Friday, August 15, 2014

The Baytown outlaws and the wild life

This is Baytown Bert in Baytown, Texas and this is Podcast 08.

Right here in Chaparral Village, Baytown, Texas, we have nightly marauders sifting through our stuff and most of us honest and hard-working citizens have no clue they have came and taken up residence.  Yes occasionally we see evidence of their activities, but wrongfully believe it might be a teenager, or maybe a stray dog doing the damage.

Last Sunday morning, my bride and I headed out for church in the morning and there on East Baker Street, we saw two of them – in broad daylight!  They made no attempt to hide their identities, other than their signature Zorro-type eye-bands. 

Two fat raccoons ran across the street and began climbing a tree to get a good days rest.  They’ll need it for Monday morning when the trash is set out.  Did you know raccoons like to sleep high up in trees?  They sure do.  Back in the day when I killed animals, I am now ashamed to say I shot a number of raccoons while they rested.  I have also dined on them, if that makes a difference to you, the discerning reader.

My youngest brother once rode his bicycle from Rockport to Deer Park and had the revelation that the number one killer of wildlife in this country is the automobile.  He observed, via his nose that every hundred yards he passed a dead animal killed by a car.  With the loss of habitat, the animals have no choice but to adapt and that means crossing roads and living in subdivisions.

Back a number of years ago, I spent a few days out in Camp Wood, Texas and traveled back and forth from Uvalde.  I was amazed and shocked how many new dead deer were along the highway each and every day and this is just one stretch of highway.  Judge Jimmy Johnson taught me hunter education and later on I became an instructor.  Gene Norton was such a prolific teacher in the area that I moved on to other adventures but in the time that I taught it, I learned a ton about wildlife, hunting, and the carrying capacity of the land concerning animals, fish, and birds.

Animals need a lot of habitat to flourish, but can surprisingly survive in a lot less.  I have a game camera set up on the new stretch of cement hike and bike trail running through the woods of Blue Heron Parkway and to date I’ve picked up a number of deer, coyotes, and rabbits traversing it at night.

Now this might sound a little indelicate, but I can usually identify wild animals by their scat and I see evidence of opossum, coyote, and possibly a bobcat use the new sidewalk.  Opossum love persimmons, but can’t digest the seeds.  Coyote and bobcat scat often has bones and fur in it.  Raccoons love to eat near water due the fact they “douse” their food to remove unwanted portions.   Like pigs, they will eat almost anything.  Their scat also contains bits of bone, scales, seeds, and vegetable matter.

Over the years while camping, I learned the hard way that a “rat-coon” can pert-near open anything.  You can’t close an ice chest and expect to find it unplundered in the morning.  They are master burglars and that dog or cat that keeps knocking over your garbage can is probably a coon.  A raccoon makes a happy noise when it finds food that sounds like an alien from outer space and if you are camping and have never heard this sound, it might just make you scream, “Mommy!” and pull the covers over your head.

We heard a screech owl after dark one night right in our back yard.  Now that’s a sound to get your heart racing.  Another night as a big storm blew in, a great horned owl landed on the power line behind my house.  Wow.  An apex predator and I imagine everything it feeds up upon was hunkering down trying to be invisible.

Rabbits, boy do we have rabbits now.  Walking the Blue Heron Parkway trail, there are both swamp rabbits and a few cottontails in abundance.  One time here at the home-20, I heard a chain link shaking noise and a fully grown tomcat was attached to the back of an even larger swamp rabbit and it was bounding down the length of the fence taking the cat with it.  The cat was screaming and the rabbit was gittin’ it right on out of sight.

One fellow not too long ago, warned me as I walked my two little dogs.  “Watch out for them rabbits!  They’ll get your dogs!”  I thanked him and got a good laugh after he walked off a ways.  He was looking left and right – I guess they were the dreaded danger bunnies.  I hope he wasn’t serious. 

The only thing I’ve heard lately that was funnier was the guy at the auto parts store asking me what velocity motor oil I needed.  I looked at him straight faced and asked, “What velocity does the computer say it takes?  His answer?  5W30.


Anonymous said...

I appreciate the mention in your column today, though you added a little extra country twang to my speech ("them" rabbits?). I walk most mornings about that time and enjoy spotting the various wildlife that the new trails have opened up to our observation (thus the "looking right and left"). I have seen as many as 11 rabbits on a walk and only rarely see none. I am keeping my eye out for your deer and coyotes, though I will probably need to be out there closer to daybreak to have a chance to see them. MW

Anonymous said...

Mr. Marshall,

I read most of your articles in The Sun. As I was reading today, I read about Judge Jimmy Johnson and then read the complimentary statement you made about Gene Norton. Gene is my deceased husband. He had a love for teaching hunter education and was always making things to use in his class. He passed away on April 13, 2013 in San Antonio where we were attending the International Hunter Education Association conference. Thanks for the reference to him. JN

Anonymous said...

Bert, I am enjoying your podcast blog while I am surfing my yahoo account....Take care buddy, Doc

Anonymous said...

Great column! Enjoyed hearing about your wild adventures, especially about the cat and rabbit. Coons and possums make regular visits to my Chicken Ladies hen yard. What ever feed, produce, or kitchen scrap was not consumed during the day vanishes by morning. Cotton tails and cane-cutters will eat anything planted in my garden - except for weeds. The deer keep everything pruned to a reasonable height and I have just about enough Cicada-Killers and Hornets to help balance the grasshopper population. Since the coyotes have eaten all the feral cats, we have an over-burden of squirrels, chipmunks and (shiver) rats. I would pay $20 for a good ratting barn cat, an essential in the country, one that is now almost extinct. SW

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