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Spring Critters


Spring shows up every year about this time and brings with it all manner of critters. There are mating rituals of all sorts among the various animal groups - dancing, singing, fighting and racing about.

 

The swifts are already building their nests in the eves of the studio.  The one swift that insisted on building her nest right outside the side door of my house has been dissuaded yet again.  The last time we let her run with that idea we had piles of bird poop at our door for weeks.  Messy, smelly and very very slippery. 

 

An interesting sidelight to the swift's presence - one of them pooped on my head yesterday.  Seriously?  Given how they race about in the sky, darting this way and that, you would think they could have missed my head.  But no.  I felt something on the back of my hair and assumed it was a bug.  I brushed my hair back with both hands to get rid of the bug and ended up with sticky hands.  Yuck.  I immediately rinsed my head off with the hose but still.  Really.  I think the Chinese think of it as good luck and I'm trying to do the same.

 

It must be a little early for the skunks since we haven't seen or smelled them yet this spring.  We start smelling them, mostly a faint but unmistakeable fragrance on the air, about the time we start seeing their mangled and retchingly smelly bodies on the roads. They don't have very good eyesight and are common targets for passing vehicles in the spring.

 

We killed a snake yesterday - the first and hopefully the last for the year.  We try very hard not to kill snakes. They are an important part of the ecosystem and if you randomly kill off every snake you see, the snakes that move back in are more likely to be poisonous than not.  The general rule is "live and let live" when we see them out and about.  In the pastures, in the back yard, in the front garden, out in the larger yard we just step aside and go on our way to let them go on theirs.  Yesterday, however, the sneaky little bugger was laying across the path from my house to Ron's office without the least indication he was traveling someplace.  It's two steps down off the back deck and about 25' to Ron's office door.  That is a highly traveled path and must, by official decree, be snake free. Even then, if this snake had moved off when encouraged I would have been happy.  If it had been non-poisonous, a green racer or a rat snake, I could have walked around the other way assuming it would leave on its own. Unfortunately, it was a copperhead who totally refused to move along so it must be destroyed.  And it was.

I'm sure Clint Pustajovsky would have been appalled at us killing the snake.  He would have safely corralled the snake and moved it to someplace else rather than killing it. Maybe I should take a class from him. Clint is the expert snake man.  Peggy and Clint went to school together and keep in touch on FaceBook.  If you have any snake issues or would like more information, look him up.  It's Clint Pustejovski at Texas Snakes & More in Houston, TX.

We have other varmints that overwinter with us.  Possums (or opossums) and armadillos are with us year round.  We see the possums particularly when cat food gets left out overnight or occasionally playing dead in Sadie's mouth.  Our dog Sadie finds them in the back yard.  She startles them enough or scares them enough for them to play dead.  Then she carries them around until she gets tired of the game. One time she managed to get her prize into the house before we realized she had something in her mouth.  Fortunately, on that evening we got her right back out the door quickly and the possum was free again.

Possums are not the least bit attractive.  They have long pointed snouts with lots of very sharp teeth.  They have smooth rat-like tails and they climb trees well.  They do NOT hang from their tails.  Despite their less than friendly look, possums are good to have around.  They will eat all sorts of things both plant and animal including poisonous snakes since they are immune to almost all snake venom.  They are almost never rabid.  

Armadillos are great diggers and dig out dens under large rocks or the corners of cement slabs.  We have several armadillo sized holes on the property but how many are actually housing armadillos, I don't know.  There seems to be one living under the big rock in the back yard because we see armadillo feeding holes in the back yard. There are also feeding holes near the dye shed so that guy probably lives in the large hole under the corner of the barn or the one under the cactus as the side of the dye shed.  The feeding holes are triangular in shape and just a couple of inches deep.  When you see one you'll see lots of them.  Armadillos eat mostly bug and grubs that they dig up out of the  soil.  Yes, they do carry leprosy.  They are the only mammal other than man that can harbor the disease.  But since 95% of people are naturally immune there isn't a whole lot to worry about.  We don't pick them up.  We don't pet them.  We don't eat them.

Watch out for snakes as you go about your business.  They can be anywhere.