Me versus the Wildlife, Part II

The squirrels are out of the attic, the starlings made a nest somewhere new. But my battle with the wildlife rages on.

I first need to own my problem. ALL of this is absolutely our fault. We practiced extraordinarily heinous housekeeping in our yard and around our house. A half-dozen deciduous trees drop 17 millions leaves. Okay, I might be exaggerating the number a bit—but it sure feels like that many. They also drop branches. And we’ve spent a lot of time cutting back some serious overgrowth. Did you know that red tips left alone will grow to rival the size of a pecan tree?

Well, if you buy your house from a widow in her late seventies, those (and other shrubs) absolutely do grow that large.

We chose to create a giant yard waste pile in the back corner of our yard. Less a compost area, more like the wildlife equivalent of a newly built, seriously upscale habitat. That was a really, really bad idea on our part.

While we attracted beneficial wildlife—toads, YAY—others have joined them. Voles. Moles. A shrew? Squirrels. Maybe a gopher? Or rats. I don’t think it’s a rat, though. But it could be, there’s no reason for it not to be, and until I can make an accurate identification I chose to look on the bright side and go with gophers.

Oh, but the voles. They are in my head. I hunt their trails when my kids nap, or right after my husband gets home from work. Just little sections of the yard at a time. Stabbing at the ground, clearing the leftover leaves that I thought would make good mulch and they thought would make good cover.

The voles and I—we were both right.

I am operating under several motivators. One, I’m super pissed off about their presence. Every time I rake back some leaves I find bolt holes and tunnels. All of the days frustrations—tantrums, whining, climbing, biting, whining, did I mention tantrums—are singularly focused on this small rodent and his ever-growing family. I’m hoping to be so annoying to them that they move elsewhere.

My second was that they are eating my freaking plants. It would appear that Mr. Vole has some opinions about my recent assaults on their homes and highways and it showing his displeasure with the vole-equivalent of a horse head in my bed. The picture below is of one of my new spreading ferns. Note that the fern started its day planted in the ground.

Mole mounds I could handle (and, trust me, we have those, too). Moles eat grubs, not tender roots of expensive perennials. Their tunneling aerated through some really dense thatch on our front lawn. Moles are solitary. Plus, they aren’t rodents, they are insectivores. The moles can stay.

Voles are the opposite of solitary. I realize I have become Carl Spackler (Bill Murray, Caddyshack) about the voles. Voles are the equivalent to an opportunity-criminal. They see the front door open (a mole tunnel) and steal your flatscreen (precious perennials). A friend’s husband joked about their solution, “we moved. Vole problem solved”. Even the critter guy who gets paid to remove pests, while dismantling the squirrel trap from our roof, had no other advice beyond “get a snake”.

I’ve spent a lot of time entertaining the snake-thing as the bolt holes, tunnels and just down-right, WTF *IS* that! continue to crop up. Why not just go to petsmart, buy a few snakes and start dropping them down into the larger holes? I’m going to plant catmint in strategic locations to attract Gray Kitty—a big ol’ wandering cat that has killed here in the past. I saw Gray Kitty catch a squirrel; he’s a bad ass Kitty. He likes to poo in the flower bed, but that seems like a fair, if disgusting, exchange.

Then I saw this guy trying to get away from my rake next to the front porch. Shudder. Hello, google? What snake is this and do I need to be frightened? Nope, it’s a small snake and it eats slugs and snails.

Did I mention the slug and the snail problem? No, well hold your surprise but we have a ton of them outside after dark. I bought them a tasty Colt 45 to enjoy this evening.

So, no worries little brown snake, be free and eat your fill. Call some friends over, too.

Then in the backyard yesterday I ran up against this guy.
Shudder, again. The ones with spots/patterns freak me out more than the solids. Venomous? Non-venomous? That’s a baby—quick look behind me—where’s his mama?

Camera, pictures, google. By the way–great site for my local NC friends.

I will say this—having to actively deal with this crap on a regular basis is making me less of a “it’s yucky, creepy, icky” kind of girl. Again, since I’m the mother of two sons, this is probably for the best.

I learned some things that I would like to share. Women! Empower yourselves with knowledge—don’t be held captive by your fear. One, Mr. Snake is the free version of what I wanted to buy from petsmart. He’s “going on a vole hunt, gonna catch a silly vole”. And kill it. Dead. Two, it’s the circle of life. Three, rat/gopher/voles or non-venomous snake? I’ll take the snake any day of the week.

This is what I learned—beyond even being able to detect the distinction of the markings (which will never happen for me at first sight) there are three things to look for in an initial observation of a snake.

      1) The tip of a Baby copperhead/cottonmouth’s tail is bright yellow.

 

      2) Non-venomous snakes are slender and venomous snakes are usually fatter,

 

    3) A venomous snake has a triangle head, a non-venomous snake has a round head.

The other thing I was reminded of was that just because a snake isn’t venomous doesn’t mean it won’t still bite you.
Our only solution is to totally clean up all of these overgrown areas, which sounds simple enough, but when I consider the depth of that project my brain leaks out my ears a little bit.

One day at a time. Meanwhile, friendly, round-headed snakes—do yer job. I’ll try not to wet my pants when you surprise me in the yard. I will, however, scream like a little girl.