World War III

Two weeks ago, World War III began; the battles have been raging for years, but now its war. Living in what most people would call a cabin, I have to deal with many things: the cold, the occasional splinter, and woodpeckers. There are plenty of animals where I live, but none as annoying as the infamous flying checkerboard. Owning a house made almost entirely from wood, you might be able to understand why this particular bird is such a nuisance, but if not I’ll clear it up. Woodpeckers peck holes into wood, my house is wood, and this bird only seems to work in the evening and early morning, when I’m trying to get rest. Can you imagine listening to the sound of a tiny jack hammer on your bedroom wall, all the time?
Now my specific woodpecker, didn’t start off by waking me up almost every day, but instead simply living in a tree in my backyard. I had no problem with that, I love animals! For ten years we’ve lived comfortably as neighbors, but for some reason that all changed this year. About a month or so ago I discovered the first hole drilled right above my patio doors, the next above my wife’s flower boxes, and since then they’ve doubled, maybe even tripled, and everywhere I look I see holes. Soon enough I started hearing him at 5 o’clock in the morning, the TATATATATAT was unmistakable. The rapid fire of beak on wood seemed never ending, so I declared it; World War III.
First things first, I had to build up my stockpile of defense weapons (there weren’t any actual weapons, I didn’t want to kill him); I bought myself a large, fake owl, a new stereo, some tin plates, and set to work. I posted the owl on my roof, its job: scare away all other birds, my plan is to move him every week or so to a different spot on the house. Then I connected my phone to the Bluetooth on the stereo, two can play the loud noise game. Lastly, I placed a tin plate outside my bedroom wall, above the patio, and over the front door just in case. I heard about a guy that put a picture of Obama on one side, and Hilary Clinton on the other; he said it worked great but I’m not looking to pick a fight with anyone but this woodpecker so I left it as it was. When he comes back, I’ll be ready. I will win World War III.

Raccoons in Church

I never thought I would see raccoons in church, but last Sunday that is exactly what I found. Our pastor was reading from the bible, sharing some incredible thoughts, when all of a sudden we heard scratching and clawing from above us! It was a ghastly sound, and it didn’t seem like something that we could get rid of, I looked at Mary Lou who was seated right beside me and we were both thinking the same thing. Some boisterous teenager must be upstairs trying to disturb the congregation!
Politely trying to continue the service, Pastor Allen spoke up and continued right on reading, but it was no use. If disturbing church was what the person had come to do than he had succeeded! All eyes were off of the front and pointed toward the ceiling and the grim sound echoing from it, nervous chatter could be heard from all corners of the church. A man sitting just a few rows in front of me stood and quietly made his way out the back and up toward the attic. I didn’t know him personally, but I had seen him in a patrol car once or twice and his uniform was unmistakably that of a policeman. Everyone seemed pleased that the officer had risen to the occasion and went to deal with the intruder.
Not long after he had left, however, we heard the creak of a door, a yelp of surprise, and itty bitty footsteps sprinting down the stairs. We all turned quickly to the back to see what this disruption could be, but instead of a person like many of us expected, we sat looking into the eyes of two, black masked raccoons! Several woman cried out in disgust and horror, but I just laughed. In all my 82 years of life, I have never, nor will I ever again see raccoons in church; and truthfully, I’m alright with the once-in-a-lifetime feel of it all.

Don’t Feed the Squirrels

The thing I never fail to find in National Parks, are signs that say ‘DON’T FEED THE SQUIRRELS’, in bold red letters. Sadly not many people listen to its advice, and while many walk away unscathed, there are some people out there that could tell you a story or two. Luckily, as a ranger at Zion’s National Park, I have plenty of stories that I can tell you. Quite a few explain exactly why we keep those signs up, even if people don’t follow the rule. This is one of those stories.
Summers are our busiest season, sure it gets past 100 ° Fahrenheit on most days and there’s always the risk of flash flooding with summer storms, but people have it off of school and work, so here they come. A few years back, I was working when I got a call out of the blue that a woman had been attacked by a wild animal. I couldn’t believe my ears, I had never come in contact with something like this in my short 2 months as a ranger and I was excited. I got the medical kit ready and sat just imagining what it could be. Maybe she was trampled by a deer, I had heard of that happening; or maybe it was a bear (unrealistic I know, but I was 19)!
Well as it turns out, this woman had been doing exactly what the signs advise against. She had been feeding a squirrel. As her husband and kids began the long hike up Angel’s Landing, she sat near the bathrooms and waited, soon after she was joined by a fuzzy, and hungry, companion. Pulling trail mix out of her bag she would lazily share a nut here and there with the squirrel, until she ran out. Now, what you have to understand is that squirrels are perfectly content with being fed, but if they aren’t, they get a little bit hangry. This little guy kept coming closer and closer, begging for food she didn’t have. When she finally tried to swat him away, he snatched at her. Quicker than a cobra that sneaky devil ran off with a piece of her fingernail right in his mouth.
As disappointed as I was, I knew that this little bite could cause a world of trouble. Squirrel bites can cause an inflammation of the bone or joint, and if he’s sick, he could spread it to whoever was bitten. Taking all of this into consideration I diligently cleaned out the wound while she sniffled and swore vengeance on the animal. After I finished up I told her to make sure she checks with a doctor to see if she might need a tetanus shot, and then dutifully pointed out a sign just outside of our building that read, ‘DON’T FEED THE SQUIRRELS’. Needless to say, she was very unhappy with me.

