Critter Wars: The Continuing Battle

The Naturalist and writer, Henry David Thoreau, urged us in his classic work, Walden Pond, to “Become One with Nature.” My wife and I have tried our best to emulate his wonderful example but Thoreau never had to live where we do. Indeed, he might have had a far different opinion of the “Natural World” if he had suffered the critter assaults that we have endured over the past few decades.

Back in the 1980s, we became owners of the oldest place on Lake Hubert located north of Brainerd. This cabin was built in 1905 and had beautiful knotty pine woodwork and loads of old-time charm but had no basement or any barrier for creatures wanting a refuge from the harsh Minnesota winters. At that time we worked out a tacit agreement with the many chipmunks, bats, and mice that usually claimed part ownership to this old place. They had residential rights from October to April, but we got to use our place from May to September.

However, all of that changed when we decided to remodel and winterize this cabin 15 years ago which suddenly became a strategic game changer for the small critters who typically shared our domicile. Indeed, when they got ousted by our efforts to seal all of the cracks in the foundation and insulate the walls, “war” was subsequently declared on us.

That war started with early skirmishes that included voles chewing through our screens to start colonies in our new basement and garter snakes trying to challenge our new egress window. It also included bats who found openings in our chimney that had to be eventually sealed by a very old, chain smoking geezer who fixed our problem but then wheezed, “This job comes with a lifetime guarantee.” Yeah, right.

Soon the conflict escalated further when the small mammals called in their big brothers to do battle. We came home from a trip to Wisconsin to find that a badger had taken up residence under our front steps. That annimal had to be very carefully dislodged. Meanwhile, raccoons had trashed our bird feeders and skunks had dug up all of the fish guts that I had buried.  Then, a parade of critters started using our grounds as a highway.

Thus, in the just the past year, we have had porcupines waddle over here and chew up the bark on our oak trees, wild turkeys peck away at any living thing in our yard, and rabbits munch everything that might make a salad. To add insult to injury, we routinely had to clean up bear poop, turkey poop, deer poop, and anything else that looked brown and disgusting.

Speaking of deer, no other creature has ever caused us as much distress as these animals. Over the years, they have ravished our gardens, destroyed our shrubs, and have even eaten the fruit off of our only apple tree.  The old saying is true, “Where Bambi goes, nothing grows.”

And nothing could have been more disgusting than when a pregnant deer got hit by a car and was subsequently tossed into my neighbor’s driveway where I had to bury it because my neighbors were on a month-long trip. Did you ever try to bury such a decaying thing when you can’t even get its legs to lie prone?

I still revere Thoreau as well as other naturalists, especially John Muir. They are all memorable for their provocative writings and memorable messages about conservation.

But, I still have to believe that the many deer and other critters they encountered back in those days most likely ended up on their dinner table, and for good reason!

(This article was written by The Bard of Lake Hubert, John Holbrook)

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