Saturday, 22 February 2020

Me vs A Legacy of Dead Animals

***This post has a few pictures of dead and/or mostly dead animals. You've been warned. ~J

About a year after we moved, my mother told me that she was surprised by how well I was doing living in a small town, and even more so on a rural property. Apparently when we had told her and my father that we were moving out of the city, they'd silently conferred and given me 6 months before I table flipped and came back to civilization.  Oddly, she was very specific about giving ME 6 months before I lost my mind....she evidently felt that my husband was more suited for rural life???

Well, 6 years in, and I feel like I won some unspoken battle of wills. I also don't recognize what I've become.

When we first moved, finding a spider in my house was grounds for a burning.  I will fully admit to emptying a can of raid into a spider nest just to be sure they were well and truly gone. As a child, when we went to our cabin, my sister and I would have my parents do a "spider check" every night, and failure on their part was not an option. Wildlife was fine...when viewed from afar, and preferably on the other side of glass.

Fast forward to now.
I have been keeping a dead bobcat in my freezer.
My life is a Planet Earth blooper reel. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Since moving to our little piece of forested paradise, I've had to become a little more ok with the nature around me. For example, the spiders that I would not suffer to live, are now ok as long as they are small-ish and remain on the ceiling. My children name them. Our current kitchen-dwelling ceiling spiders are called Fluffy and Blacky.  I do have a more limited tolerance for spiders on bedroom ceilings, but even those standards have greatly relaxed in the last few months. I take much more offence to the moths, as they eat holes in my clothes, and arguably the spiders help with mitigating their existence. Initially I tried to combat the spider epidemic, but having a wood stove means a constant need for wood, which in turn means things coming in on the wood. I like being warm more than I hate spiders, and so they are inevitable. I learned to tolerate.

And so we moved up the size scale to mice. I never had to deal with mice in the city. They just never came up. There were zero times where I laid in bed and wondered what that scritching noise was.  But we moved to a forest and mice became a thing. A constant, unstoppable force of nature. In the home we rented before buying our current house, having mouse traps out was just an everyday standard. The first time I found a full trap, I was horrified that this was something I had to deal with now. And I'll be clear, I didn't deal with it well. Emptying traps was solidly chiseled onto my husband's job list.

These days, mice don't usually make it into the house. Only one has that we know of, and it didn't stand a chance, as our two cats and dog spent an evening stalking it mercilessly (and a bit joyfully). Generally, they only make it as far as the garage and meet their end. This is fine, and I've considered staking their little heads out in front as a warning to others who want to try and breach our defences.

But sometimes our mouse traps work...differently...than I'd like.  Follow me up the size scale again. 

This past summer I caught a lizard in a mouse trap. It was still alive, albeit unhappy, so we released it.  As we were taking the trap back to reset it (the mice never relent) we happened past another one of the traps. This one held an absolutely furious snake, which I'm fairly sure had been going after the lizard that I had just released.  We released the snake and off it went. The next morning, the same stupid lizard that had only caught it's leg the first time, had come right back in and repeated it's poor life choices of the previous day, however this time it hadn't been so lucky.

Dead animal bingo: Small Rodents - check, Reptiles - check
What's next?

Right, birds.

I will say that having a bird fly into your window isn't that uncommon. It happens a lot here, despite attempts to put up stickers and dirty kid handprints to signal that this isn't a fly through zone.  That said, having a hawk fly into your window so fast that you honestly thought your giant picture window was going to shatter....well that's a bit more rare.

I can only imagine that while this bird was very aware of its own speed and magnificence, it was maybe less aware of its surroundings than it needed to be. This beautiful, but idiotic bird, ricocheted off the window so hard that it partially decapitated itself, and the force of the hit sent this now very dead bird flying sideways onto our back deck in a spectacular fountain of arterial blood spray. To complicate this already unplanned for situation, it was August and hot, so we had to get outside as fast as possible to wash the rapidly drying blood spatter off the window, deck, and side of the house before it baked on, all while keeping the dog from coming up to claim what he clearly thought was his new toy. 

It just sat here and died
And if the birds aren't flying into the window, they just settle down by your front door to die.  I guess this was some kind of idiot grouse? It just showed up one day, and then later that same day it was no more.  Less blood spray at least, but no fewer dead birds that the dog still feels should be his. Live in the country, they said.....

