Pets Disappearing/Coyote Problem

A coyote
A coyote causing problems in a neighborhood.

Caller:  Pets are disappearing from our neighborhood, particularly cats.  Are you trapping and removing them?

Trapper:  Our records show we haven’t sent anyone out there recently.  Are they pet cats or feral cats that are disappearing?

Caller:  Both.  We live in a farm community, basically, and a lot of us have pets, but there are also some feral cats that live in some of the abandoned buildings around here.  I’m trying to find my pet cat, and I found out some of my neighbors’ cats are missing, too.  That’s why I called, to see if you’ve been out to our area catching cats.

Trapper:  No, no, we haven’t been to your area, but I’m thinking you may have a bigger problem.  You may have a coyote problem, or a badger problem.

Caller:  Oh, no.  I did find some strange tracks the last time it snowed.  I never saw tracks like them before.  They were big, and just, different.  I didn’t know what it was.

Trapper:  Did you take pictures you could send me?

Caller:  No, and the snow’s melted since then.  I didn’t even think about it, but it might be connected.

Trapper:  Maybe, maybe.  A lot of times a coyote will come into an area and kill the cats.  Sometimes they’ll carry off the small dogs and challenge or injure big dogs, too.

Caller:  Do they go after deer, too, because the deer have been really wound up.  I mean, we’re seeing them in places they don’t normally go.  Also, we used to have a lot of wild rabbits around here, and we haven’t seen hardly any in a while.

Trapper:  Oh, yeah, coyotes will definitely go after the deer, too.  A lot of times, people won’t even know they’ve got a coyote problem until pets start disappearing, but yeah, coyotes will go after both domestic and wild animals.  Wolves, too.  And badgers.

Caller:  Well, how would I know if it was a coyote?  I mean, other than those tracks, how can I tell?

Trapper:  Coyote droppings.  They look like dog droppings, only blacker, and a lot of times they’ll have the fur from cats or other disappeared pets they’ve eaten.

Caller:  I haven’t seen anything like that, but then, I really haven’t been looking.

Trapper:  A lot of times, dogs will actually attract the coyotes, too, because people will let them bark, and the coyotes take that as a challenge.  So, they attack and kill the dogs or maim them.  Or, people will let their cats out, or feral cats run around, and the coyotes just see that as a food source.

Caller:  So, what do I do?  Do you think my cat’s, just gone?  And, all the other pets that have disappeared?

Trapper:  Well, I can’t know for sure unless you want me to get out there and take a look for signs of a coyote problem, or wolves, or whatever.  A lot of times, when it affects an entire neighborhood or area, people will get together and chip in to pay for trapper services.  When you have pets disappearing like that, you might want to talk with your neighbors and give me a call back.

Caller:  Yeah, I think I better do that.  Thanks.  You’ll hear from me soon.

Chicken Defender

Caller:  Hi, yeah, Hi.  I’m an animal lover and I’m really worried about this loose chicken wandering around my store.  Well, it’s not really in my store, it’s outside of my store, but we’re on a busy street and it’s just going to get killed crossing the street.

Trapper:  Okay, well, I’m not really sure what you want me to do about your chicken.

Caller:  It’s not my chicken.  It might be, I dunno, a wild chicken.

Trapper:  If it’s around your store, and you’re calling about it, it’s pretty much your chicken.  Have you thought about having a barbeque?

Caller:  Ha!  Well, the irony is, I run a chicken wings restaurant.

Trapper:  It’s running around a wings restaurant?  Maybe it’s a ghost chicken, come back to haunt you.

Caller:  (laughing) I know, right?  But, seriously, what can you do about it?  I mean, I really do love animals, and I’m afraid it’s going to get hurt or killed.  And, the animal control office is shut down in our area, something about not enough funding.  So, apparently, there’s no animal control in my city, and when I called the county animal control, they told me they won’t come out for a chicken.  So, no one else is coming.  I just Googled animal control and got your number.

Trapper:  The thing is, we handle animals like raccoons, skunks, rats, that kind of thing.  If it was something like an opossum running around, we could come out and trap it.  Or, if you had a fox chasing the chicken, we could come out and trap the fox.

Caller:  You don’t take care of birds at all?