Copper Harvesting Rats

Now I knew that people did it when short on cash, but I had no clue that there were copper harvesting rats! Late last month while enjoying a Criminal Minds rerun, my TV shut off out of nowhere, with a little investigation (and a lot of mess) I was able to find the problem. A rodent had been chewing on the wires, most likely to yield a profit with the copper wiring; or realistically to trim down their big front teeth. Either way, it was Saturday night and there was no way I was missing the playoffs just for some rat in withdrawals. Luckily my brother, Nathan, is an electrician and lives just down the street; he was at my house within the hour.
After digging a few handheld, electric saws out from the garage, we set to work behind the TV, determined to figure out the extent of the problem, but what we found was worse. Piles of feces and dried urine puddles; it was definitely rats and they had been doing much more than just taking care of their dental work back there. Not to mention the fact that the wires from the television were stripped and chewed through in numerous places. From the looks of it, I wasn’t going to be watching the playoffs game. Besides harvesting the copper from the cable, it looked like they had gotten to some of the outlets, lights, and other various wires.
It was just my luck that something like this would happen, I assume that it’s because of the rat I stepped on in 9th grade. It’s like Taken, only with rodents! Back to what I was saying, once I stepped back and looked at the situation (and maybe googled what to do) I decided that this was too serious for me to handle myself. Since I already had the almost free electrician, I called in an exterminator, a contractor, and the cable company. Someone had to know what to do! Fortunately they did, and last week I had everything put back together. Wires in place, walls repaired and rat free, all evidence of rodent excrement gone, and the best part was that I had my TV back. Not to mention Nate let me watch the game at his house. Football night can’t be ruined by some crazy, copper harvesting rats!

L.L. Trapster’s Adventures: The Mangy Raccoon

This, as you probably guessed, is the story of a mangy raccoon that was found at a job site. Now, if you’ve met L.L. Trapster, you know that she is an animal trapping prodigy (and I’d been keeping her behind a desk for months), but a few weeks ago, out on a gopher/mice/vole job, she used her trapping skills and discovered something much bigger. A very mangy raccoon that had taken refuge underneath a trampoline. I know what you’re thinking, it probably wasn’t that sick, but just affected by the huge, black, sun disk that was baking it alive, but sir it most definitely was VERY SICK.
When you picture mange, you probably picture something like a drunken man; well, you wouldn’t be far off. Animals with mange can be identified by the typical patchy, red, exposed skin you can see on their neck, ears, face, and body; a slow, zombie like movement, and extreme tiredness and dehydration. Luckily for us, this coon had stumbled right into a trap so no one came in contact with it, but it did need to be taken care of, and L.L. Trapster was the perfect woman for the job. Without a moment’s hesitation, she had killed herself her first raccoon and was playing a real-life claw machine, trying to pick it up from the giant hole in the ground underneath the trampoline.
After we finally pulled it out, it was all up to her. I like to say that working with L.L. Trapster is a point-and-click job; we get to a site, I point at what needs to be done, and she does it (it’s really lightened my load!). Back to the story, I pointed out some trash bags and she knew exactly what needed to be done; before I knew it she had the diseased raccoon stuffed in a black bag ready to go. Finishing up the job we were originally there to do, Lauralee and I got ready to dispose of the dead animal sitting in the back of the pickup. First things first, we had to freeze it, this kills the smell and some of the disease, then haul it off to the burn pit and fry whatever was left to stop the spread of disease. Short and sweet, just like L.L. Trapster, that’s the story of the mangy raccoon.

