I love this town, because it is mostly animal-friendly (thank you agriculture and veterinary schools at the university!) And, given that we live in a house that backs on to watershed/conservation land, we get to experience a lot of it first-hand.
Sometimes, it’s an encounter that is more unfortunate. A few weeks ago, as That Girl and I were walking home from school, we were coming down the sidewalk and I noticed a small skunk on our lawn. As skunks are nocturnal, 3:30 in the afternoon is not a natural time for them to be out and about.
As we got closer, I noticed something was definitely wrong with the skunk. It was ill or injured in some way. It would hobble around a few steps, look for something to eat in the grass, hobble around a bit more, and lie down. Eventually, it sort of collapsed at the bottom of the driveway, and stayed there.
I got Stinkerbelle inside and quickly got on the phone with the Humane Society, and a van came within about 15 minutes to deal with our little intruder. This young woman got out of the van, and right away as I chatted to her, I knew that she knew about skunks, and was very fond of them. And she observed, from a much closer distance, that our skunk had been hit by a car, was very injured, and was probably not going to make it. She was calm, cool, collected, and capable. I was so impressed.
I left her to her job of capturing the little injured fellow (who had resumed his staggering and collapsing) and went inside. I could see out the window that the woman had a blanket to capture the skunk and keep him calm. And then, as I sat at my desk, two stories up, windows closed — the smell hit me. An unbelieveable stench of spraying skunk. But this woman, who was undoubtedly hit by it, kept right on working, gathered up her wee charge, and put him in the van and took him off to be tended to.
I was sad, knowing that our little skunk would probably have to be euthanized, but also very grateful that we have people here in town to call on who will come and humanely assist and, if needed, end a poor animal’s suffering.
The majority of our wildlife encounters, however, are much more positive.
We have a resident chipmunk, Pip, that we feed, and have done for a couple of years. He comes right up to the window with an attitude of “Dude. Where’s my food?” And he comes when he is called if I put something out before he arrives. He’s still plenty skittish, and knows to keep his distance from me if I am out, but he’s often seen running by. We know it’s him because he only has half a tail. And, given the way he gets all pissed off and confrontational if another chipmunk DARES EVEN LOOK at his peanuts… I’m guessing he lost that half a tail in a knife fight.
Also on the wildlife front, we have deer. Deer who, in the winter, will come running to the back fence if you even approach the patio door, with ears in fully-deployed-radar mode and a look on their faces that just screams, “FOOD? WE LOVE FOOD! YOU GOT FOOD??” And who, for the remainder of the year, will just cruise by the fence, with few if any fucks to give for their human neighbours.
So, this morning, I looked out the patio door, and saw a deer. In the long grass by her feet was the tiniest baby deer I had ever seen — in fact, when I first looked out, I thought it was a cat. Mama and her fawn were just wandering in the shade of the trees behind our fence. She saw me, and signalled to her baby that they should perhaps move along a little way. Good Mama.
I thought I would provide a little treat for Mama, since we often toss veggies and fruit that are expired over the fence for them to nosh. I got a bag of baby carrots and went down the yard to toss them over the fence. I could see Mama 10 or 15 meters away, under a biggish tree. And I could hear this sound, a bleating sort of a sound, somewhere along the fence line to my left. It sounded like a baby, probably the little fawn.
Mama was wholly unconcerned — and, knowing there’s nothing of danger to even the smallest of creatures behind the fence two doors down, I was unconcerned also. So what I imagine was happening was simply the deer version of a drama that plays out between parents and children worldwide:
Baby (having wandered out of Mama’s immediate reach and finds something he is unable to do on his own): WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
Mama (looking on, unconcerned, giving him a chance to do it himself): … (yawn)…
Baby (more frustrated now): WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!
Mama (still unconcerned, but finding the noise and drama slightly headache-inducing): Why are you fussing? I am standing RIGHT HERE.
Baby (actually looking up to see his mother is RIGHT THERE): OHAI MAMA I MISSED YOU!
Mama (sighing): C’mon Junior. Time to go home for a nap.
It was quite lovely. Even though my first instinct was SQUEEEE GO SNUGGLE THAT BEBEH DEER RIGHT NAO. Good thing there’s a fence, honestly.
But now, I have to go downstairs and tend to my own wildlife: My own Bebeh has a PD day today and will soon be crying about MOOOOOMMMM WHAT CAN I DOOOOOOOOO. And I’ll be standing there, beside a pile of toys, saying WHY ARE YOU FUSSING YOU HAVE ALL THESE TOYS STANDING RIGHT HERE.