Category Archives: animals

Deer in the Headlights

At about 1 a.m. Sunday, on my way to an ambulance call, I slowed down to let a deer cross Delaware Avenue in Delmar. It stepped up onto the sidewalk and paused in front of Bethlehem Town Hall, where it calmly watched me drive past.

This struck me as funny, having just read about Bethlehem’s new task force that will study the town’s deer problem and suggest some possible solutions.

What deer problem? Well, there are the obvious things, like the number of deer/car collisions and the damage deer do to property — but also they’re looking at the relationship between deer and Lyme disease.

I don’t know much about deer — certainly not as much as the big brains they’ve assembled for the task force — but something tells me this is like trying to change the direction the wind is blowing. If you read the committee’s web page and the meeting notes you’ll find oblique talk of hunting the deer with crossbows and deer sterilization.

Short of putting up a fence around town, will anything really be effective? Won’t new deer move in if you get rid of the ones already there?

So, here’s an idea: I have read that coyote urine keeps deer away. Maybe we need to import some coyotes — or, because that might not be popular, we could spray coyote urine. It could probably be spayed from a plane, but you’d obviously need a lot of coyote urine.

So, if you think the stench of coyote urine is not as bad as having all those deer running around, there you go. If there’s room on the task force, I’m available for the next meeting.

Bad News Bear

I’ve only seen a bear in the wild once. It dashed across the road and dove into the woods right in front of me on Starr Road in the hills outside of Ravena. At first it looked like a dog, but it was dark and husky and had a distinctive loping gait that caused me to eloquently remark, “Holy sh*t! That was a fu*king bear!”

Glad I didn’t run it over!

The bear escaped his close call with my car, and I sincerely hope he went on to live a long and peaceful life in the woods — unlike the rogue bear that wandered into Albany this week, sparking the sort of media circus you see in towns with too many reporters and not enough stories to cover.

Things did not end well for the bear, which is regrettable, but not unexpected.

DEC’s bear timeline is a sad read and makes it clear that the bear was headed for trouble from the start. Could anything have been done differently? Maybe not — except for the DEC officers who tried to put down the bear might have been better shots. The injured bear got far up a tree, and like a small, sad King Kong he held on for as long as he could.

Things like this probably can’t be avoided, but look: if you live on the fringes of the wild, don’t freak out if you see a bear. Yes, if it’s causing trouble, that’s different — but just be patient and it will move along, hopefully back to the woods and not to the city. That’s no place for a bear.

Two stray observations:

  1. Yes, black bears can climb trees, so do not climb a tree to get away from one.
  2. Even good writers need editors. For example, an editor could have prevented the phrase “ursine interloper” from appearing in a local newspaper story about the bear. Sheesh…

Foto Friday

Pigs – Rupert, VT

So, You Want to Rent a Cat?

Here’s something that turned up in my inbox:

I saw your post online about renting one of your cats?  Is this actually a reality.  My roommates and I would love to rent a cat for the spring.  If the offer is no longer on the table do you have any idea where we could get a cat for 2 months but then give it back.

It’s been four years since I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about renting my cats out as rodent control contractors, yet I still get occasional comments and emails from people who are interested in the make-believe service.

It’s hard to tell if people are just pulling my leg. Seriously, I don’t know how much stupider I could have made the blog post. For example: “Maeve can be baited to make her more attractive to mice by rubbing cheese or peanut butter on her head. Rodents find these scents irresistible and will walk right into her clutches.”

I find that people sometimes don’t know when I’m kidding. Do you ever get that dead eyed stare at a meeting when you say something you think is funny and it doesn’t seem to register? It could just be people don’t have a sense of humor. Or they think you’re an idiot. Or maybe a little of both.

It’s hard not to think that there may have been something to the cat rental concept. Maybe if I were just a bit more ambitious I could have been the cat rental king, providing a service the public needs, making a nice living and putting some cats to work doing something useful.

Ireland

One of my favorite memories of visiting Ireland was visiting the ruins of Rahinnane Castle in Ventry, up in the hills outside Dingle.

To access the castle, you pay 5 Euros to park at a nearby farm and walk out across a field dotted with sheep. A boy from the farm came with us and brought along a few border collie pups — who in short order started herding the sheep — herding them directly at us!

I managed to retain my composure — even while a herd of sheep raced directly at me — and shoot this video:

It was one of the highlights of a trip filled with strange, poignant and unforgettable experiences. Yes, that’s my wife in the background saying, “Oh, sh*t… watch out!”

Learned Behavior

THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-THUMP…

That’s the sound of a ball bouncing down the basement steps, which I’ve now heard three times this morning.

Our dog Scarlett has learned that if she drops a ball down the steps I will often retrieve it and toss it back to her. Then she drops it down the steps again.

It occurs to me now that this is a bizarre turnaround in the training routine; she is giving a cue that makes me spring into action. I have been conditioned to react in a certain way, and she knows — to the extent that dogs know anything — what I’ll do.

Predictable behavior on command. That sounds a lot like training to me.

But she’s just a dog and she can never get me trained properly. I’m quite sure that no matter what she does, I’ll continue to eat food off the counter, lay on the couch, and poop in the house. So there.

 

Wordless Wednesday

For the Birds

By spring you’ll see American robins on every lawn, but the common local bird really caught my attention on Monday morning. There were dozens of them picking at the tiny, shrivelled crabapples on a tree in front of my house.

Seriously, I’ve never seen so many robins in one place — and they were having a hell of a time out there, flitting around, tugging fruit off the tree, relaxing on the branches. It was quite a show for my cats as well; to them, watching birds is like a Netflix binge.

My wife said there were a bunch of waxwings hitting the tree also. I wouldn’t know a waxwing if it were pecking my eyes out, so I’ll have to take her word on that.

I don’t know if this influx of robins means anything. We can be hopeful and see it as a sign of spring, but I’m mostly hopeful that they have enough to eat until the snow finally melts.

If a Dog Poops in the Woods

Walking the dogs in the winter is cumbersome, especially when they do their business. Picking up means fumbling with two leashes, heavy gloves, poop bags — you get the idea. That’s why I’m not sure I can also handle a compass on top of everything else.

A recent study claims that dogs align themselves on a north/south axis when pooping. Naturally, this makes me curious, so I’d like to confirm these findings on my own — and while I generally know which way is north, if we’re being scientific, accuracy is important.

Anecdotally speaking, the study seems to be hogwash.

If anything, my dogs appear to line themselves up parallel to the road or path — and on a public street they seem to always face the direction of oncoming traffic. As for the backyard, at this time of year a veritable minefield, there appears to be no discernible pattern. I might as well be reading tea leaves. Maybe we need to consult the Delmar Dog Butler.

But in the name of science, the results must be documented. I encourage you all to take up the cause with your own dogs; maybe we can crowdsource a reply of some sort. Meanwhile, do not rely on dog poop for navigational purposes.