There is a mostly amusing parade of critters across our property. In the winter, we saw the same very large coyote or average sized lone wolf walking across our frozen lake several times. It was never much interested in anything but walking from here to there so we kept an easy truce. There is the critter that lives under our front porch. I’m still not sure what it is. But, it dug out after every snow. I never saw footprints, just the fresh hole the size of a pomelo—probably too large to be a rabbit, but that’s what I’m pretending lives in there. There’s the squirrel that lives down by the lake. I enjoy watching him run across the yard from tree to tree and then back an hour later. I can almost tell time by his regular excursions. Then there was the day Bella came in with bite marks around her right eye. Something taught her to keep away from it by giving her three serious puncture wounds. Her pride was wounded, but she recovered without incident otherwise. We saw something in the lake that we are calling the Loch Ness Monster. Bob & Wendy say it’s a large muskrat that the neighbors have named Murray. He’s super cute. But, he might be what took a bite out of Bella’s face.
There are all kinds of waterfowl. I’m assuming this is because we live right smack in the middle of three lakes that are designated as “waterfowl production areas.” I don’t exactly know what a waterfowl production area is. But, there is nothing but a lake there. No “facilities” that I can identify. Anyhow, we get all kinds of ducks and geese, mostly in pairs hanging out on our beach or our lawn for a day or two. Bella is completely indifferent to them – kind of like they’re invisible. And, then there are the turkeys. They come in singles, pairs, and small flocks. And, they are HUGE. Like 3 feet tall. I hear that they are stupid and mean, so we watch them from inside and keep Bella from trying her luck with them. The most recent flock came toddling across our yard on the opening day of turkey season. The kids were unprepared for that. They plan to get their permits and bows for the next migration of turkeys across our yard. We have a strict, “you kill it, you clean it” policy. So, that might slow them down a bit. They need to do some research.
The heron are the big surprise. I don’t know why, but I didn’t expect them in Wisconsin. We had them in California. They used to hunt our koi ponds. I remember the first time we had a heron in our backyard. My first thought was, “Whoa! There’s a pterodactyl in my yard!” They are seriously like 5 feet tall. I’m only 5’2” so that’s a bit intimidating. I thought I’d just watch it from the house. You know? Just in case. Until I realized that it was eating my $100 fish. Oh, hell no! I went out into my yard and started yelling at it, “What do you think this is? National Geographic? This is the suburbs! No prehistoric birds allowed! We aren’t zoned for that!” That was the beginning of a pretty crazy research project. We learned that heron are solitary hunters. So, we put a heron decoy in our pond. That worked for a while. I was delighted by such a civilized and picturesque solution. But, the heron must have had some kind of family meeting and word got around that our heron was just a decoy and they came back. So, we stepped up our game and bought a “scarecrow” – a high powered sprinkler that you attach to a hose that is activated by motion. So humane. We should have set up a video camera so that we could capture how often me, Steve, and the boys got hit by that thing and how we never got over being shocked and outraged about it. Steve broke three of them in fury before we stopped buying them. We finally trained our dog, Pepper, to “get the bird.” She loved that command. She’d go tearing out in the yard at top speed, barking and carrying on, and chase those heron away with joy in her heart. Good dog! Our other dogs learned the command from her, but it turns out they just thought it meant to bark and chase Pepper into the yard. When she passed, they would just look at me like, “But, she’s not here. What are we supposed to do?” They’d go out and do a lap around the yard. It normally worked.
But, I remember the time we had a very hungry, persistent young heron hunting our pond for about three days. The dogs would do a lap around the yard and chase it off and it would leave… until the dogs went back in the house. On the third morning, when that heron was sitting on our neighbor’s roof eating my fish, I sort of snapped. It was about 6am and I went and woke Justin up. He was probably about 17. I said, “I’m sorry to wake you up, but it’s an emergency. Get your gun!” He was awake and armed in about 5 seconds and ready to defend me and the house. I said, “That f@*%ing heron is eating my fish. I need you to shoot it!” He stopped dead in his tracks and said, “Um, mom, you woke me up to shoot a heron?” I said, “Don’t argue with me. You’re going to shoot that bird!” Poor kid. He shook his head and followed me. To my bedroom. He’s like, “There’s a heron in your bedroom?” I said, “No. It’s up on the neighbor’s roof where the dogs can’t get to it and it’s up there eating one of my fish. If you go out on my balcony, you should have a good shot at it.” And, he stopped dead in his tracks again. “Hang on, mom. You want me to shoot a gun at the neighbor’s house at 6 in the morning?” “Well, I don’t want you to hit their house. Can’t you aim that thing? Just shoot the effing bird!” He looked at me incredulously. “So, mom. Let’s assume that I hit the bird before it flies away and I kill it. Then there will be a dead heron on the neighbor’s roof. Or what if I hit it and don’t kill it and we have a mostly dead bird on the neighbor’s roof at 6am. What are we going to do then? I don’t think animal control is going to be happy about that, let alone the neighbors.” Ugh! When did this kid get so responsible? By the time Justin and I were done arguing about whether or not he should shoot the bird off the neighbor’s roof, the damn thing had flown away with a full belly. That afternoon, Justin got an airsoft rifle and sat on the back porch until he hit my hungry heron with a plastic pellet that just scared the bejebers out of it, but didn’t hurt it. And, it didn’t come back. But, now I have them doing mating dances out on my lawn. And, they sound exactly like the velociraptors from Jurassic Park. Bella is a good dog and chases them off our property, at least. And, I haven’t asked Justin to shoot at any of them… yet.