Monthly Archives: March 2012

Mystery Burrow

By | Animals | 4 Comments

So for the last few days, I’ve noticed that there’s been a hole in one of the flowerbeds on the side of the house.

Well, “hole” is probably a misnomer. It’s a burrow, plain and simple. Something’s tunneled through the mulch, into the clay, and excavated down. The foundation of the garage will stop them after a foot or two on the backside, and it’s solid mud on the front, so they’ve got a limited range to dig, but could probably manage five or six feet if they really wanted to.

Given the size of the hole–diameter of my fist, maybe, and I have very small hands–I was guessing either a toad or a smallish rabbit. There are no suspicious dirt mounds indicating moles, I’d KNOW if it was a skunk, and while we are in the range for long-tailed weasels, I’d be awfully surprised to have them next to the garage. And everything else, like woodchucks and foxes, would quite simply have a much bigger hole.

I was walking past that flowerbed this evening, intent on getting a couple of petunias in the ground to fill some gaps in the flowerbed in front of the porch, and something yanked its head back at high speed. I froze, and saw something dirt-colored scrambling back down the hole and out of sight.

I’m thinkin’ rabbit. I can’t completely rule out that it’s a toad, but toads tend to freeze when startled, and this was awfully fast for a toad. (I mean, I’ve seen some very rapid toad action in my day, but generally they’re pretty sedate.)

Hmmm.

Now, there is already a perfectly good rabbit warren on the property, underneath the enormous sawtooth blackberry thicket out by the road. This thicket is the larder for half the creatures in the region, and every now and again, in the middle of the night we’ll hear a bloodcurdling shriek from that general direction as a fox or a weasel gets one. (It’s also how I know that I will never completely eradicate the Japanese honeysuckle—it’s twined all through the thicket, and I’d have to either poison the whole stand or take it out with a backhoe, and that’s just getting a little too Watership Down for my tastes.)

The rabbits and I have a perfectly good arrangement, which is that I plant nothing in the front yard that they are interested in, and they stay out of the back yard. It took us some years to come to this arrangement, and a few plants that were eradicated within a day of planting, but it’s worked well.

I looked from the burrow to the garden gate and saw a gap excavated under the gate into the garden. If it’s a toad, it’s a toad that logs onto MUCKs and pretends to be a rabbit.

Nothing in the garden has, as yet, been badly harmed…although the swiss chard was looking a little nibbled, now that I come to think of it. Hmmmm.

I blocked the gap with a flowerpot for the moment. There are only three conceivable entry points–it’s actually quite a good fence and goes down into the dirt to prevent puppies digging out, so they pretty much have to come in under one of the gates. A box turtle has managed this in the past, but I honestly didn’t mind him raiding the garden. The sight of a turtle savaging a cucumber would warm the most withered of hearts.

Rabbits, though…rabbits are something else again. You notice that a rabbit has been after your plants when there is no plant there any more. They eat it down to the dirt and then some. And all those tender little lettuces and the beet seedlings and the daikon radishes that have just put on their first set of leaves…well, it’s a problem. I am perfectly happy to have the rabbits around, they have the run of the front yard, but I need a kitchen garden, too.

We’ll see if the rabbit—or rabbit-suiting-toad—moves the flowerpot tonight, or digs around it. If so, I will be forced to take Step One (transport some dog poop into the immediate path of the digging.) If this does not prove sufficient to warn him off, we will go to Step Two, which involves dumping the contents of a used litterbox down the burrow, and believe me, NOBODY wants that.

Grumpy Toad

By | Animals | One Comment

This little guy was lurking in the flowerbeds in the front yard. He’s some sort of toad, but they’re so variable and he lacks any of the really distinctive characteristics, so…well…definitely a toad.

He was extremely skinny, which is unusual in my experience—his little belly was concave on the sides. You don’t usually think of toads being skinny. Hopefully he’ll find some nice worms or bugs or slugs…sigh…smaller frogs…and fatten up. They’re handy little guys in the garden.