August 23, 2012


My previous post raises the question of why we had a bunch of live animal traps sitting around the house. Specifically, these were Havahart traps, and I see that the basic design has changed little over the past four decades or so.
Our suburban street in upstate New York abutted several acres of swampy forest, undeveloped because of the high water table. I've always thought it'd be amusing--as a "performance art" sort of thing--to campaign to have the EPA label it a "wetlands."

Then again, I'm old enough to remember when a "wetlands" was a mosquito hazard responsible people filled in and turned into something useful.

Anyway, I thought it'd be cool to "domesticate" the critters scurrying around our little patch of wilderness. It took one frantic squirrel racing through the house to learn that wild animals are not cute and cuddly like in Disney cartoons.

Trap one in a small, enclosed area and it basically wants to rip your face off. Thinking back on it now, I'm a little surprised I didn't lose any digits or catch rabies while on that particular learning curve.

The traps were next employed when some of my brother's white mice escaped. Considering the curious ways many of them croaked, I'm convinced the pet store picked them up cheap from a defunct pharmaceutical project.

Though this wasn't a Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH caper (great book). Somebody left the top off the converted aquarium.

A perfect job for a predatory cat, but Cat #1 couldn't have cared less. It was like asking Hemingway to shoot ducks in a pond. This cat preferred to catch animals in the wild and proudly deposit the gory trophies on the front porch.

Incidentally, Cat #2 couldn't be bothered to even chase wild things. It eventually ended up in the bishop's barn. Our bishop was a true, exurbia-dwelling gentleman farmer who kept a couple of cows and chickens and the like.

The bishop's attitude towards cats was the same as Rudyard Kipling's: "If you don't work you die." Cat #2 sized up the options and recovered its Darwinian instincts pretty darn fast.

After that, the traps came to the rescue of General Electric. Then the squirrels and chipmunks burrowing into my father's vegetable garden were targeted (following Cat #1's demise). I recall the blueberry bushes being a favorite attraction.

They didn't get the liquid nitrogen treatment. Rather, we'd carry them to the other side of the woods and let them go, hoping they didn't have a good sense of direction.

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