Another skirmish on the varmint front |

Another skirmish on the varmint front

by Karen Dustman

Shannon Litz/RC file photo

The Rabbit Wars have begun. My husband’s pellet gun is propped menacingly by the back door. And that familiar set to his jaw has returned: the one that says, “Anything with ears bigger than mine is a goner.”

Early spring brings the Vole Wars. As the snow melts off, temperatures rise inside the house as well. “Did you see that?!!” The voice isn’t a sonic boom, but it’s close. “They’ve been busy ruining my lawn all winter!” Khrushchev would have been pounding his shoe.

Out come the mousetraps. Voles, I have learned, are creatures of habit. Once they’ve constructed their tunnels under the snow they keep using them, even when that protective snow covering is gone. A properly laid mousetrap doesn’t even need bait; voles only have a taste for tender roots anyway. Snap!

As the vole body-count mounts and our lawn begins to recover, things settle back down. But only temporarily.

Next come the Blackbird Wars.The worst thing about blackbirds is we’re basically at their mercy. They stuff nests in every available bush and tree and before you know it, every corner of the yard is filled with bobbing, begging baby bird heads. Momma and poppa go on permanent patrol, yapping at any misguided human daring to set foot outside, and dive-bombing if you didn’t get the message.

They’re a nuisance, but even my husband can’t bring himself to rip out inhabited nests. Next year, he swears, there’ll be better reconnaissance for nests under contruction.

About the same time as the Blackbird Wars heat up, a side skirmish begins with the Groundsquirrel Wars. It’s not much of a competition; groundsquirrels don’t stand a chance against poison pellets. I’m not quite sure how many bait stations we’re up to now. Four? Five? A hundred? All I know is the stuff isn’t cheap. But hey, it’s one war we can win. Cost is no object, right?

Once the garden is freshly planted, the Mole Wars commence. Moles, not to be confused with voles, also live underground. They’re after bugs, not roots, but their tunnels wreak havoc on lovingly-raised baby plants.

This is another war that can decimate the bank account. We’ve tried solar-powered ground thumpers (the noise is supposed to chase them away). If there’s a mole-snicker, we’ve heard it. We’ve used smokers to stink them out (yawn). For a while, the garden was decorated with sharp-toothed metal traps, poised to launch themselves downward to spear tunnelers. Nah.

Finally, my husband discovered an underground gun – yes, a gun. It’s supposedly air that does the trick, not a bullet, but it was just the type of high-tech weapon that could take on these cunning enemies. “Only” a hundred bucks. This is war, right? Body count from Big Bertha: two mole casualties so far. By far the most successful mole strategy my husband discovered purely by accident: wait for the ground to move, and flip them over the fence with a shovel. Wallet damage: zero.

This week the Rabbit Wars have commenced. Battalions of bouncy jacks and platoons of frisky cotton-tails have staked out their positions beneath the nearby sagebrush, ready to descend en masse onto my husband’s perfectly-manicured lawn when he’s not looking. Worse yet, they’ve developed a taste for flowers. Traps are useless. Bait won’t attract them. And no matter what my husband says, they’re cute as the dickens.

The pellet gun came out this week. No truce is possible. But they have sheer numbers on their side.

So far, at least, the rabbits are winning.

Karen Dustman is an author and a Markleeville resident.