Monday, April 20, 2009
Sympathy for the Devil
Sometimes I'm sure it sucks to be a predator. Predator's get no love. Everyone saves their warm fuzzy feelings for little fluffy bunnies and duckies.
Two weeks ago, something began nomming on my pet ducks. I had fifteen ducks and they weren't allowed to simply roam at night. My ducks are very spoiled. They have a Taj Mahal duck house and their own plastic wading pools for the days they don't feel like trekking down to the pond. At night, they are safely locked inside with feeders and a bowl of water with lovely mounds of fluffy shavings to nest in.
Something broke into the Taj Mahal and devoured most of Snowdrop. Turned out that the house breaker had dropped onto the roof from the trees, pried back the chicken wire covering the vent holes and helped himself to Snowdrop (a Swedish Blue duck) and most of the eggs. So we fortified the Taj Mahal with extra boards and went to sleep certain that the duckies were safe.
Not so. The bandit struck again. I opened the door expecting the usual mad dash for pools, but my ducks seemed reluctant to come out. Finally, one by one, the emerged and I saw the first evidence of carnage. Two of my ducks were bloody and badly injured, Squeaker (a little, noisy, crested Swedish Blue) and Staypuff the Marshmallow Duck (An enormous crested white Pekin who looks like he has a giant fluffy marshmallow on his head). Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! Inside I discovered the remains of Heidi (A black Cayuga).
Squeaker didn't last the day, but Staypuff really hung in there. He's a feisty one. This time the miscreant had pried open the wire along the back vents of the roof. I no longer had any doubts as to the villain of this piece: A racoon. Once a racoon puts your poultry on his nightly rounds, there is nothing you can do but remove him. I hate killing animals, but I buried Squeaker and Heidi and hardened my heart. The racoon must die.
We borrowed a livetrap and placed it on the roof of the Taj Mahal I didn't want to catch any stray bunnies or skunks, just the killer coon. In a flash of divine justice, I baited the trap with duck eggs. Sure enough the next morning, there he was staring at me. The mighty predator. A medium sized racoon. He was kind of cute and clearly petrified, but he hissed and showed me his teeth. On a closer examination (okay, not to close. I'm not soooopid.) I saw part of the problem. He had an enormously swollen infected leg. Suddenly, it all made sense.
This was a very injured animal trying to survive. My ducks were an easy source of food for him after he stopped being able to efficiently hunt. To him, the Taj Mahal was a handy buffet. I felt a little sympathy for the villain.
Course that didn't stop me from putting a bullet in his brain, but it was as quick and painless an end as we could manage for him and it started me thinking about villains. So rarely are they simply evil for the sake of being evil. No, they want something. Something real. Something necessary. Maybe they're desperate, injured, hungry, under duress. They don't want to be evil. They just want to survive.
I doubt the racoon considered himself the villain of the story. He probably would tell you that he was the tragic victim of an uncaring farmer who maliciously trapped and shot him. My ducks would say that I'm an avenging angel, but I feed them so they're totally biased. I guess sometimes villain and hero is just a little matter of perspective.
Ducks entering the Taj Mahal at night. That is Squeaker in the far left corner and Staypuff just below the ramp and Snowdrop to his right. RIP Squeaker, Heidi, and Snowdrop.