Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Critters of Carter Notch

Now that I've finally gotten around to uploading my pictures, here's a field guide to the critters resident in and around Carter Notch Hut.

Here's the female half of a mating pair of foxes that has been hanging around the Notch. I saw both of them "flirting" with each other - roughhousing, really - around the hut building right before I took this picture. A moment later, she peed on the sign. A few nights later, one of them begged to come inside out of the cold (the wildlife remains wild, however). I haven't seen them for a couple of weeks, but I do see lots of tracks and will occasionally smell their skunk-like urine.

I woke up at 2 am Friday morning to frantic rodent scratching noises. I've so far been lucky not to have any rodents except for a harmless shrew (see below) that hung around for a couple of weeks, but as the warmer weather returns, they're becoming more active. I got out of bed so that I could set some traps and sleep in peace.

Here's the shelf where we store the rodent traps, and, in the corner, you can see the vole that got itself stranded there, unable to climb up or jump down to escape. It took me a couple of seconds as I fiddled with the mousetraps and bait before I realized that I was looking straight at my quarry. I herded the little guy into an empty grey-water bucket from under the sinks, and left him out in the kitchen until the morning, when I hoped to provide him as live bait to one of the local predators. The plan fell through when I found him dead of hypothermia five hours later.

The next afternoon, I trapped a second vole in a mousetrap. Hoping that I could attract predators and watch them dine through the big window next to my bed, I tossed this one into the same outdoor buffet as the hypothermia victim. The stirring chorus of Elton John's "The Circle of Life" played in my head as I shook the second corpse from the trap.

And this is a shrew, a very tiny rodent that has to eat almost constantly to sustain its frenzied metabolism. I had one in January that kept the floors exceptionally clean until it climbed into a full bucket of grey water and drowned. This one here lasted only three days before it, too, perished in a mousetrap.

And a local predator (I suspect the pine marten, whose tracks I found before and after the massacres) did snack on these treats, albeit in the privacy of darkness.

1 comment:

Annie said...

C Neal and Jess-
A pleasure to read from the warm study of my parents' house, and it's a wonderful idea to share your wintry experience.
I head back into Gunsight Gap Thursday in hopes of seeing some critters of Carter Notch myself.
Thanks for passing the torch.