And no, I'm not at the cat yet. Which means, yes, somehow there's more. *sigh*

I mentioned our dog earlier. He's big, he's brown, and one of his favourite activities is finding bones. This could mean stealing bones from neighbour dogs (which he does frequently and with skill I wish he'd direct to more useful endeavors, like listening when I call him), or it could mean running out into the forest and helping us to add to our ever increasing collection of dead animal bits. 

A few months ago he very proudly came trotting around the side of the house with this:

This one is quite dead
It still had fur. Wonderful.

And of course, it didn't stop there. We (and again, I say we, but I mean my very tolerant husband) bagged the leg and got rid of it.

My dog brought back another full leg. He was a little salty that we'd gotten rid of his first leg, but he was equally proud of himself for having a stash to work from. And so we got rid of leg #2.

Now I will admit that this pushed my limits a bit. I feel like up until the point where my dog dragged a fully intact deer leg and kindly left it in the middle of my stairs, I'd dealt with most things with a kind of aplomb that past Jamie would not have been able to manage. But this was pushing it somewhat.

And then the entire lower jaw of his prized carcass made an appearance in our yard. And it had teeth. And for some reason the gory, cloven-hoved nightmare was tolerable, but the jaw with teeth? Nope, I'm out.

But I wasn't out.

Because what is the next logical step on the ladder of dead animals? We'd had rodents, reptiles, birds, large herbivores...you guessed it....it's PREDATOR TIME!

This winter we had a cold snap. During this time my neighbour sent me pictures of a little bobcat sitting on her porch just kind of...hanging out? In any case, it was pretty odd behaviour for an otherwise solitary and elusive predator, and it was seriously freaking her cat out. It was interesting, but otherwise the event came and went with little more than passing curiosity. 

A day or two later my husband sent me a text with this picture and very little explanation. 

Also very dead

Turns out that the bobcat that had been hanging out at our neighbours house, probably because it was cold and hungry and then had chosen to make its way into our woodshed to die.  

This NEVER happened to city-dwelling Jamie. SHE never had to deal with dead predators in her yard.  I can truthfully say that there has never been one time in my life prior to moving here where I had to seriously consider how to dispose of a body. NOT ONCE. 

This alone was pretty fucked up. I had a dead bobcat in my woodshed. But more importantly, I had a dead bobcat that I now needed to get rid of, and it needed to be done in a way that would not see the dog bringing it back to us in a further state of disrepair.  

And so like the good procrastinators we are, we put it in a wheelbarrow (it's still winter, it'll keep) and went back inside to ponder the situation for a few days.  I felt like someone should know this happened so I called the conservation officer, because that seemed like something they would want to know about.  Turns out they did not care at all. They wanted me to hurl it into the back 40, but given the aforementioned dog, that didn't seem like a great plan. So we did nothing for a while longer. 

And we continued to do nothing until I went to work with a picture and story of my new cat. My boss took one look and asked if he could have it. You want my dead bobcat? Yes. Why??? To stuff it. Oh. 

Anyway, then I (read again: husband) had to put a small dead bobcat in my freezer so it didn't go bad while my boss got a permit to have it taxidermied.  

For almost 4 weeks, I had a bobcat-cicle just hanging out in my deep freeze. That is not normal. Normal people do not have deceased cats IN THEIR FREEZERS.  That is not something that happens. What (and I can't emphasize this enough) the fuck is happening here? I live in the Bermuda Triangle of dead animals. 

This week, finally, my boss got the approvals he needed to take possession of said dead bobcat, and I could thankfully get it out of my house.  That said, I had to get it out of the freezer first. When it had initially gone it, it was....somewhat pliable. But now picture if you will, the act of trying to get a cat into a carrier....all 4 feet braced against the edges, fighting the inevitable. Well, I had a frozen version of that, and this frozen feline was not keen on being liberated from it's new home.  Eventually me and my frozen cat got to take a ride in my car where it then got to go live in the freezer at work for a while. After all, the only thing worse that a dead frozen bobcat, is a thawed one. 

So now my little dead bobcat will be finding a nice warm home as a flatter, rug-like version of itself. I have requested naming rights though....I'm thinking Cleopatra. 

And I feel like city Jamie would be equal parts proud and horrified by the new me.


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