt! There are a lot of predators in our area, so our bunnies have to be extremely skittish so they don’t become somebody’s lunch. We’ve discovered that if we (or something else) chases them and makes them really run flat-out, they don’t come back for days. Needless to say, this has led to some amusing ‘person vs. rabbit’ races. The rabbit always wins… 🙂

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  6. We have no bears and the local neighbourhood foxes keep the rabbits more or less under control, though we have chicken wire around our young trees. The usual garden insects, aphids, potato bugs, etc. keep Tanya busy. That and the Medvedka.
    You were looking for something to read or listen to for ideas for your next book. Maybe it is time for an unacknowledged sister or daughter? Maria even looks like you. https://gregolear.substack.com/p/how-do-you-solve-a-problem-like-maria

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  7. You know an injured dignity can be a serious matter. Not nearly as bad as a wounded pride, but still it’s something to be careful about. Last week I was dive bombed by a bird but luckily for me it missed. Now last winter we did have a wild horse poop on the lawn. Frozen poop is strange to deal with, but the good news is that the lawn there is much greener than other non-pooped on places.

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    • Well, that’s certainly unusual — are there a lot of wild horses in your area? Or was this a one-time, out-of-the-blue occurrence? At least you got a bit of free fertilizer out of it.

      And my dignity was vestigial to begin with, so I doubt if its injury will turn out to be too serious. 😉

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  8. I buried the bottom portion of my rabbit proof fence about eight inches into the ground. They were burrowing under the fence to get in. They are clever.
    I caught deer eating my big beautiful purple mums last fall. Not sure what to do for that. Living next to nature is challenging.

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    • It is, isn’t it? So many rewards; but so much extra work, too.

      How heartbreaking to lose your beautiful mums! Deer fence was one of our first big purchases after we moved here; and now, four years later, we’re finally getting around to rabbit fence. So far the rabbit hasn’t been too determined to get into our garden, but that might change if s/he gets a taste of something yummy. Trenching in the bottom of the fence sounds like a good idea. Guess I’ll be getting my exercise over the next few weeks!

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  9. Of course the critters get the last laugh. And it is LOUD and long.
    Even as I planted our spring bulbs (which are now all in the ground) I was thinking about how to outsmart the vandal birds. I suspect that I will be camped beside the front door with my pump action water pistol by my side. And that the birds will triumph. I also expect to have to wrap some of the garden in chicken wire – and to watch as the birds delicately decapitate the plants as they emerge from its confines.

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    • The problem with critters is that they don’t have the decency to keep regular hours so we can patrol effectively. Somebody should teach them some manners. 😉

      I’m grinning at the thought of you manning your water-gun post! Those pump-action water pistols shoot a remarkably long distance. Funny story: Eons ago when I was still married to my ex, we were out camping and somebody else’s kid lent him a SuperSoaker. He entertained himself by shooting squirrels out of trees. A couple weeks later we were camping again (without the kids or the SuperSoakers) and a squirrel boldly climbed up on his chair, and thence to his knee. We were charmed… until the squirrel bit him on the finger. And he had to have rabies shots. Never piss off a squirrel; they’ll get you in the end! (Or the finger.)

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  10. Critters! We don’t have bears in our neck of the woods, but plenty of masked bandits (=raccoons) and bunnies, 3 kinds of squirrels and chipmunks. The Robins are the least of my problems. The raccoons raid my hummingbird feeders if I forget to take them in at night and glean the leftovers under the birdfeeders. Not that destructive, really. The squirleys are pretty harmless as well… but the chipmunks are stripy little hoarders. They hog all the birdseed, they must have huge underground larders! And they are nasty nest robbers. Catbirds and Cardinals like to nest in some bushes by our front porch and the chippies get the eggs and the young every time. I’m now putting old Robin’s nests in the shrubs to make it look like they’re already occupied. I gave up on my strawberries a couple of years ago. The Squirrels and the birds got them every time, nets or not. And the bunnies manage to get into my veggie patch over/under/through the “rabbit fence” that I got a couple of years ago. Totally useless! I had 3 bunny nests in the asparagus patch and the potatoes! Chicken wire reinforcement is required. As a last resort I made cages for some of the veggie beds: metal frames from packaging with chicken wire cladding. Grrrr. I’ll send you a photo later. No matter, I still like all the furry critters around here.

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    • I enjoy watching the critters, too; but I get RIGHT TESTY when they eat my veggies! This year I’m single-handedly supporting the chicken-wire industry, so hopefully we’ll have a safe veggie enclosure by the time I’m done. I’ll be fencing my perennial flowerbeds, too, since rabbits are famous for chewing on shrubs just to be assholes. I wouldn’t mind so much if they actually ate them; but they just butcher them and leave the poor little twigs lying dead. Assholes, I tell you.

