Monday, May 9, 2011

Rabbits part II, the traps



This is not the first time I've been down the urban garden path. It's also not the first time rabbits followed me. When I lived on Madison's East side, I put in a few tomato plants, a veritable basil forest, some herbs and a few flowers. I build some beds on the south side of both my house and garage from some bricks Jay no longer wanted, and due to the protected environment, both the basil and tomatoes thrived. It was looking like an early tomato crop. Until...

Just as a tomato started to get red, maybe a day before I was ready to harvest it, something, some varmint from the depths of hell saw a reddish orb, pulled it down, took one bite and threw it to the ground. Apparently, said varmint didn't like tomatoes. Good, more for me. Until...

Then next day, another tomato was coming into redness, just one more day and it would be perfect, picked off the vine and eaten right there among the plants. But by the cover of darkness, another creature of the night plucked it down, took a bite and threw it to the ground. Another spoiled vegetable with just a bit out of it.

This went on for a week, and farmer Josh was turning red himself. So I went to Farm & Fleet, certain to find a varmnit solution. I walked up and down the sporting good aisle where I had my eye on a small pellet gun revolver. But after assessing the associated noise and living in close quarters with nature loving East siders, I decided I needed a stealthier way to get rid of the vegetable raiders.

Poison was out, who knows what would be attracted to it? Live trap was no good, what was I going to do, drive whatever I caught to Monona and drop it off in someone else's garden? Somewhere the idea of using a rat trap came to mind. Big, effective, concealable among the vegetables. I bought five.

I went home and set one up inside a tomato cage so I wouldn't accidentally trap a cat, dog or a bird. I put a screw through the wooden trap platform and tied a wire to the screw, and then tied it to a stake driven deep into the ground. I got this idea thanks to my brother who once set mouse traps just inside a chase between floors, and then lived for a week with the sound of a mouse dragging the trap to places my brother could never get to. The last thing I needed was an animal crawling off to one of my neighbors and pointing in my general direction.

It was mid-day on the weekend, so I started to mow the lawn. I checked the trap 15 minutes later, just to see it. My eyes did what a vole's can't, they opened wide to find a freshly dead vole among the tomatoes. I pried open the trap, released the body and reset the trap, humming success to myself, but not sure what I'd do with the body. I put it in a grocery bag in my garage and went back to mowing.

Fifteen minutes later I checked, and found a chipmunk just short of a ripe tomato. I reset the trap and was feeling pretty good about my plan.

Fifteen minutes later I found one of the chipmunk's relatives.

Fifteen minutes later, a rabbit.

Fifteen minutes later, another rabbit.

As the bodies piled up I realized I hadn't thought through to disposal. On the farm, we simply threw dead animals into the field "for the coyotes," or whatever ate dead animals over night, because they were always gone the next day.

In the city however, I needed a more discreet disposal method. The garbage wouldn't be picked up for six days. The storm sewer crossed my mind, but I like the lakes too much to do that. I decided to bury them but it was getting late, so I left them in the bag just outside the garage.

It rained for several days so I couldn't dig the hole to bury the evidence. When the rain stopped, I went to the far end of my yard, moved the mulch aside from a small tree and dug a hole. While I was doing this I was on the phone talking with my then boyfriend, now husband, Jay. I went over to pick up the body bag and gagged. It reeked of death and the contents were animated. Now, the five animals had not zombified, but they may as well have. Flies had found a perfect home for their newborn, and the bag was alive with maggots. I gingerly picked up one handle of the grocery bag, gagging from the smell, and quickly carried it to the back of the yard, spilling the smaller and animated inhabitants along the way.

I got to the hole and poured the gelatinized contents into the hole and quickly covered up the evidence.

Jay's version goes like this, "NEVER EVER CALL ME WHEN MOVING DEAD ANIMALS AGAIN." Apparently his sympathetic responses reacted from afar and he was gagging on the other end of the phone. The good news is I had no more damage that year and put the traps away.

Three years later, I have a rabbit problem here on the West side. And I still have the rat traps. And I haven't gotten rid of the rabbits yet. Stay tuned.