Snake Infestation

I’ve lived in Park City, Utah for 3 years now, and I’ve never seen a snake infestation like this in my life. I live near some marsh lands and in the last few months I’ve seen a lot more rain than I’m used to. Because of that, snakes are being flooded from their nests in the ground right into my back yard. I’m no ninny, I can deal with your everyday garter snakes, but a four-foot copperhead is definitely out of my comfort zone. I knew when I moved here, especially so near a marsh as I am, that I would have to deal with the slithery serpents, but I never dreamed it would be to this extent.
It all started two months ago when I had a landscaper over to help me tidy-up the back lawn, he was the first to spot one of the brown, almost leopard spotted snakes making its way back home, right next to my front porch! I set out traps but I guess I was naïve to the size of the snakes I’m dealing with because several of the small one-way snake traps were left with no snakes inside. I took that to mean somehow the things were pulling a Sirius Black and escaping! I even laid a trap once and came back the next day to find it missing, a snake had dragged it off with him. It keeps getting more and more out of hand; in a crawlspace soon after, I found myself face-to-face with a HUGE, black (maybe brown) snake, now this thing could have easily been ten feet long. I’m not usually one to run away, but I crawled my butt out of there faster than you can say Bob’s your Uncle.
I’ve seen three in my garage, one right on my door step, another sprinting like Carl Lewis across my front lawn, one in my attic of all places, and no matter what I do they just keep coming! Not only am I seeing full grown (or at least I hope) snakes, but I saw babies back by a pine tree in my yard not three weeks ago. I stomped on as many as I could, trying to stop the spread of my already out of control snake problem, but I don’t know how much more I can take. Like I said before, I can handle garter snakes, probably one or two of the snakes I have now, but the amount I have living with me is unreal. It’s beyond a problem: it’s a snake infestation.

Skunk in the Window Well

Redoing your lawn is hard enough without having to deal with a skunk in the window well, what started out as normal Saturday morning, with raking leaves pulling weeds and tearing out old grass, turned into a smelly, week-long disaster. About a month ago my wife complained that the grass was dead, plants were rotting, fence was outdated, and the deck and lawn decorations were sundried and cracking; it was time for a full lawn makeover, or so she said. I didn’t think it was such a good idea until my oldest daughter, Charity, wanted to go out with a boy on that same day, then it was in full swing, an all hands on deck situation. Everyone had a job and there would be NO fourteen year olds going on a date. I know my wife would have shut my plan down if she didn’t want a new lawn as badly as she did.
My oldest son Mikey and I set to work on ripping out the old chain-link fence while my wife and youngest son Andrew started ripping out the plants (it was more my wife, Drew is only four but he did his best to help), Charity and her sister were assigned to chip off the old stain, and repaint the deck. When she wasn’t mumbling about how stupid and unfair it was, I think Charity secretly had a good time; until she found the skunk. She was getting a drink from the hose on the side of the house, to do this she had to bend over right near the window well, right where he was trapped, and afraid. We didn’t know what had happened when we heard her scream but it didn’t take us very long to smell it.
Now, we had two problems; one: my daughter was LIVID and smelled like skunk butt, and two: we had a skunk in the window well that we couldn’t get out. It was obvious that picking it up and carrying it out wasn’t plausible, unless Charity did it since she had already been sprayed, but there was no way on Earth she was going near anything but a bath in tomato soup, so instead we tried to build it a ramp. We put on our hazmat suits (doctor masks, goggles, leather gloves, and head to toe clothing) and carefully slid a plank down into the window well. Knowing fully well skunks aren’t exactly renowned climbers, we attached small pegs it could use to climb up and out with.
Unfortunately, this plan failed and none of us were brave enough to try and put a trap down with it, and remove it if he was caught. After a week of no luck with the creature, we decided there was only one thing we could do, I got my .22 and handled the situation. Our house, and daughter, stunk for quite a while, Charity hasn’t forgiven me yet for the incident, but we’ll never forget the family bonding we had when we found the skunk in the window well.

Porcupines Eating Trees

As if being a tree wasn’t hard enough, now my forest is infested with tree-eating porcupines! Now, you have to understand that I don’t live in a rundown, ugly forest; my forest is full of green, beautiful life, but these monsters have ravaged us! They came for the first time a year ago, it was a travesty to see my friends grow sick and weary because of their bark and roots being stripped from their bodies, even my neighbor was attacked, I was scared for my life but luckily I have long, deep roots that are mostly underground so the prickly pests can’t get to them easily. The man that lives beneath the shade of our tall, needle-lined branches was horrified at the damage they had caused and called for animal control to come ASAP, but by the time they got here the porcupines had taken a break from eating us trees and had wandered off. The technician told him that they were gone and wouldn’t come back, this was a huge relief to us all.
Until now, the beasts are back and hungrier than ever, they’ve even chewed on my trunk once or twice, I might even be getting weaker because of it, I may be 206 years old but I am NOT invincible. My friend Arbor, who lives just down the row from me, has had almost all of his roots eaten, even his bark is gone from the ground up about two feet these menaces never stop. The man is setting out traps now, baiting them with foods such as peanut butter and sunflower seeds, its tedious work and isn’t a quick solution for sure. He’s even gone so far as to rub something called ‘Capsaicin’ on our bark to try and keep the creatures away, but for now all I can do is watch my friends get sick and rot, it’s an awful life. Can nothing save us from the porcupines eating the trees?