Trapper:  Well, yes, we handle wild birds, like removing pigeons or getting rid of sparrows and their nests.  Wild birds, birds that get into buildings or homes and make messes.  But, I’m sorry to tell you, we just don’t chase down chickens crossing roads.

Caller:  So, what am I going to do?  It’s just running around out there.

Trapper:  It probably belongs to someone and just escaped.  Maybe you could try to catch it and take care of it, put up “found” posters or something?  Like you’d do if you saw a dog with a collar running around by itself.

Caller:  But, chickens don’t have collars.  How am I supposed to know if it belongs to anyone?  (thinks for a moment)  Yeah, I guess “Chicken Found” posters might work.

Trapper:  Are you going to try to describe it for your posters?  Or, do you think you can keep it still long enough to get a good picture of it?

Caller:  I haven’t thought that far!  I don’t know what else to do.  I mean, if no one else will come get the chicken, it’ll just die out there.  (pause)  Do you know how to take care of a chicken?

Trapper:  I have a couple of recipes for delicious marinades, but I’m guessing that’s not what you mean.

Caller:  Yeah, not really.  Why do I care so much?!

Trapper:  Because you’re a good person.  Good luck.

Possum in the House


Opossum thumbnail

The house was quiet and I had it all to myself for once.  Well, I thought I did.  I had no idea there was a possum in the house.

As the youngest of four teenagers and the only girl, it was a big deal for me to be home by myself.  It was such a big deal that when Megan asked me to go over to her house, I texted back that I just wanted to stay home.  Of course, she texted Kylee saying I was mad at her, and then Kylee texted me.  It turned into this big thing, and after I’d finally called and texted everyone, both Kylee and Megan just came over.  Whatever, I guess I couldn’t be alone in the house for once, but it turned out that I was really happy to have company.

Usually, my older brothers eat all the good stuff before I get a chance to even see what we have, but Mom went shopping today and my brothers are all out on camping trips or doing school stuff, so I get first pick.  I grabbed up a couple of bags of unopened chips (usually, I just get the crumbs), some soda and head into the living room.  Megan and Kylee got to my place about five minutes later, and before long we were laughing, play-fighting over whose playlist we were going to listen to, eating, and telling Kylee what to text her boyfriend.

All of a sudden, we heard a crash come from upstairs.  It sounded like it was from my brother Bryan’s room, but I couldn’t be sure.  We just looked at each other for a second, and then started talking all at the same time.  Kylee was asking me if I was sure if my brothers were all gone.  Megan was threatening to run out to her car and drive away.  I was trying to calm everyone down, including myself.  Finally, I just laughed.  “It’s probably just a stray cat or something that got in the house.”

So, we decided to go upstairs and investigate.  We decided to start with Bryan’s room, since it was right above the living room and the crash sounded like it came from there.  Together, we kind of hugged and huddled our way up the stairs and to the hallway, whispering and giggling nervously, sure we were being stupid and silly, but determined to be sure.

I nudged the door to Bryan’s messy room open with my foot, and we all peered in.  We couldn’t see anything, it was dark.  So, I reached in and flipped on the light.  Eyes, teeth, hissing, some kind of large furry thing.  There was a possum in the house, sitting right on top of Bryan’s desk, where it had knocked over a stack of stuff, as well as Bryan’s basketball trophy.   A big, ugly, possum in the house, and there was no freaking way we were going to stick around by ourselves!  We ran back down the stairs and out the front door, barely giving Megan any time to grab her purse with her car keys.  I called Mom from Kylee’s house, screaming about the possum in the house and that I wasn’t going to go back home until that thing was gone.

I haven’t wanted to stay home by myself ever since.  I’d much rather be there with my four big brothers and let them take care of the possum in the house!

Animal in Wall


Raccoon (6)

My room is lit by the soft glow of various electronic devices silently charging on the bedside table.  The PC hums in the corner, its little fan whirring occasionally throughout the long hours of the night.  A tiny light blinks behind the television set, telling me I forgot to turn off the sound system before I drifted off to sleep.  It’s a quiet, peaceful room, and there is no reason I shouldn’t be able to sleep, except for the animal in the wall.

