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Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

There are so many times when I wish I could talk to and understand the animals around me. This is especially true when one has been injured. Wouldn’t it be great to get an answer to the question “how did this happen?”  It always amazes me when the vet asks me that question. I want to say, “You’re the vet, you ask him.” But I just smile and say, “He wouldn’t tell me”.

Last week I sent 3 of my female alpacas on a road trip. They were purchased by a farm out in California and a transporter stopped by on a Tuesday morning to pick them up. When he opened the trailer I noticed they would be spending part of the trip, if not all, with 2 llamas. Compared to an alpaca a llama is huge. My ladies had never seen a llama and I wondered what they thought of the sight of them. We ushered the alpacas into the pen, shut the door and off they went. The trip to California was by way of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ohio. I just knew they would have loads of stories to tell when they arrived at their new home. Wouldn’t I love to hear those stories!

Road Trip

Yesterday a cardinal slammed into one of the living room windows and landed on the deck. When I looked out I could see that he was alive but stunned. The temperature was in the teens and I knew the odds were good he would freeze just lying there. I found a hand towel and scooped him up. Taking him into the laundry room I placed him in a basket to see how he would fare. As he looked at me I tried to reassure him I was just trying to help but I knew he didn’t know my language. About 20 minutes later I went in to check on him. He was less stunned and turned his head to see what I was doing. I could tell he may be able to fly so I carried him to the front porch and set him there still nested in the towel. Shortly after I went to see how he was doing. As I approached he flew off. Did he share his adventure with his other feathered friends? What would he have said to me if he could?

Feathered Friends

Maybe animals don’t tell stories. I hope that is not true. I hope they have the ability to share the many things they experience in life as they interact with each other and us humans. So, until we are both in a place where we speak the same language, I will continue to talk to my animals and think about what they may be telling me. I hope they find their crazy shepherd and friend amusing. I hope I add to their list of stories.

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A couple of years ago I started to notice an unusual (to me) bird in our alpaca pastures. It made a lot of noise and did more running around on the ground then flying. I grabbed my Missouri bird book and discovered the Kill Deer. They have very distinct markings so they are easy to identify. I then discovered that they lay their eggs on the ground, usually amongst a small cluster of rocks. They don’t build a nest; just lay them in a hollowed section of the grouping. The eggs are almost the same color pattern as the rocks so you have to really look to find them.

The problem with laying eggs in the alpaca pastures is that the alpacas are continually moving around the pasture grazing. Usually the older alpacas will avoid the eggs but the crias (baby alpaca) haven’t figured that out yet. As the crias are exploring and romping around the pasture they sometimes get too close for momma bird’s comfort. When this happens a series of events and antics begin.

One of the birds, they usually guard the eggs as a pair; will start making a lot of noise to sound the alarm. She/he is probably screaming, “Get away from my nest!” Of course alpacas don’t speak Kill Deer so they haven’t a clue what is being said. The crias think the bird wants to play so they are more than willing to participate. The bird will try to draw the cria away by leaving the nest in hopes that she will follow. If that doesn’t work then the second diversion is started. The Kill Deer will spread out its wings and tail feathers, revealing a yellow coloring, meant to draw attention to itself. As the cria draws closer the Kill Deer will keep moving away from the eggs. The third diversion is known as the “broken wing” scenario. The Kill Deer will throw one wing out to the side and flap it as if it were broken; demonstrating that it is an easy prey. Again as the predator – cria – approaches it moves farther away.

I was taking a break from chores and noticed one of our new crias, Quibble, encountering one of these nests. Knowing what was to follow I watched the process with a grin on my face. After several minutes the cria finally lost interest and moved back to the herd. I am sure the Kill Deer was relieved and a little tired of the whole thing.

I’ll Play!

Nature has such a wonderful way of protecting itself. Sometimes it provides comic relief to the spectator as well.

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Skunked

We have a nice little office in our alpaca barn. It has a raised floor and a small heater in it; it works really well for storing the feed and supplies and is a good place to warm up when the barn temperature is below freezing. I guess, under the raised floor it is pretty nice too; at least that is what the skunks think.

For the third time, in so many years, we have had skunks take up residence under our barn office. The idea of having them there doesn’t bother me but when something agitates them and they spray …YUK! The whole office permeates of their deadly perfume. It takes days to air it out.

Last year we successfully live trapped a pair of skunks and relocated them to distant woods. I didn’t realize they stayed in pairs until last year. We thought we had blocked off their access to the office basement but we were mistaken. There was just enough space to create a nice little tunnel in this fall.

As it worked last year, we again set the trap to capture our new residents. Canned dog food works really well to lure them into the trap. Of course the first night was cold and they didn’t take the bait. Last night was warmer and we again successfully trapped one. It did rain all morning, so the skunk was not only unhappy about being trapped but soaked as well.

One down. One to go?

Now I have had people tell me lots of things about how a skunk won’t spray if … none have proven to be true. Not only will the skunk spray, and spray often, but the spray is oil based and seems to travel through the air and get into everything. Right now my nose is burning with that lovely perfume of theirs. Everything I am wearing will head to the washer and me to the shower to tone down the odor.

If the same is true as last year, I still have one more skunk to trap this week. Wish me luck!!

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