Thursday, February 12, 2009

i may need a bigger bucket: encounters with wildlife

Every once in a while here in western Pennsylvania, someone reports seeing a mountain lion lurking in a backyard. Usually, these people are treated as though they've just reported seeing Elvis sharing a Fresca with an alien. They send the "funny" reporter out to this person's wood-paneled living room and he or she produces a blurry picture of something that may or may not be an animal. And that's basically the end of it. Sometimes some biologist writes a letter to the editor insisting that what these people have been seeing is actually... insert even more bizarre explanation here. It's a housecat! It's a lost kite! They're all on acid!

Consequently, I have an embarrassing irrational fear that I'll be outside with Dusty some night and we'll both be eaten by a mountain lion. Of course, the most frequent yard visitors we have are deer and rabbits. Once, a possum scared the hell out of me at 3:00 a.m., in that I saw it. Being a rational person and an animal lover, I threw a bucket at it. We don't get possums around here anymore.

One of the explanations offered to people of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, after the Mothman sightings was that it was a sandhill crane. Now, I can't say that I really know what those people saw. I didn't see it. But I've seen many a crane, heron, eagle, and just about every other kind of bird imaginable. And there is no way in salty holy fuck that anyone mistook a crane for whatever Mothman was or is. Likewise, no one has ever seen a cat in his yard and thought it was a mountain lion.

As I've pointed out previously, western Pennsylvania has a lot of things it isn't really supposed to have. Turns out wolves might be one of them.

In November, I was thinking what you're probably thinking right now. "No, that was probably a German Shepherd." No, it probably wasn't. It was the wrong size and the wrong color, and it ran like a wild thing. The reason I was thinking that in November is my co-worker/friend April told me she'd seen something -- briefly -- that she could have sworn was a wolf, running across the road in front of her on her way home from work.

Monday night as I was driving home, a silver-gray thing ran across the road in front of me towards an embankment. It was roughly the size of a small refrigerator, and its tail was about as thick as my leg. But the way it ran was what made me realize that it wasn't a dog. It galloped like it was used to the feeling of soft ground under its feet. If you've ever seen a wild animal running, even on television, you know exactly what I mean. If you haven't, then it's possible that I hate you. At least rent "Wolf" with Jack Nicholson.

So now I'm even more sure than usual that I'm going to be mauled to death in my yard. I'd probably have a better chance fending off a wolf than a mountain lion. Depending, I guess, on the size of my bucket.


Scottie said...

I think you need to start getting to bed earlier... :smooch:

Don Guitar said...

Here in Texas, a few years back, the Department of Parks and Wildlife (game wardens) started making annual, aerial drops of baits loaded with rabies vaccine. Since then I've seen gray foxes, red foxes, coyotes, and several animals I can't even identify (Civet cats? Some sort of weasel? Porcupine? *shrug*). There are also far more of the animals I'm accustomed to seeing, like deer, possums, and the ever-popular skunks. I don't imagine the rabies vaccine had anything to do with the deer population but there really are more deer out there. Headlights don't lie.