Friday, June 06, 2008
Critters On Parade
[Top left: Some nasty, stinky javelinas. Right: The mighty Guardian Surefire M6 line]
I'm off to Tucson today, and this terrific, funny story in the Times yesterday, brilliantly headlined "Peter Rabbit Must Die," reminded me of the critter problem we all face at home and when we travel.
It's outta control. At our house in New Jersey, a groundhog family has been in residence for some years under the deck, from whence they assault not only our herb garden but the neighbors' as well.
Meanwhile, a neighborhood cat who roams free waited on a neighbor's doorstep to murder two wild ducks who waddled up from the creek down the hill. Not to mention the raccoons, who merely laugh at any trash can labeled "raccoon proof."
If there weren't laws about these things, plus dangers to passersby, I'd get a shotgun and wait Elmer Fudd-like behind a bush at dawn.
Now I head to Tucson. I'm worried that in my absence (my wife is staying behind this time, and she has no practice in raccoon policing) the critters will think it is safe to run wild, so to speak.
Meanwhile, in the Arizona desert, critters of another kind roam the earth.
A herd of wandering javelinas can often be encountered. Javelinas are nasty, stinky critters with sharp tusks. They look a bit like wild boars, but apparently are not related (in that you would need to be desperately hungry to eat a javelina, though a cowboy told me he's heard tell).
Their favorite food is prickly-pear cactus, which tells you something about how tough and mean they are, because a prickly-pear is something you don't even want to touch, let alone chew on. (Yes, I know some people make prickly-pear jelly. It's inedible, even in jelly form without the needles, in my opinion).
Most mornings, I see a pack of maybe eight javelinas, including babies (or whatever you call a young javelina) wandering around. Neighbors of ours, both physicians, live in a house that once was occupied by Paul McCartney and his wife, Linda, while the McCartneys were building the ranch in the foothills where Linda eventually died. They report routinely seeing a herd of javelinas that number over 20.
You don't want to mess with a javelina, incidentally. When they feel threatened, they will charge and "tear your leg up," said another neighbor, who wrangles horses.
One morning last winter, I went out to the garage and had trouble opening a closet door. Investigation showed why: A pair of adult javelinas was huddled in the corner, blocking the door, and they were indignant about being disturbed. I retreated, hitting the automatic garage door-opener on the way, and the critters trotted out into the sunlight without further incident.
The next morning, I got into the car, noticing that I'd left the passenger-side door a bit ajar overnight. I was reaching across to close it when a small rattlesnake who'd curled up on the passenger seat objected.
Another hasty retreat.
A gun is one precaution, but it's hard to hit a snake, and shooting at them just pisses off javelinas.
Another option, I learned, is a very bright flashlight. Thus it is that I own a Guardian Surefire M6 anodized tactical flashlight, capable, I believe, of illuminating the summit of Mt. Lemmon, 20 miles away. I'm talking S.W.A.T.-team, Navy-Seals-combat bright, by the way.
"It'll freeze a lion in his tracks at 50 yards," said a man in the gun shop where these flashlights are available at a shocking price.
Which is good, because the latest news is that a couple of mountain lions have wandered down from the hills and have been spotted sunning themselves on Tucson patios. Out our way, the Neighborhood Watch is on the case, however, advising everyone to bring walking sticks on the Monday morning hike.
It's always something.