I’ve been battling wildlife here in the city. What is particularly galling is that I’m in the city. I already have to deal with the fact that someone painted Castro on the tree outside my house and the fact a condom randomly appeared on the front sidewalk. I’m used to the kids two doors down playing basketball and yelling all afternoon, and it’s just a fact of life that when the neighbor’s dogs bark, it practically sounds like the dogs are in my living room. These events are annoying, but I’m in the city, so they don’t shock me.
This summer and fall though, I’ve been waging war against wildlife. It’s not my first round of battle with creatures. There was the mouse episode of 2009. But, mice seem pretty typical for a city. My battles have moved up the mammalian size scale to opossums and squirrels, and they’ve all decided to come and die on my property. For those who decide to read on, be warned. These incidents are bloody and gory.
The first squirrel incident was…um, my fault. I didn’t take a trash can to the garage. It rained, torrentially. The squirrel fell inside the water filled can and never managed to come back out.
The first opossum incident occurred Memorial Day weekend. The dog had been acting weird for days. He would go outside and intently sniff the deck, walking all around one corner of it. I noticed an increased presence of flies, and then I noticed a stench that would waft past every once in awhile. The stench kept increasing, and when my neighbor said that she thought I had something dead in the yard, I knew I was going to have to do something. After dripping buckets of sweat and muttering many, many things under my breath, I peeled up the decking to reveal a dead opossum crawling in maggots.
Seriously? Opossums are quite possibly the grossest mammals on the planet. And, maggots definitely make the top ten list of things I never, ever want to touch in my life. Ever. I briefly contemplated whether I could get a snow shovel under the dead animal, but he was between deck joists, and I didn’t think I could. I wavered back and forth about how brave to get, but I kept looking at those maggots. I’m horrified to admit that I had to call an exterminator and pay him a couple hundred dollars in emergency weekend fees to get this thing about of the yard.
Then, one of the few evenings in the summer when the humidity mercifully breaks, I opened the window to air out the living room. Once again, I caught wafts of death. So much for airing out the living room…
When I went out in the morning to investigate, I discovered that a squirrel just up and died on the steps outside. Apparently, the squirrel had been there for some time. His head and front legs were stripped down to his skeleton, and maggots were all over his hind legs. My wallet was still stinging from the last exterminator visit, so I decided I’d have to take care of this animal encounter solo. I donned my rain boots and rubber gloves, lined a trash can with a few trash bags, and grabbed the shovel. When I didn’t quite get the squirrel on the shovel the first time, I just about lost it. Dead squirrel juice was running off the edge of the step, and I was standing there in my polka dot rain boots and yellow gloves, trying to get up the nerve to maneuver the snow shovel under the squirrel carcass again. I was millimeters away from vomiting until logic won the day; I realized that if I did vomit I’d not only have to finish cleaning up the squirrel, I’d have to clean up vomit. I persevered, bagged the squirrel and disposed of him.
Animal number three was another opossum. Fortunately, I didn’t deal with this one; I was away on a retreat, so my neighbor dealt with it. The animal issues were getting truly bizarre by this point. She said a whole bunch of kids were on the sidewalk making a bunch of noise. She asked what they were doing, and they said they were looking at a dead opossum. She asked what happened to it, and the kids told her someone threw a knife at it and killed it. At this point in her story, I wasn’t sure what to be most concerned about — another dead animal or the fact that kids are running about claiming to kill animals with knives. Do they think this is the outback? I’m not sure whether to set animal or kid traps. At any rate, she called the city and got a run around. Finally, she reached someone who told her that he would pick the opossum up if it was in the road. He asked her to move it from the sidewalk to the road. Paying taxes is so inspiring when I see the great services they buy (note sarcasm). She insisted that it wasn’t on her property, that she was doing her public duty by reporting a dead animal, and she finally convinced him to come pick it up.
And then Friday night, I moved into a new phase of this animal battle…a live animal. But, that’s another story for another night.