Friday, June 10, 2011

Squirrels and skunks and raccoons oh my!

So it's been an animal-tastic week here at Briques du Neige.

Sadly, the first encounter was the dog I walked finally actually caught a squirrel. She chases them all the time and the few times she has actually outpaced them, she doesn't do anything. This time, I think the squirrel was either really old, sick or already injured, because he was super slow. Charlie got at him before I could get to them and a little fight went on, where she kept biting the squirrel and the squirrel was going after her throat, but clearly couldn't get through her thick mane of hair. I finally got over to the dog. It took two pretty solid kicks to her ribs to get her to let go and then I dragged her away. Looking back, I saw the squirrel leaning against the tree it was trying to get up looking not good at all. There were no holes or anything, but at the very least it looked stunned. I hope that Charlie was only lightly biting at it (dogs can do that), but she may well have broken bones, which probably spells death for the poor little guy. Had we been in the forest and it was obvious the squirrel was badly injured, I probably would have found some way to put it out of its misery. But we were right by the children's swings (whenever Charlie does something bad, it's always in front of the worst possible witnesses: she loves to take a big dump in front of a blanket full of picnicking McGill girls for instance). I'm so soft when it comes to animals and seeing its look of fear and survival left an impression on my mind that did not feel good. I hope it survived to live on for a while.

This is a funny one. After years of walking Mont-Royal and the alleys of Mile End, I have still yet to ever see a raccoon or a skunk. I hear that there are plenty here, but I guess my timing is off. It's nothing like Vancouver where walking home from a bar, you have to actively avoid the bold beasts (both raccoons and skunks) and Cali where I used to have to beat them out of our kitchen with a broom when they came through the cat door (not skunks, fortunately). So one evening last week, coming back down the trails on the mountain above the Grandeur Nature battlefield, I saw an adolescent raccoon up in a tree. He was eyeing us warily, looked to be in good health. I was quite excited and went and told all my neighbours.

Later that week, I ran into one of my neighbours who was going for a walk himself and he told me that in the evening, up at the belvedere (I guess that is french for the look-out, which is a great vocab word to know and have), the raccoons come out and get fed by the tourists and eat from the garbage. So this week I went up there myself and holy crap its a raccoon party. They are everywhere, following screaming children, standing up on their hind legs and begging, pulling the lids off the garbage cans. It's kind of disgusting, though they are pretty cute. I had a hell of a time holding Charlie on the leash as she was slavering at the bit to get at those little raccoons. Kind of makes my one sighting down below in the forest a little less special!

I read that there are quite a few skunks in Montreal and that they can also be seen in the Mile End alleys. I've certainly smelled them from time to time (though given the quality of weed these days and the clouds of smoke billowing off the tam-tam on Sundays, sometimes it's hard to be sure). Supposedly, they eat a certain grub and when it rains a lot, there are many more of those grubs. So last night when I was coming home from watching the game (NBA Finals, thank you, game 5 great victory by Dallas over the evil Heats), I saw a couple ogling something in front of my apartment. It was a nice-looking skunk, sort of noodling around directly underneath the curvy stairs that lead up to my front door. He (or she, I didn't check) really did not seem bothered at all by my presence. I prudently took the stairs on the far side. My cat really wanted to go out front when I got back, but that certainly wasn't going to happen.

So yeah, not anything really exotic, but exciting for me, nonetheless. Go Canucks!

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