May 23, 2024
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May 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Chauffeuring Little Creatures

As someone who has a small vegetable garden in his backyard, I’d have to say that the biggest benefit of having a garden is that none of our vegetables have any pesticides on them. But because they don’t, we have animals on them. It’s a trade-off.

At first, we had a groundhog. So my wife’s boss lent us a cage trap. Basically, the way the cage works is that you put in some bait, and the animals walk in and go “Yum! Bait!” Despite the garden of fresh veggies right next to it. And then the door slams shut behind them, and they get this look on their face like, “Oh, shoot. Do I have keys on me?” And then they sit there and wait for you to remember that you have a trap.

So we caught the groundhog, and we called animal control, all proud of ourselves, like we’d get a medal for catching it humanely, and they informed us that not only will they not come and get rid of our groundhog, but that once we catch it, we have 12 hours to get rid of it in a safe place that is less than one mile from our house. Animal control doesn’t want us mailing the animals to Iran.

This involves lifting the cage, which is not easy. The way you lift the cage is that you pick it up by this one handle on top, and you walk with it as you would if you were holding a suitcase that is covered entirely in wet paint.

So as it turns out, the cage doesn’t actually drive animals away. In fact, the cage keeps the animal there. You have to then drive it away manually. In your car.

Technically, you don’t have to use your car, but the alternative is carrying the cage the mile to the park, and waiting at busy street corners for the light to change while leaning sideways and holding a cage, and everyone else crossing the street illegally to avoid standing next to you. Or you can take a bus. But we usually put it in our car, along with some newspapers, so the animal has something to read.

So I drove the groundhog to the park and let it go, and then I came home and wrote an article about it, like I do. And then one day we found an opossum in the trap.

So of course, I drove it to the park. And the next day I woke up to find another opossum in the cage. In fact, ever since we let that groundhog go, less than a year ago, we caught, by my count, about 18 opossums. One week we had six. Apparently, the groundhog had been keeping opossums away.

We don’t even bait the cage anymore. The opossums just go in. It got to the point where I was getting back home and putting the cage back in the garden, closed, so no opossums would get in there. And then my wife kept opening it.

So it seems we had an entire family of opossums at some point, and sometimes I feel bad, because what if I’m breaking up the family? But to make myself feel better, I tell myself that I’m bringing them all to the same park, and they’re meeting up later. I’m like the opossums’ official ride to the park.

So every morning I wake up and chauffeur my kids to school and then come home and chauffeur a possum to the park. I feel like I’m chauffeuring little creatures around town all day.

I’m actually at a point where I get upset at them for getting caught. “Seriously? You didn’t see the trap? I didn’t even put bait in it!”

People ask me, “Why don’t you just kill them?” Because that’s the kind of thing you ask when you’re not the one who has to kill a 10-pound rodent. Why don’t I just step on it, like a bug, and hope it doesn’t decide to eat my shoe?

I don’t know. Isn’t it mean to kill animals just because they want to eat some vegetables? Plus, I have no idea how to get rid of the bodies. Do I put them in a garbage bag? And then fight off other animals – bigger animals – eating my garbage? Can I just dump them in middle of the park? The nice thing about dumping live animals in middle of the park is that, once they figure out which side of the cage is the open side, they run away. They don’t just hang out in a lump near my feet. They actually run away from me, toward the trees, which coincidentally, is also in the same general direction as my house.

I don’t know what’s scarier, though: to think that it’s one opossum, who every single day, manages to find his way home and get caught, or that I had at least 18 possums living in my backyard at some point. It’s not a very big yard.

By Mordechai Schmutter

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