Friday, October 31, 2008

Call Me Ellie Mae

Critters, I've got critters! Here at the ranch there are all kinds of critters. And, being in the desert southwest, most are unique to this part of the country. Since I have to co-exist with these animals, needless to say, I’m cautious, give them respect and plenty of distance.

There are javelina, which can be quite nasty. Reports of people being seriously injured and killed by large groups of javelina run through my mind as my little herd moves through the ranch in the early morning. I sit on the porch swing and watch them graze on cacti and fruit that has fallen from the trees. They "clack" their tusks when danger approaches. I'm not sure what danger lurks, but the "clacking" always precedes a hurried exit into the nearby thickets.

My first night here was spent lying in bed with my eyes wide open and the sheet pulled tight up under my chin. I wandered what in the hell it was that kept running along the upper deck - all night long! I finally got a glimpse of "it" the next evening. This creature had a long black and white tail and, of all things, very large purple eyes. What kind of hell-cat monster is this? Google reassured me though. It's a ringtail cat, not to be confused with the cotamundi, a member of the raccoon family. They eat fruits, berries, lizards and mice. Apparently, they are easily tamed, make affectionate pets and are great mousers. Okay, he can stay.

And, speaking of cats, there's the cougar or mountain lion. I haven't seen one here - yet. So, I've brushed up on my cougar safety. One expert said "playing dead" is not recommended. Another stated, "don't run". "They" tell you to face the cougar, keep direct eye contact and retreat slowly, backwards. You should also try to appear larger than life by waving your arms and make a lot of noise by yelling at the lion. To me, this says, "Here I am, come and get me". Then, to top it all off, not to mention really pissing the big cat off, "they" tell you to throw rocks at the lion. Uh, huh.

Reptiles! I discussed my loathing for rattlesnakes in my previous post. But, the gila monster is a deadly lizard. Their venom is as toxic as the rattler. Yes, I've seen one and it was beautiful. The good news is, I could probably out run it - even with my bad knees. And, I won't have to yell or throw rocks at it. They feed primarily on bird and reptile eggs and only feed 5-10 times a year. Guess I'll need to gila-monster-proof the chicken coop.

It's a wildlife paradise out here at the ranch. Lots of deer, rabbits, birds of prey, badgers and even a occasional bear sighting. All only add to the wonderment of this desert oasis. I have a great pair of binoculars and hope most of my encounters are only from the front porch swing. Move over Ellie Mae!

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