      I haven’t seen a chipmunk around here, and now that you’ve told me what hoarders they are, I’m glad. We don’t dare have bird feeders of any sort with all the bears around. I figure our fruit trees are enough of an attractant. And I’ve seen a couple of raccoons smushed on the highway so I guess there must be some on the Island, but I’ve never seen one around here. So far, so good… 😉

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  11. I have bunnies here, in the middle of a decent sized city, that eat anything put in the ground. At first I didn’t mind too much since they were super adorable to watch but soon the bunnies “did what they do” and there were too many of them. Not so cute. So I started container gardening, only to find that the squirrels were grateful to beat the bunnies to the food. And squirrels don’t just stop at food. When I stopped veggie gardening altogether they chewed through my propane bbq grill hose, which is metal mesh covered in rubber. They got into a neighbors attic and chewed their wiring. The bushes in my cousins back yard went up like Roman candles when squirrels chewed through the power lines over them and sparks rained down. And I used to think they were so cute. Little buggers are a menace! *grumble grumble cuss cuss* (my four letter word substitute, lol) . I might have to go back to feeding the bunnies.
    And I am SO glad not to have to deal with bears! I use to have horrible nightmares about them so for me they are heart attacks waiting to happen. Take my trash and your big teeth and go away!! Yikes!
    Good luck with your pests! May they find a treasure trove of goodies in the wilds and leave yours alone.
    Btw, what do they do to make a trash container “bear-proof”?

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    • The lid has a rotating latch on it, like a big dial with a handle. Other than that, it’s just rigid plastic, so I suspect it’s more ‘bear-resistant’ than ‘bear-proof’. I was shocked that it withstood Mr. or Ms. Bear for as long as it did.

      I’m planning an extensive rabbit fence, but there’s nothing I can do about squirrels; and I suspect it’s a squirrel that’s been systematically excavating each and every one of my crocus bulbs. We don’t have too many squirrels around here, fortunately — too many predators. But one is enough! I’ll be installing wire mesh over top of my next batch of crocus bulbs. It’s tempting to go all Rambo with the air pistol, but that might make the neighbours nervous. 😉

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  12. I haven’t seen a bear in person since I was maybe six or seven years old. Out in your old stomping grounds–somewhere in Alberta, alongside one of the highways. Although my kiddo and I almost got chased by a bison at Yellowstone in 2017.

    What makes a trash container bear-proof? I would think with their sheer weight, all they’d need to do is sit on it and it would pop open. Although their lack of opposable thumbs might be a deterrent, I’m thinking. Our newer trash container is rat-proof. Don’t ask why we need this. (They’ll gnaw holes in the trash bins we buy at the stores.)

    Rabbits are annoying little pests here. If they don’t eat all the flowers off the petunia plants, they get into the garden and eat all the buttercrunch lettuce. All of them combined were not as destructive as the groundhog that once took up residence at another house I owned. He’d burrowed a spot far under the deck where we could not block him off or fill in his den. And he ate everything in the garden, right down to nubs. A fence wouldn’t have helped unless I buried it a few feet beneath the ground to where he couldn’t burrow in.

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    • Argh, your groundhog sounds like a true garden terrorist! We had pocket gophers in our garden in Alberta, but fortunately they were relatively easy to trap. They close in their burrows completely during the day, and if they see light and air they hurry over to fix the breach. A cylindrical tube trap tucked into the mouth of the burrow was a foolproof solution. But groundhogs are a whole ’nother problem.

      I was extremely skeptical about the ‘bear-proof-ness’ of the kitchen waste cart when we first got it; but it surprised me. It’s rigid plastic and the lid is decidedly wimpy, but it’s got a rotating latch on it. I guess the cart is so lightweight that the bear can’t get any leverage on it, and he can’t rotate the latch. The cart itself would probably bear his weight (sorry, just realized what I said there), but it would be interesting to see how long that cart would have lasted if he hadn’t been so rudely interrupted. I’m betting the bear would win in the end.

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    • I’d never seen a real Groundhog until I moved to Ontario in 1969 for a couple years. If I could have smuggled one home to our pasture with all its pocket gophers, I would have. My father likely had never seen or even heard of Groundhogs and if early some morning he went to check the cattle and saw a giant gopher he would likely have taken the cure even though he never drank. He’d have been like Sylvester and the giant mouse.

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