Apr 1, 2009

Fighting the Mystery Mammal

Last night around 10 pm Griffin went out to the barn to water the ducks one last time. Just moments later he came running into the house through the back door, slammed it shut, turned to me and said, "I don't know what the hell is out there, but something's fighting something else and it's ugly! Listen!" Then he opened the back door a crack and I stuck my ear close and listened. Whatever it was was loud. And odd.

Now we've gotten quite used to animals fighting with one another periodically throughout the year, most often in the spring when hormones are high or new babies need protecting. I can tell when it's raccoons going at each other or foxes, and trust me, this was neither of them. This was two animals that weren't making any noises that I recall ever hearing before anywhere, let alone in my back yard.

Griffin said when he first got out there with the buckets, he heard a soft whooping sound, something that sounded very relaxed and was clearly enjoying an early spring night by engaging in a series of whoops and loopy calls. Moments later there was a mad crash of brush and the whoops were strangled by something that sounded very much like the Tasmanian Devil on the old Warner Bros cartoons. When I opened the door a few moments later to listen, that's what I heard: thrashing by two mammals with at least some weight to them, growling and some desperate, squealing- and odd and much less relaxed- whooplike noises.

So naturally, I decided to go out and investigate because I can never pass up the chance to see animals being weird. David and Griffin joined me as I went out the front door and around the house to the back to be sure the dogs didn't get out during the melee in the yard. Flashlight in hand, we made our way to the field behind the barn where we saw one set of small yellow glowing eyes near to the barn, but the body behind the eyes turned and ran before we could identify it. Further down the hedge a bit there was a second set of small yellowish eyes that stood their ground and watched us intently. I moved closer and the eyes stayed put, closer set and lower to the ground that those that ran away. I moved still closer and still the eyes never moved and kept on watching me. Then they disappeared as the animal turned away. I said to David, "I wonder what kind of animal that was?" just as the smell enveloped me. "Skunk!" I yelled and we all turned tail and ran before we smelled just like our little friend in the brush.

Half a mystery solved. I still wonder what was whooping out there so happily before being taken down by a skunk that clearly did not appreciate being serenaded by the gentle whooping whatever-it-was in the hedge.

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