The Shed

The Shed
The Shed

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Looks like old Leatherpuss has been telling you folks how to deal with pest animals amidst the veggies. Looks like he's fixin' to drag it out, one critter at a time, maybe get 5 -6 more posts out of it. This is what I get for letting just anybody wander by the shed. 

I'll deal with those pests in one paragraph. Have pests? Build a fence. Have big pests? Build a bigger fence! Do the pests climb the fence? Electrify the fence, and if none of that is effective, shoot the pest!

There, wasn't that easy? Wait until you see the multi page epic Leathermug turns it into.

But there are some critters that you definitely want hanging around the shed, wolves and the like although opinions vary on that. This endearing little fellow on the left is one such, and folks in the Southwest probably know him well.

Those who do not, meet Bassariscus astutus, also known as the ring-tailed cat or miner's cat. Ring-tails are of course not cats at all but are procyonids, which means they are closely related to raccoons as their striped bushy tails

might lead one to suspect. They are tiny creatures compared to raccoons, their body size somewhere between that of a large grey squirrel and a small domestic cat. They also lack the boldness and sheer gall of their raccoon cousins, are almost entirely nocturnal and tend to shy away from humans and their domestic livestock and pets.

However, their essentially mild dispositions and extremely curious nature make them relatively easy to befriend if obtained young, and even older ones will acclimate well to people if treated properly. They make wonderful, entertaining pets once they get over their 

initial shyness.

Well, ok, but why would we want one or two living in the garden shed? Because they eat the very things we want to get rid of, bugs, spiders and rodents of all varieties. They do a much better job than the average fat and lazy house tabby, and can go places where wolves simply do not fit.

The miners and ranchers who moved into the old west recognized this fact and made haste to make friends with the little creatures, going so far as to build them houses from packing crates, placed near enough to the stove to provide warmth. The nickname "Miner's Cat" gives some indication of the prevalence of the practice.

If there is one downside to inviting ring-tails in, it is that their curiosity and climbing skills mean that they are constantly into everything. But hey! It's the garden shed, do we really care?

 All right we have the Southwest covered very nicely, what do we have for Northeastern sheds? We are way out of ring-tailed cat territory and they wouldn't like it up here in the north, anyway they prefer rocky desert environs.

Fortunately we have ermines, or stoats, or big old weasels if you prefer, and if there is one thing that ermines like better than killing and eating a rodent, its killing and eating a bigger one. They are even better at it than the ring-tails.

Stoat, ermine or weasel the scientific name is Mustela erminea. Ermine is a stoat in its fine white winter coat, summer 

garb is brown on top and white beneath.

Only 12" long not counting tail the stoat is ideally designed to go into rodent burrows after its prey. It favors mice, voles, rats, chipmunks and will kill squirrels and rabbits larger than itself when need be.

Unlike our little ring tail-friend, stoats are not cuddly pets. A few have probably been tamed from time to time but nipped fingers, which after all look like a plump and juicy mouse, are always a possibility.

Stoats go where the rodents are, and that can well be sheds and barns. They do an excellent 

 job of controlling these offensive and crop destroying vermin and are therefore always welcome at Uncle Mac's.

Vida Guerra's anti-rodent potential at this time is neither known nor relevant, but we can't help but feel that there is room for her in the shed.

Perhaps as a roving reporter, interviewing other shed dwellers, or perhaps the critters, or why not? Perhaps she can interview the vegetables themselves.

"This is Vida Guerra live from Uncle Mac's corn patch, where today we'll be interviewing a Country Gentleman corn stalk. Pardon me, Mr. Stalk, but could I have a few moments of your time?"

"I'm all ears, Vida."

"No, really, I need a new agent. This crap has to stop!"

Vida, really, wearing actual ermine hides where Mrs. Stoat can see them!

You take those off right now young lady!

Well OK! That wraps this extravaganza up for now, thanks for visiting Uncle Mac's garden Shed!


Raymond Alexander Kukkee said...

Mac, I can see a couple of critters we need in the garden shed. Happy to see you have such good information on all valuable creatures. This ought to make the garden grow. ":))

Glory Lennon said...

mac, you are something else. I was just awakened today by what I thought might have been my ermine coming back and somehow--not sure it could but I was sleepy at the time-- I thought I heard Mrs. Ermine rustling around in the wall. It turned out to be a bird trying to build a nest in the vent. I think we shooed them away by turning on the fan. More than you wanted to know, huh? ;-)