Weekend Pundit's Guide To Country Living - Part IV

Here we are, the fourth in a series of knowledge and a little advice for those contemplating a move away from suburbia or “The Big City” and out into the country. I've covered a few subjects including such things as neighborliness, winter survival skills, a few hints here and there on small town politics, and more importantly, how not to act.

Now we get into something that most folks in urban and suburban areas rarely have to deal with.


I'm not just talking about the cute little furry animals that you might see around town, like squirrels, chipmunks, or the occasional raccoon, but others like skunks, porcupines, bats, weasels, fisher cats, coyotes, ferrets, deer, moose, and bears.

Let's start with some of the smaller but no less troublesome animals you'll come across if you decide to relocate to the country.

Squirrels and chipmunks, though 'cute and furry' can be both a real nuisance and quite entertaining at the same time. One of the biggest problems they pose is when they decide that your house also makes the perfect home for them, too. Squirrels are particularly good at chewing away at boards and beams in order to make an entrance. Here at The House the upstairs neighbors were surprised to find a family of squirrels had managed to chew their way into their kitchen and tried to set up housekeeping. The were quickly evicted with the appropriate amount of force and their entryway was boarded over.

Chipmunks can be almost as tenacious, but they tend to limit their forays into human habitation to cracks and holes close to the ground.

Raccoons, another animal of the 'cute and furry' category, are quire clever and can wreak havoc with your trash cans and their contents. It's not often that they cannot find a way into even the most 'secure' trash can in their efforts to score a meal. They also have a propensity for carrying rabies, something you don't want to mess with.

Skunks pose their own set of problems, the most obvious one being their ability to spray the unwitting person or pet with their noxious, odious, sinus-clearing weapon. Should you have a run in with one, you'll learn that one of the few things that will help remove the smell from you or your pet is tomato juice. Your clothing, however, may be a lost cause. Skunks are another of those critters that seems prone to carrying rabies, so there are two good reasons to avoid them. In any case should you inadvertently come across a skunk, back away. Make no sudden moves and back away. Usually a skunk will stamp its front feet as a warning before resorting to spraying. Take it to heart and back away.

Porcupines are not something you'll see all that often except as road kill. For the most part they're reclusive. More often than not it will be your dogs that will run afoul of porcupines, if at all.

Bats are one of those animals that people either love or hate. There doesn't seem to be an in-between when it comes to these furry insectivores. My advice to you - get used to them. They help keep down the bug population which means you'll have fewer bugs trying to dine on you.

Bats are nocturnal and come out shortly after sunset so it's not often that you'll see or hear them. In a few places you'll find people have built bat houses to encourage bats to take up residence near their homes. If nothing else they're far less expensive than running a bug zapper...and quieter, too.

Weasels and fisher cats are related, but the fisher is a nastier animal. It can make a meal out of your lapdog or kitty cat. They are voracious and vicious. Weasels on the other hand, tend to be quieter and don't show themselves all that often. While also predators like the fishers, it's rare that they'll go after other predators (like dogs and cats).

Coyotes are more numerous than most folks would think. When people think of coyotes they think of them as being primarily a western animal. But you'll find plenty of them around here. It's not uncommon to hear them barking and howling off in the distance on summer evenings. They are also another critter that will think nothing of helping itself to your trash can, assuming you actually make the mistake of leaving it outside. They will also have no problem making a meal of your dog or cat if they come across them.

There are also coyote hybrids to look out for, such as coy-dogs and coy-wolves. These are mixed breed animals, much as their names suggest. Of the two, the coy-wolves are probably the most dangerous as they combine the characteristics of the coyotes and wolves, and are bigger than coyotes. While not as numerous as the coyotes, there are plenty of these hybrid breed running around.

Wolves have been making a comeback, something obvious considering the presence of coy-wolves. While not numerous and more likely to be inhabiting the less settled areas due to the abundance of game, they still make their presence known at times. Like coyotes, they'll have no problems going after you pets, chickens, or other domesticated animals you may have around.

Many people think of deer as another member of the 'cute and fuzzy' club. It's what I've heard called “The Bambi Factor.”

For the most part deer tend to stay away from people, but there are always exceptions. As some with vegetable gardens have found out, deer will be more than happy to strip their gardens of anything edible. They can also do a great deal of damage when you hit one with your car or truck.

Since most of their natural predators have been wiped out, that leaves only us humans to help keep their populations in check. That means hunting.

Mmmm. Venison....

Moose, a relative of deer, are big. I mean reallybig. A full grown bull moose can top out at over 1000 pounds (454 kg). And unlike their smaller relatives, moose do not run away when they face anything they consider a predator. They stand their ground. That means if you come across one standing in the road while out driving, don't honk your horn. You'll only piss 'em off and make 'em try to flatten your car like a pancake. Moose can be particularly dangerous under two conditions – during mating season (also called rutting season), and if cow is protecting her calf from a perceived threat.

One of the biggest dangers that moose pose is collisions. Moose tend to blend into the background, making it more difficult to see them. This is particularly true near dawn and dusk. It is also when most moose versus automobile collisions take place. Picture hitting a thousand pound moose at 30 or 40 miles per hour. Now picture having that same angry, hurt moose crashing through your windshield and ending up in your lap after you've hit it. Not a pretty picture, is it?

Bears, as slow and as cute as they may seem are damn dangerous. For the most part bears are shy and don't usually come near human habitation. But if they are hungry enough they get over their shyness.

During the spring months bears are particularly hungry and will go through trash cans and pull down bird feeders looking for a meal.

The one thing you never want to do is feed them. Once they know that you're a soft touch for food they will always come back expecting more. If you don't continue feeding them once you've started they may invite themselves into your home by pushing in a door or window. Once that happens they have to be put down. If they learn that there is food to be had inside a house they will break in whenever they're hungry enough. And they won't care if you're inside when they do it. So don't feed the bears!

Another thing to avoid is bear cubs. Every so often hikers come across what they think is an abandoned cub. Trust me when I say that it ain't so- Mama bear is somewhere nearby and the last place that you want to be is between Mama and her cub. So if you're ever taking a walk through the woods and come across a cub, turn around and walk away or it's possible you could become bear food.

The other thing you never want to do while taking your constitutional is to startle a bear. It can have a similar deadly outcome. If you're out walking in the woods make sure you make some noise. This will alert the bear to your presence and give them enough time move away. Remember, bears tend to be shy of humans.

And then there's the mountain lions making the presence known again....


That about does it for this round. There's not a whole heck of a lot more that I can cover about critters at this point. Maybe I'll have more later. Maybe I won't.