Sunday, September 15, 2013

Test Your Wildlife Management Skills

Here at Rancho Santa Clara, located almost in the very middle of Mexico (pronounced meh-HEE-ko by the locals, just so you know), keeping the local fauna at bay is a year-round challenge, particularly during the rainy season when many species sneak into our living space probably because they don't want to get wet any more than we do. It's been raining or at least drizzling for the past several days and we've had more than the usual number of critter intrusions, a situation I want to use to test your wildlife control skills. Consider this a teachable moment.

1. You open the lid of your gas grill and inside you find a gray mouse placidly nursing three or four babies. What do you do?

  • a. Grab the spatula from the wrought iron grilling tool set you got for Christmas and beat the entire mouse family into a pulp, while cursing loudly. Make sure to thoroughly clean the grilling surfaces afterward with a garden hose. 
  • b. Turn on the grill to 350 degrees for grilled mice, medium rare. 
  • c. Gently open the grill lid, take a picture of this adorable scene of maternal love, apologize profusely to Momma Mouse for the intrusion, and leave a couple of lettuce leaves to tide her over until she can go out to fetch her own groceries. 
  • d. Take a cue from our maid who shrieks at the sight of mice and refuses to sweep the terrace for the following three weeks. 
Grilled mice: Who can resist?
2.  A medium size bird has sneaked into your living room and is desperately trying to escape.
  • a. Wait until the bird has crashed into every window and knocked itself senseless. Deposit the little feathered friend in the nearest trash can. 
  • b. Grab a shotgun and go for it.
  • c. If you don't get it at first, reload.
  • d. Let one of your cats handle this avian crisis.
  • e. Get on a stepladder and with a broom swing wildly and uselessly at the intruder like a complete moron. Keep going until you are either exhausted or fall off the ladder.
3.  You spot a medium-size green frog on the kitchen floor (or in the bathtub or the toilet). 
  • a. Knock her out with a cotton ball soaked with tequila and proceed to relive your high school science class by cutting her open with an Exacto knife. Try to recall the layout of a frog's internal organs.
  • b. Hack off her legs and add them to your dinner salad to see if they really taste like chicken.
  • c. Tell Stew there's a frog in the house. 
4. You step into the shower stall and you find a spider, a couple of inches long, ambling by. 
  • a. Throw the shower floor mat over it. 
  • b. Aim the shower head at it to see what a drowning spider looks like. 
  • c. Find an index card or something like it and gently coax the spider out of the shower stall and hope it's gone by the time you're finished showering. 
  • d. The same as choice "c", except you call one of the dogs and see if they'll eat it. 
Correct answers, maybe: 

The following answers have not been vetted or approved by the Humane Society, the National Wildlife Federation or anyone who knows anything about animals, wild or otherwise. The answers just reflect what Stew and I do in these situations, based on experience and marshmallow-soft hearts when it comes to critters. 

1. The mouse family: "c" is the only logical choice. I mean, are we the only ones who think gray mice are cute, what with those large black eyes that look like marbles, the round ears sticking up and the twitching whiskers? And baby mice? Let's not go there. Granted, large rats, eight inches and longer, like the one we found dead on the garage floor last week, can test our definition of "cute." That's why we let one of our dogs take care of that problem.
2. Birds are a particularly tough challenge because they fly and tend to poop on you when panicked. So yesterday we just let Fifo catch the bird, and then we grabbed Fifo and gently took the panting bird out of his mouth without roughing one feather. The bird was out of the house, Fifo's self-esteem was puffed up and we didn't get bird poop on our heads.

3. Frogs are a constant aggravation and don't think for a second you can just flush the problem down the toilet. These are Olympic-caliber swimmers who'll be staring at you pleadingly next time you lift the lid. The only solution is to let Stew do his usual Tupperware and index card magic trick: Carefully position a Tupperware bowl on the visiting frog and then slide the index card under it. Take the whole package outside, being careful not to drop the frog. You don't want it to get a concussion.

4. For some reason our master bathroom is like Greyhound station for insects travelling nowhere. While you sit you can look down and watch a conga line of spiders, ants, moths, crickets, water bugs and beetles going around your feet. It beats reading some old magazine. Sometimes the bugs stick around, other times they disappear. Call it one of Nature's Great Mysteries. They don't bother us, so we don't bother them. 

I end with some late-breaking news. Stew peeked under the cover of the gas grill and the entire mouse family has decamped without a good-bye or even eating the pieces of lettuce I'd left for the mother.

Damn ungrateful varmints. 

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