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Under Attack

Welcome to My Green Vermont - A Blog by Eulalia Benejam Cobb.
By Eulalia Benejam Cobb

The winter fauna are getting to me.  Here, in order of increasing annoyance, is the latest:

1.  A squirrel is back at the bird feeder.  It\’s a plain old gray squirrel, so I can\’t tell if it\’s one of the four that we trapped and deported across the state line.  It hasn\’t gotten inside the squirrel-proof bird feeder or into the chicken house yet, or into the trap that we have set under the feeder.

2.  The ermine, which I mistakenly identified as a stoat until corrected by Marty––is still AWOL.  My husband baited the trap with one of the dead field mice he had trapped in our basement (traps upon traps–it\’s the dark side of country life).  The next day the mouse was gone, the trap unsprung….

3.  And, this is the worst, the deer have, for the first time in eight years, invaded our yard.  Yesterday, walking in the woods behind the house with Wolfie and Bisou, I noticed that my previous tracks on the snow were a palimpsest of deer hoof prints which ultimately led to our backyard and to the baby Leyland cypresses I planted last year in a desperate attempt to camouflage the failed wattle fence around the hen yard.  Alas, those little cypresses have been eaten down to the top of the snow.  I dearly hope there is some living bit of cypress left under that white duvet.

I have since moving to Vermont met dozens of people who can\’t grow evergreens, or hostas, or vegetables on their land because of the voracious deer.  I have always mentioned, with a humble smile, that \”our\” deer seem to find enough to be satisfied with in the fields in front of the house, and never wander into the backyard because of the mystical, magical effects of my marvelous dogs.

Well, that\’s all over now.  The backyard is the playground of the deer.  Was it Lexi\’s assertiveness (you remember Lexi, she was euthanized last spring) that kept them at bay?  She kept Wolfie and Bisou firmly in their places, and she may have done the same for the deer.  But Wolfie is a lot bigger and scarier-looking than she ever was….

If I were a dog owner like the dog owners of past millennia, I would tie Wolfie out on a chain and leave him out all night to earn his kibble.  There\’s no question that we would not then be troubled by deer.  But I am a 2013 tree-hugging, quasi-vegetarian, tender-hearted dog owner, and Wolfie is accustomed to sleeping next to our bed, plus he gets weird sores on his pasterns in deep snow.  I\’ll sacrifice the cypresses for the sake of his comfort if I must.

I have asked my spouse to let Wolfie out for one last patrol just before his bedtime, which is considerably later than mine.   And I have bought a roll of burlap with which to swaddle the remains of the baby Leylands.  Whether the burlap turns out to be a cozy blanket or a shroud, only spring will tell.

8 Responses

  1. A stoat and an ermine are one in the same. Tomatoes/tahmahhtoes… Try peanut butter in the trap. It has an irresistible aroma and takes more work to eat than nabbing a dead mouse.

  2. The deer are extra voracious this year. When I hear hunters lament that there are not as many deer I know they are just not looking in the right places.

  3. sad as this post is re your yard and your trees, it is absolutely beautifully written. the duvet of snow. the shroud of burlap. the palimpsest of deer hoof prints. so lovely. and have you tried hanging little bars of soap around the trees you don't want eaten? a friend in northern wisconsin does that to protect her garden, with more and less effect.

  4. Hmmm, I've never heard of the soap trick. I wonder if our deer would be deterred, since Wolfie used to use the little cypresses as peeing posts (I used to worry about the effect of that on the cypresses' health) and the deer ate them anyway!

  5. Hi Lali,I've heard of people who spray paint a stripe of fluorescent paint on the tails of the squirrels that are deported/relocated. The soap trick is used by one of my friends… she cuts up squares of cheap smelly deodorant soap and hangs them with string from the lower branches of the trees. Becky

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