I was raised on 60 acres of very remote timberland in Northern California (Humboldt), that borders a large National Conservation Area. So I won’t try to kill any hampsters trying to account for each of the metric assload of critters who have crossed my path. Needless to say, they were all responsible for my persuit of my BS in Zoology, and I am forever gratefull for their inspiration.
I must a few of the more memorable highlights though…
When I was 5 or 6, my dad found a porcupine eating our cat food. As we had two dogs, he was not keen on the idea of the hours of potential fun yanking quills out of their noses with pliers. Dad pondered his options.
We were relatively fresh transplants from Southern California back then, and most of the local folk would have shot the “pest” without hesitation. Dad had a better idea, and raised me to do what I could to preserve nature as I found it as much as possible. This was one of the earliest such lessons I can recall.
He scooped the critter into a galvanized garbage can with a shovel, closed the lid, and promptly banged the holy hell out of the outside. He put the garbage can and cargo into the Land Cruiser’s trailer, then drove it out into the public lands and let it go.
The impromptu disincentive seemed to do the trick and the porcupines kept their distance. I’ve always tried to imagine how the news might’ve spread through the local porcupine community.
“Duuuuude! You don’t want to go near there, man. There’s some crazy shit goin’ on. No cat food is worth being abducted by the alien percusionists…”
When I was 8 or 9, I went for a walk up one of the old logging roads that run across our property, toward the modest bee hive we’d been keeping for a couple of years. When I got to where the hive was supposed to be (only about 50 yards away from the house ) I found bits and pieces of the hive boxes strewn out over about 40 square feet. Not one bee in sight. Not one drop of honey nor crumb of honecomb.
A black bear had apparently had a little snack as she was passing through, and she took the time to lick each board clean. We never saw her, just the evidence of her passing, but that was quite bold of her considering the proximity to the house and the dogs.
We eventually found the hive swarming high up in a nearby tree, but we had to just let them go. It was too precarious of a place to try and re-capture a queen.
When I was 13 or 14, a sophomore in high school, my Mom and I were renting a place “in town”, as my hometown was too small to support a high school. Mom was going back to school for her teaching credential at the same time, and we’d drive home to dad on the weekends.
Back at the homestead, we usually prop open on of the sliding-glass doors just a smidge, so the cats could go in or out. Dad called us in town one night to inform us that a spotted skunk had apparently decided to come on in and keep him company, since we weren’t around. A live wild skunk in your house basically gets to call all of the shots and follows none but her own schedule, as you can imagine.
Mom and I let dad know that he shouldn’t expect us to come home untill his houseguest was on her merry way. For the next month and a half, dad and our large German Shepherd gingerly tip-toed through their days and nights. Dad made a few trips into town to see us and strategize an eviction.
His opportunity arrived one evening, unplanned, when he walked into the bathroom (which was under construction) and saw a little skunk butt sticking up out of the unfinished hole in the floor around the bathtub drain pipe. She was apparently getting tired of the accomdations (or dad’s snoring) and was pondering some sort of fire-pole escape down the pipe into mom’s wood-working studio a good 20’ below. Dad grabbed a broom, snuck within reach and poked her through with a quick jab of the handle.
By dad’s account, she bounced off of a pile of mill ends, shook herself, looked up at him, and trotted off.
Mom and I gratefully returned home the next weekend, and it took a good few months for our guest’s distinct residual aroma to fade, even though she had (miraculously) never sprayed anywhere in the house. Any ferret-owned folks have an idea of what I’m talking about.
I have to save a few stories for some other time, so I’ll stop there.