The Hess Report


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Animal Extravaganza 

The pond across the road is kind of yucky. It's shallow, greenish, and sports those water lilies that look nice in Impressionist paintings but make you want to scrub yourself with a Brillo pad in real life. A pair of ducks makes an appearance every now and then, which is fine. I like ducks, both as observable wildlife, and shredded and fried in a Thai salad. There is also a beaver. Probably a family of them, but we've only seen a single one, twice, swimming across the pond with a long stalk of grass in his mouth. A Beaver Aside: Do you suppose that a single male beaver will work harder on his lodge than an already mated beaver? I'm not sure what the beaver incentive structure looks like. When it comes to beavers, what is more important? Keeping your mate and protecting home and hearth with a strong lodge, or attracting a mate with a tricked out beaver pad? Also, what if this beaver is gay and spends all of his time in his finely-appointed lodge planning awesome block parties and watching Beaver-Bravo? In the end, I guess there's no way to discern a beaver's family situation by watching it swim across a pond with a stalk of grass in its mouth.

And then there are the Canada geese. I believe I have spoken of them before. Foul creatures. Worse than pigeons. I consider Canada geese an infestation. The pond holds three families of them. Several months ago, there were only six. Those six paired up and had babies, about three or four each. The babies were adorable (cf. my non-baby-killing policy even for pest animals), but I knew that soon I would grow to hate them. And so I have.

Every morning, I walk the dog across the road and around the pond. Before the goslings came, I would let her have a full leash and chase the geese away. I hate them, and she loves chasing them, so why not? But what if she went off leash and killed one, you ask? What then? Then, I say, doggie gets a treat. However, with the babies around we've temporarily dialed the goose-terrorization down to zero. Someday soon, though, they'll all be full grown, and it might be time to make a midnight trek into their territory, hockey pants, gloves and a sword in tow. I'm sure the local coyotes would clean up the debris in a day or two.

Occasionally, the pond's two ducks will get pissed off about the quickly growing goose population and have a quack/honk off in the middle of the pond. I have affectionately dubbed this situation "Duck versus Goose," and it is something to be hoped and cheered for. It's been in the back of my mind to try to teach the ducks to use weapons, but I've heard they're not the fastest learners, so it's probably not worth it.
This morning, the dog and I scored the pond wildlife quadrafecta. As we crossed the road, I saw the two ducks taking off and the entire clan of geese running across the field and into the pond. Hoping to see the beaver again, Piper and I slowly picked our way along the edge of the pond. As we were in goose territory, I remained peripherally aware of where I was stepping. Canada geese do little more than crap constantly, and it's nasty when it's fresh and you don't want to squash in it. I'm glad I was watching, because something a few feet to my right caught my eye. I reigned Piper in just as she lunged at the large snapping turtle on the ground, an arm's length away from us. She was about a foot across, and her head was as big as my fist. She could easily take a man's fingers off or snap a little dog's leg like a twig. I had almost stepped on her.

I backed away and pulled Piper with me. She figured it was Go Time, and wanted nothing more than to have at it. Stoopid dog. She's used to picking on mice, voles, chipmunks, birds and the odd raccoon, soft targets basically, and had no idea what would happen if she took on an animal that used armor and weaponry. We gave the turtle a wide berth and continued up the hill.

Piper sniffed around for a bit, did her business, and we headed back toward home. The turtle was gone. I noticed the geese clearing out of the pond, and figured that maybe the turtle was about to terrorize them, which: awesome. I watched for about half a minute, but couldn't see her. That's when I noticed why they had headed for the shore. The beaver was cruising the pond.

Go beaver!
Go ducks!
Go turtle!
Boo geese!

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