Wednesday 6 June 2012

It's the Cute Little Creatures That Want to Kill You

When I was little Walt Disney taught me that woodland creatures are sweet tame-able things that dance and sing songs and help little girls escape evil queens.  But as I grew to have first hand experience of such creatures I learned that even the sweetest and fluffiest of them would take you and your family down in a heartbeat if given half a chance.

"Wanna go raid some nests?"

I had many little cousins born in my teens and so my babysitting services were in high demand.  One afternoon I was watching two of my little cousins as they frantically chased squirrels out of their trees in the yard.  I asked them why they didn't leave the adorable little creatures alone.

"We HATE squirrels!"  Little Joey proclaimed fiercely.

"What?  Why?"

"One time, when we were playing, we were in our treehouse, and there was this bird's nest, with little babies in it, and then a squirrel, he came and took a baby bird and bit its HEAD OFF!"

Oh dear God, the horror!

Apparently squirrels commonly attack birds' nests.  Now I know you're thinking, "So what? Squirrels are still no threat to human beings".  And I used to agree, but then I read this article describing a pack of Russian squirrels ganging up on a stray dog to kill and eat it.  That's right.  The squirrels are organizing to take down much larger predators!  They say this incident happened because of a pine nut shortage, but I think that the squirrels were trying to send a message.  Do not fuck with the squirrels.

Don't be fooled.  He's vicious!

When their Mom came home I mentioned the squirrel thing and she laughed.

"Oh, that's nothing.  Did I ever tell you about the killer rabbit?"

She proceeded to tell me about how one morning when Little Joey was just a toddler, he was playing in the yard while she was gardening.  She looked up and noticed a little bunny by her hedges not far from her son.

"Ooooh, look Joey, look!  See the bunny?  See the cute little bunny?  Look at his fluffy little-"

And that's when the rabbit reared on its haunches, bared its long teeth and claws and began hissing and growling and chasing Little Joey who began screaming in fear.  She also screamed, ran to Little Joey scooping him up and running into the house with the rabbit chasing after them.

Holy shit!

Nothing bashful about the skunks we encountered.

Wikipedia says that "Skunks are crepuscular and are solitary animals when not breeding," 


One summer Mummy Dearest found out that there was a local water park that also had campgrounds and figured it would be good to make a family camping trip there with her sisters, cousins and their kids.  The kids could spend the day on water slides and in wave pools and be completely exhausted at the camp fire, thereby allowing for more grownup time.

This was a great idea.

So we packed our things and made our way to the waterpark.  We got there by supper time and were looking forward to campfires and toasted marshmallows and roasted wieners.  As we were sitting by the fire my Aunt Joanne reached into her purse to get something and almost missed the fact that there was a black and white tail sticking out of it.  She screamed and dropped her purse and was lucky that all the skunk did was march insolently away from us without spraying.

Turns out that the park was dealing with a skunk overpopulation problem that year.

And these skunks were bold.

As the night got darker you could smell skunk all over the place.  You could see small troops of them marching by in the shadows.  We were afraid to leave the safety of our fire for any reason, even to go to the bathroom.  But if we did dare to venture away from the fire we were protected ourselves by making whooping noises.

(You see, my uncle Tom told my Aunt Melina that if we made loud whooping noises we would scare off the skunks and they wouldn't spray us.  I have been trying unsuccessfully to find evidence that this is a fact and I'm beginning to think my uncle was pulling her leg and probably pissing himself laughing at the fact that our whole family was walking all over a campground at night making whooping noises like idiots that did nothing more than piss off our neighbours.  Which is pretty much exactly what happened.) 

On the second night of camping I woke up at around two in the morning to the sound of my Aunt Melina crying.  I asked her what was wrong and apparently she was desperate to go pee, but every time she unzipped the tent it was surrounded by skunks.  She was now certain she was going to wet her pants.

I looked out the tent window and saw nothing.

I told her if it made her feel better we could go together making our whooping noises, it should be fine.  I looked out again and saw that the coast was still clear.

But when I unzipped the tent and stuck my head out I was suddenly faced with dozens of shining eyes in the dark.  There had to be at least twenty of them surrounding our tent door, tails waving menacingly in the air.  I zipped that zipper back down as fast as possible and began to pray:  "Please don't spray the tent, please don't spray the tent, please don't spray the tent."

We had to improvise.  Fortunately one of the cousins was potty-training at the time and his potty was just outside the tent.  I managed to get that potty back inside the tent without incident saved my aunt from having to pee her pants.

I'm not saying these skunks wanted to eat us or anything, but traveling in numbers like that they were clearly up to no good.

This is a very misleading picture.

One night my brother and I were alone at the house.  We let our dog, a Great Dane German Shepherd mix named Julius, out in the backyard and shortly after that he started making all kinds of racket, barking up a storm.  My brother went out to check on him and when he came in he told me that Jules might have killed something out there.  I went to look and sure enough there was a dead possum lying on the ground.

