While I was gardening

The art of gardening and the science of life.

Gardening with Wildlife

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Too Much Talking.

Late one summer evening, just after lights went off and sleep called, a conversation kicked up outside at the fish pond.  One creature chattered to another, another interjected with a short comment, the first creature answered, and then the group began moving rocks around.  A splash, a chuckle, then more chattering followed by a few squeaks.  My spouse turned to me and said, “They’re back.”

Raccoons are a talkative species.  They talk while they work, while they fish, and during play.  And they let everyone know when they mate.  They talk while they cross our yard, dig in the mulch, and overturn the rocks lining our pond.  I have pulled rocks up from the bottom of the pond every summer since my spouse installed it – more years  than I care to remember (but at least 10).   I listen to them, and have come to recognize two repeat offenders.  The big guys.  One, in particular, hissed at me one evening a few years ago with such intensity that I stay inside when I see him saunter up our yard.  He owns the place, and he’s equipped with weapons sharp enough to defend his pond.   His mate, also quite ample, is not as grumpy towards me but she does have quite a bit to say.  Her little one, the baby, is the culprit I caught playing in my tabletop fountain last spring.  It took me a couple of months to find all the rocks he/she had tossed out of the fountain.  What is it with rocks and raccoons?  Looking for bugs, grubs, or anything crunchy, I guess.

These territorial animals are adept at fishing but they’re lazy.  Our fish have learned that when they hear the rocks surrounding the pond scraping against each other, they swim down to the deepest section of the pond and are safe.  Each summer I think I have lost my entire fish population but by summers’ end, some always return to the shallow section and ask for food.  Covering the pond has not proved to be successful, besides, the wire grid  disrupts the flow of the fountain and I lose as much water as if a strong wind has kicked up.  Anyway, once the fish hear the raccoons they will stay in the deep end for days, and raccoons don’t seem to appreciate having to make a great effort when fishing.  As a result, the fish I have are the oldest.

So, when my spouse and I heard the conversation (and the splash) that summer evening, my spouse grabbed the flashlight and charged outside to break up the party.  He shown the light directly into their faces and they scrambled away, into the neighbor’s yard, fussing all the way.  They didn’t return that evening, and morning showed that only one rock needed pulling up from the bottom.  Considering the damage they had done to the pond plants earlier in the summer, and the tear in the liner that had occurred in early spring (those claws are sharp!), I considered their visit a success for humans and a disappointment for raccoons.

And I am keeping score.

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Author: dphare2014

Horticulturist, Lead Steward Carkeek Park Demonstration Gardens, Author

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