Friday, December 23, 2011

We have a creature in our garden that could make people scream

On the lighter side of life, Shannon and I have a "wildlife problem".

It is not exactly a surprise. I've thought that having a bird feeder would attract wild creatures of all kinds. In this we are not disappointed.

We've had birds of at least a half dozen species visit our yard, including sparrows, chickadees, juncos, towhees, crows, blue jays, and a couple of others we're not expert enough to identify, and not fast enough to capture on camera, by all of which we are thrilled.

Not just birds. Sooner or later, the mammals would come in. No, not the bigger kinds, like coyotes, raccoons and skunks, but the kind that could make people scream.

One day, just after dusk, we saw one of them, by flash light, taking over from what the birds had left off. We both love animals of all kinds, but this little animal really plucked at Shannon's heart string. I just watched him, fascinated. He is every bit as cute as the birds.

But then, a few days later, a whole family showed up, with a big mama and three littler ones. And further, they seemed to have taken domicile under the eves of the house. We watched them gathering the seeds, making trips back to their nest every so often. We thought that they were stashing for the winter. We then began to take it seriously.

We have no problem cohabiting with wildlife. Personally, I love the feeling to be living amongst wild creatures. But our neighbors may not take to it quite so kindly. We began to wonder whether, given the birdseeds, the rats, yes, that's what they are, would swarm. One thing we did not want to do is to stop feeding the birds.

Another thing we do not want is to harm the rats, or even traumatize them, and we certainly do not want to involve any exterminator service. So, we devised a plan where by we would trap them in a large live-trap, one that I would have to build or modify from something else, then deliver them to the huge urban forest nearby called the Pacific Spirit Park, which stretches from 16th Ave to 50th. Easier said than done.

First, we need a trap that could take the entire family. The commercially available ones can trap only one animal at a time. So I looked into Kijiji and Craigs List for a cage of some kind. Recalling my invention the Deer Auto-Assembler (DAA - please see another one of my blogs on the subject), I decided to use a one-way gate through which the rats could enter the cage, but not exit.

After some looking, I found a very nice bi-level cage with two doors, one in front, the other on top. It is the top door that I have converted into a drop-down trap door, which would return to the closed position after a rat has fallen through. On the trap door I have smear some peanut butter - the recommended rat attractant. This I have placed in the garden, today, along the low concrete wall used by the rats to move from nest to garden and back. Well, so far, not yet. They are still dining out in the garden. A little time will tell.

In the event that we did catch them, we'll drive them to the forest, take the cage to a certain depth in the forest, and let them loose. Because we'd have taken them away from their seed-stash, we'd give them a scoop of seeds to get them started, and some peanut butter. After that, they'd be on their own.

In our previous forest walks we've found different kinds of mushrooms and lichens. Hopefully, the rat have the instinct to survive. After all, this used to be their home before we took over.

I'll update you on these very cute creatures over the next few days. Have a wonderful holiday, everyone!

Anthony Marr, Founder and President
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC)

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