Possums up close are not cute.  I've seen lots of pictures of possums and they look adorable in them but this thing lying in my backyard looked like a big, bloated grey rat with a naked wormy looking tail.

Also, I thought it was dead so that just increased the "ick" factor.

Yes, I did say I thought it was dead.  I went back into the house to get a garbage bag to dispose of the body but when I came back it was gone.  Of course, he was only playing dead because he was afraid of my 180 pound dog.  When I told my brother this he didn't believe me.  We were about to back outside so I could prove it to him when we saw that the possum was sniffing at our back door.  Now that the possum was clearly not dead he thought it was kind of cute so he wanted to give it some bologna.

"I don't think that's such a good idea."

"He's cute!  It'll be fine"

He held the bologna out in front of him and slowly approached the possum making soothing noises when all of a sudden it got up on its hind legs, spitting, and made to attack my brother.  I yanked him back inside and slammed the sliding glass door shut.  We sat there in the kitchen as the possum clawed angrily at our back door, intent on getting at us just as soon as it could figure out how to get past the invisible barrier.

I know you're thinking that the possum just felt threatened and was trying to defend itself but ask this Mom who had to call the police to save her and her family from a possum attack.  The cops pepper-sprayed the possum which succeeded in doing no more than pissing it off.  They only got it to leave by chasing it with a toy rake.

This possum remains at large.

Canada Geese do not look like this.  Or wear bonnets.

I currently live only a five minute walk from a wetlands conservation area.  When we first moved I wanted to get to know our new neighbourhood and thought it would be nice for us to have a picnic there and maybe feed some of the geese and ducks.  So we packed our little picnic as well as a plastic bag full of stale bread and made our way to the park.

I had fond memories of feeding waterfowl when visiting Ontario Place in Toronto as a child and thought Frick would just love it.  What I didn't realize was that I had fed the geese while they were still in the water.  Geese in the water are much different than geese on land.

When we were in view of the park we saw several small flocks of geese walking around.

They also saw us.

As soon as they noticed the plastic bag I was carrying they knew exactly what was up:  Feeding Time.  I handed Frick an old bagel and started throwing crumbs of bread.  Then the small groups of geese began to merge into one very large mob.  Before I knew it we were surrounded.  Frick, who was only 3 and about the same size as the geese at the time, was being poked sharply and aggressively by very hard beaks.  I yelled at the geese, shouting at them to "Shoo!" but they didn't appear to hear me.

I scooped up my little boy and they started going after me.  There was a picnic table not too far away and thought it would be good to get over there to higher ground.  I was not able to defend us very well while holding up my three year old in the air to keep him from getting pecked.  There were so many of them and they were so aggressive I literally had to kick them out of my way (and by "kick" I mean I put my foot underneath them and gently heaved the beasts out of my way.)

They followed us to the picnic table, honking and pecking the whole time.  We were stranded there on an island of old wood in a sea of geese.  I hoped to placate them by feeding them all of the bread we had but it wasn't enough.  They fought viciously amongst themselves for every morsel and then honked at us for more.  I ended up having to leave Frick on the picnic table island while I jumped down an chased them away making big flapping gestures and loud cawing sounds.  Frick laughed at this and cheered me on.  I think I was a bit of a hero for him that day.

It is now illegal to feed waterfowl in Ontario.

Poor misunderstood Coyote.

Finally I think it bears mentioning my experience with coyotes, just for a little perspective.   Coyotes are quite common in Southern Ontario and have been known to threaten my in-laws' sheep during lambing season.  They are like wolves in that they are wild dogs but unlike wolves they do not travel in packs.  Out of all the animals I have listed here, the coyote might present the most threat to humans,  and though attacks on humans are rare some have been fatal.

One night back when I was in college and had fun on my weekends, I was walking home from the club and saw two coyotes standing on someone's front lawn.  They are actually quite cute and look very much like domesticated dogs.  So much so in fact, that stupid me started talking to them and holding out my hand to "make friends".

"Hello, nice doggie!  Hi!  Come here, boy.  Come on..."

Fortunately for me the coyotes just looked at me as if I was about as interesting as a tree and then proceeded to ignore me which gave me just enough time to realize the potential danger I was in because these were wild animals.  I froze for a minute but they were supremely unimpressed with me.

Once I came to my senses we all quietly went our separate ways and nothing else happened.

The lesson here?  Always respect nature.

Also, Walt Disney is an asshole.


  1. Well, as a Disneyland girl, I do not agree with your assessment of Walt Disney :) HOWEVER, I DO agree with the squirrel thing! We were practically attacked by a pack of squirrels at a local park while we were eating lunch! And geese are just mean. They will chase you and hurt if if they catch you! I've not seen a mean bunny yet, but don't doubt they're out there!

    Funny post!

  2. Of all these, I think coyotes terrify me the least.
    Opened my side door one evening, thinking there was a neighborhood cat skulking about, only to find an absolutely hideous opossum. I tried to shoo it and it bared its teeth and hissed at me, trying to bum rush the door. Not cute. Not one bit. lol