Life Lesson: Make Way for Wildlife
I’ve spent practically my entire life in the Adirondacks; along the Adirondack Coast of course. Living here has taught me many life lessons that reinforce all the basic platitudes. I won’t bore you with the "Best Things in Life are Free" drivel while describing our sunrises; though that’s a fact! I will try to share more practical matters.
Experience is the best teacher, but sometimes you only need be a witness. There is one particular life lesson, and some of the reasoning behind it that I would like to share. These descriptions involve our common/everyday type of wildlife; nothing that scarce or elusive; quite familiar actually. Some of strategies and remedies here might help if you find yourself involved in a similar Adirondack (or anywhere) experience.
I now say this out loud in a strong hushed voice and my dog Dexter goes wild. He was only a youngster, but he will never forget. I doubt that I will either. Occasionally as a pup he’d spend some time in a crate when I had to leave him behind. I was alarmed one afternoon to hear his whining and barking before I even entered the house. Instinctively I knew something was wrong. Opening the door, I immediately saw evidence of some disaster. Plants that had sat on the window ledge were smashed on the floor. A huge mirror previously standing on the fireplace mantle laid in a thousand pieces on the living room rug. Curtains were torn from the windows. I was baffled.
Dexter was doing a wild, vocal dance in his crate. My first mistake was opening the crate’s door prior to thoroughly assessing the situation. Zip! He came out of the crate like I’d fired a cannon and began racing through the house, frantically sniffing everything. I tried to keep up. The race ended at the sofa and a feverish act of pillow digging began. My second mistake was lifting the targeted pillow before having a plan or even knowing what I was dealing with. From that point things became a blur.
If you’ve ever had a squirrel dart in front of you on the highway, you know they appear to be very indecisive creatures with no sense of direction. They are all over the place when panicked; seemingly suicidal. Their behavior does emphasize the importance of keeping your head when in a tough situation. My thoughts were bouncing around like that squirrel on the highway.
At the time, I had no idea what kind of animal had invaded my home. I knew I saw fur, but could not get a good view of what it was with Dexter hot in pursuit getting in my line of sight. Things were happening too quickly. The next few minutes were total chaos and resulted in even more destruction now that we added a 75 pound dog to the mix. More items got destroyed as counters and table tops were swept clean and lamps and furnishings toppled over. This “thing” was everywhere and nothing was stopping Dexter. I finally had the good sense to get out of the way and open the front door. A few more moments of total bedlam ensued before I saw a grey squirrel shoot out. Dexter seemed satisfied that the squirrel was out of the house, but he continued to search for more; finding none thank goodness. Later I determined, just like Santa, the squirrel had come down the chimney!
Though I have a great respect for Adirondack wildlife, I am not a fan of bats. Sorry, I don’t care how many bugs they eat. Maybe I watched too many vampire movies in my youth. This was pre-Twilight of course. I simply want them nowhere near me and certainly not in my house, but that has happened on two occasions. In the first instance I vacated immediately and called for assistance. My brother and two friends searched the premises for hours to no avail. “Did you lift the bedroom curtain? Did you check behind the painting in the living room?” Can you believe, after their extensive search, they began to think I may have imagined it? I could not force myself to go home for 2 days; and then not until a subsequent search was conducted. Brothers are great!
Still, when I finally returned I was not comfortable for some time. I decided I needed a plan of action in case this should ever happen again. I was not about to be evicted by some creepy little creature. I learned bats use some form of personal radar to find their prey and avoid collisions. Every room in the house now has a blanket or a throw within easy reach. By stretching both arms high and wide, and letting the top of the fabric drape over my head I might add, I make a pretty large mobile wall to drive the little rascal out through the door. Yes, I now think to open the door ASAP. This mobile wall strategy worked like a charm last summer; though I’m thankful I don’t have cathedral ceilings.
Nocturnal creatures, skunks are frequent fatalities on our roads. Even if we don’t see the evidence at first, we do smell it. Mother Nature knew what she was doing when she armed them with that defense mechanism. I’m grateful she also gave them the white stripes so they are easier to spot and avoid after dark, but that also makes them more visible to dogs.
I heard the sounds of a backyard tussle right after I let my dog take a before-bed outing one summer’s evening. I could not see what was happening. He did come in immediately when I called, but along with him came the characteristic stench of skunk spray. He dove into the carpet rubbing his face and spreading the aroma everywhere. Ten o’clock at night and no tomato juice, but that was very fortunate. I can only imagine the mess that would have added. A call to the after-hour veterinary ER solved the problem; one quart of 3 % hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup of baking soda, and a teaspoon of dish detergent. By the time I finished cleaning both dog and carpet I wondered if my sense of smell had died from overdose. That mixture is amazing; plan on a mountain of shaving cream-like froth however. I now keep a “skunk kit” in the cupboard at all times and toss it in our bag when we travel.
The Adirondacks are laden with whitetail deer which makes these mountains such a popular hunting destination. Whitetails are gorgeous, graceful animals and change color with the seasons. They are fascinating to watch particularly while on the move with their distinctive white tails standing upright. As elusive as most hunters claim deer are during hunting season, they can seem to be everywhere during the remainder of the year; including farm fields, gardens and highways. The thing to remember is that deer find safety in numbers and seldom travel alone. If you happen to see one cross the road in front of you, stop. Be patient, and continue to watch for another. Proceed with extreme caution. You really don’t know if that was the first, last, or middle member of a possible herd.
I happened to be following an out of state car on one of our secondary roads right around dusk one evening. Up ahead I saw the deer cross from the woods on the left into a farm field on the other side of the road. I knew we both saw it as the car ahead of me slowed down somewhat, though it kept moving forward. I could see the driver was completely focused on watching the leaping deer make his way across the field. It was a beautiful sight. He later told me he never saw deer number 2 coming at all. Fortunately that was only a close encounter for the deer, but it did result in a smashed headlight when his car collided with a tree.
Here’s hoping all of your Adirondack experiences with wildlife are pleasant ones. If you do happen to have a close encounter with some of our more familiar types, perhaps you found some ideas for dodging problems here. Do remember to stay calm and not get "squirrelly."