I only hear the animal at night, sometimes midnight, sometimes later.  It’s inside the wall in my closet, which is surprising, because I know there’s only a tiny amount of space between the painted drywall and the mirror-covered wall in the adjoining bathroom.  It’s maybe five inches wide, about the length of a smart phone.  For four nights, the soft bumping, scraping, chewing sound coming from my closet has kept me awake, and I’m starting to panic.  In the bright of day, I discovered the tiny hole behind the shelf where I keep my folded sweaters.  I can’t begin to imagine what kind of animal is in the wall, or how it got there, or where it goes during the day, or what it’s going to do once the hole is big enough for it.  How big is big enough?  How large is the animal in the wall?  Why is it coming to my closet?  What’s drawing it in there?

I lie in bed, cocooned by my own body heat trapped in my soft blankets, and my eyes stare at the door to my closet.  I can hear the animal, chewing, moving, its fur scraping the innards of the wall.  It’s industriously working at gaining access to my bedroom, for unknown purposes.  I try to tell myself I’m just being silly.  It’s nothing but a tiny mouse, and I’ll put a trap inside the wall tomorrow.  But, I can’t know for sure it’s a mouse.  What if it’s something bigger?  What if it’s a whole nest of mice just waiting to swarm into my closet, tramping my clothes with their filthy feet?  Then, I imagine sticking my hand inside the hole to set a trap, and I shudder at the thought of an animal lurking inside the wall, waiting for me to place my exposed flesh inside the dark recesses of its lair so it can chomp on me.

I angrily tell myself to shut up, that I’m being a big coward.  I jump up, turn on the lights in my room, grab my cell phone, stride across to the closet and swing the door open, determined to face this creature head on.  There it is, the hole is definitely larger than it was last night.  I slow down, creeping towards the hole, grimacing at the shower of drywall littering my nicely folded sweaters.  Turning on the LED light from my cell, I turn it towards the wound in the wall.  Nothing happens, and I begin to breathe.  Then, a flash of fur, giant eyes, and a show of teeth knock me out of my closet.  My fear propels me out of the bedroom, and slamming the door behind me, I pound into the front room and leap up onto the couch, panting.  I still don’t know what it is, but I’m calling for help tomorrow.  I can’t sleep another night in that room until someone gets rid of that animal in the wall.

Snakes in the Basement






The smell of snakes in the basement just about knocked me over when we first walked downstairs.  I was hit by an overpowering stench of musk, dead things and snake feces.  The den of garter snakes grew over the winter, as snakes tended to congregate in the warmth of this particular basement.  I bravely went down the steps into the basement and took a few pictures to post online, and wondered how on earth I was going to adequately describe the sites and smells that accosted me in that basement.

As a recent college grad with a degree in Communications, I was grateful to get a part-time job at our local radio station reporting the news.  It wasn’t great, but it was a start, and I was willing to do whatever it took to make it into a full-time position that actually paid the bills.  As it was, I worked part-time for the station, and held down two other part-time jobs as a waitress and at an office supply store.  Student loans take a lot of work to pay off, especially in this economy.  Even though the radio job paid the least, I was determined to stick it out in the hopes I would actually use my degree for something good.

As the radio station had a serious lack of funds, most of my stories were generated and fact-checked via the telephone or internet within my tiny cubicle at the station.  One of my friends is a realtor who stumbled into what he thought was a good story, so he called me up, and I convinced my editor to let me go out to the site and get some good pictures as well as the story.  If I could generate more traffic to the station’s web site with graphic pictures, we might generate more revenue, and I’d be a step closer to a full-time gig.

My friend was stuck with the unenviable task of selling this home that had snakes in the basement.  As winter set in, the owners noticed more and more snakes in the house, and were horrified when they discovered an entire snake den in the basement.  It was supposedly mostly garter snakes, but there was a possibility of one or two additional species down there.  Not to mention the fact that garter snakes are one of the smelliest species, since they emit a musky odor and tend to have more watery and stinky feces.

The horrific pictures I took, as well as the graphic descriptions of the smell and sounds of a large den of snakes in the basement made for a wonderful on-line story, and my editor actually used it in the radio news broadcasts.  That was three years ago, and people still look up that story!  That was the beginning of many interesting news articles I wrote for the station, and thanks to those snakes in the basement, I have a full-time news job and was able to quit the restaurant and office supply store.  I’m even up for the editor’s position once he leaves.  It was worth it, even though I still have nightmares of that smelly, slithering, raspy mess.  Hopefully I never have to experience that again.