Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Predator and Prey

When I came home from work yesterday I had to leave straight away for a local foods group meeting, so hubby and I decided to wait another night to try to trap the opossums. When I got home from the meeting around 8 pm, I noticed the door to the chicken coop was open. It was a windy day -- probably I hadn't shut it tight enough and the wind had pulled it open. I did think much of it, and wandered over to the coop to feed the chickens and see if the opossums had left me any eggs.

I stepped inside and peered across the room into the nest boxes to see if any furry critters were having a late night snack. Nope. I walked over to the boxes and looked inside. Seven eggs, undisturbed.

I turned around and looked into the corner behind the food bins where the opossums had been hiding out. Nothing. No one. Aside from the small hen chirps from the roosts behind me, all was quiet.

I paused there, confused. Where were the opossums? Then, suddenly, it hit me.

The smell.

The smell of cat.

The strong smell of cat permeating everything in the coop. I was amazed I hadn't noticed it until then. Things began to click in my mind. Before going to my foods meeting I had put out a dish of milk for the outside cats. The usual five came running, plus one extra - Vincent. Vincent is a orange tom cat that comes by every so often. He's a little hesitant to come close, but once the deck door is closed he will come forward for his share of goodies. I call him Vincent because he is missing one ear, no doubt from one of many fights he's had over the years.

I noticed today that he was limping. I mentioned it to my husband. "He's been in a fight, and his leg looks pretty wonky." "Let's hope it was with a possum." Hubby says, and we both laugh. So far our five outside cats have proven themselves less than helpful in confronting the opossum menace.

Until today. Vincent, the wandering Tom, must have wandered into the chicken coop and found the invaders. There were no dead opossums around, so he must have scared them away and gotten injured in the process. Hurrah for Vincent! Viva la Vincent!

I am overjoyed -- elated almost. Not just that the opossums are gone, but that in her own way, mother nature stepped in and played a supporting role. Predator-prey relationships, Wildlife Biology 101. Not that feral cats are exactly what mother nature originally had in mind, but hey - you work with what you've got.

Part of me knows that this reprieve is only temporary. This morning, Vincent was no where to be found. Likely he has already wandered away to the next farmstead. And without the predator in this predator-prey equation, it's only time before the opossums find their way back to the coop to, in turn, prey upon my eggs. But nonetheless, the reprieve is welcome.

Next time I see our one-eared orange friend, he's gonna get a big hunk of steak.


Harold Phillips said...

Hm... mayhap you should entice Vincent to stick around a bit more. Free salmon for orange toms missing an ear?

Glad you saw that Twitter post, by the way. I find that I'm really liking twitter... it's sort of an ongoing haiku sort of blogging, since you're limited to 140 charadcters per post. An interesting exercise in economy (something I generally need, since verbosity is an obvious weakness)!

Karen said...

Congratulations on ridding yourselves of the rodents!! Have they come back yet? Can you plug up any holes and hope they don't walk through the chicken run? Hopefully, they are gone for good!!

Jo said...

So far so good, no more rodentia in the coop. All big holes are plugged. Got ten eggs yesterday, woo hoo!