January 14, 2003

Fear Them What Eats Your Shrubbery

The ominous signs of impending war are everywhere. The enemy is showing signs of becoming emboldened by the safe harbor provided by our decision not to strike early and hard. They are joining forces, gaining strength, plotting to overthrow our tranquil domain any day now. Of this I am certain. The most telling sign of impending combat: deer poop.

Our pasture is carpeted in smart pills. You cannot find a square yard that isn't fertilized with mounds of deer pellets. Hunting season ended this past weekend. Now the coast is clear, and the cussed squirrels-on-stilts are down from the ridges en masse. While the hills were alive with the sound of deer artillery, our 80 acres was a relative safe haven for the cloven hooved invaders. We allowed one friend to hunt here, and he never even got off a shot. Now, there are signs of both increasing numbers and escalating vigor amongst the enemy force.

I ran across the darndest buck rub I have ever seen while out rambling the valley this week. Along the edge of the pasture growing out of an old rock wall, spicebush and alders and other small trees grow thickly. What must have been an enormous and powerful rambo-buck had actually broken a two-inch, tough Witch Hazel trunk with his powerful antlers. The studly buck (I am wondering if chemical enhancement was involved) that broke down this small tree with his rack shouldn't have trouble finding an admiring doe or three. But if his progeny inherit pappa's propensity for shrubbery mutilation, well, there goes the neighborhood.

Deer are becoming both a nuisance and a menace in Floyd County in general, and here in particular. Some for-instances from the last couple of weeks:

Of course I blame the nearsighted hunter and not the hapless deer for this, but it was nonetheless a deer-centric pain in the pattootie. In anticipation of party guests who we thought may want to take a quick walk around before the Christmas party, my son and I toured the path one last time to pick up tree limbs out of the way, that sort of thing. While crossing our crudely hewn pine tree footbridge across the rain-swollen creek near the house we saw it. There in the center of the creek, almost completely submerged in the rushing water, was the carcass of a gut-shot and bloated deer. Well, that's a nice party favor! With much ado, I finally managed to slip a rope noose around the disgusting stiff neck and pull the thing with the truck across the pasture. We only had time to bury it crudely in the frozen ground. We covered it with rocks and limbs as best we could, and hoped the dog wouldn't discover it before it decomposed and disappeared. Not exactly how I had planned to spend my afternoon. Deer: minus 10 points.

Since then, we have discovered that there are now NO leaves remaining on the four Rhododendrons (purchased, not cheaply) that we planted near the house three years ago. They were doing splendidly, and must have been delicious. Last night I noticed that several more sections of garden fence wire are broken by deer that managed to jump over the wire to get inside the fence, but can only escape by breaking through the wire to get out. ERRRRR!

We came home from a meeting one night last week. As we rounded the corner and could see the house, there were three large deer in our headlights, standing where we park the car. As I approached within a hundred yards, they stood there. Within 20 yards, no movement. I finally had to practically nudge them off my parking spot with the front of the car. I'm searching online now for one of those wedge-shaped cow scoopers for the front bumper of my truck like you used to see on the front of the old Western steam locomotives. Deer in the headlights: I'm not even going to slow down.

Deer are such a problem here that our county has the highest auto insurance of any county in the state. We had an unfortunate event that ruined the day of one deer back in September; ruined ours too, to the tune of more than $2000 and a month in the shop for the Suburu. I considered requesting a 'nuisance' license to kill deer out of season. But then, I noticed yesterday that the buzzards have found the crudely buried body of the waterlogged deer we planted on the edge of the pasture a few weeks ago. I can just envision the pasture dotted with mummified deer carcasses, and the bordering trees festooned with a hundred hungry black vultures who have learned to come to our place at the sound of rifle shot in January.

Maybe I will just have to learn to peacefully coexist with the deer. On the other hand, when I think about these all-terraine terrorists eating my Rhodos, I could ramp up the bellicose threats of war even a step beyond Mr. Rumsfeld's and boast that I personally am not above stuffing one of the slain enemy bodies into our freezer.

Posted by fred1st at January 14, 2003 07:15 AM | TrackBack

Fred, just wanted to check in to let you know I've changed MY bookmark, and really like your new look. When I sit down to my computer, yours is the only blog I really want to check into, just to see what's happening.

Posted by: travelertrish at January 14, 2003 08:13 AM

It's nice to meet you, Fred!

I loved this story...I thought it was going to be another layman's dissertation on world affairs and USA's involvement...but was so happy to have my thoughts turned to nature instead.

Good job here...I'll be back!

Posted by: Broad at January 14, 2003 10:42 AM

The "squirrels on stilts" have grown rather vigorously in this neck of the woods also Fred, although man seems to pose little threat to the dang critters. Partially due, i suppose, to those handy yellow warning signs we post for 'em; but mostly, the result of a population of hunters prone to imbibing alcoholic spirits rather heavily to stave the winter chill. Toes and other pedestrian parts haven't fared quite as well as the deer. Have a happy!

Posted by: anne at January 14, 2003 12:24 PM

It's all Walt Disney's fault. If not for that cursed movie deer would be seen for what they really are, large, cute, rats.

Posted by: Chris at January 14, 2003 05:02 PM

It sounds like a veritable infestation, Fred! Do deer pellets make good garden fertilizer, though, at the very least, or does that only work with rabbit poop?

Posted by: Artichoke Heart at January 14, 2003 11:44 PM

Great post, Fred!

Posted by: ron at January 14, 2003 11:46 PM

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