Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Notable Critters

Carole and Andy and I have encountered many animals in our travels to various parks and forests around the southeast. We've bumped in to everything from big mammals like elk, bears, coyotes, and manatees, to really tiny things like butterflies and scorpions.

But there have been a couple of exceedingly notable critters in all of our trips, and both of these were encountered in separate journeys to Florida.

The first really standout animal was a thieving hawk who posted itself at our campsite at Juniper Springs Recreation Area and attempted to steal the steaks and burgers from our grill. However, Carole had stoked the grill so aggressively that the coals were super-hot. Just at the point the raptor was almost able to grab the meat off the coals, the temperature was so intense that he had to swerve aside at the last instant and so left with nothing but the sounds of our surprise.

The hawk (I don't know if it was a he or a she), then took up temporary residence in a tree above our campsite and waited for us to make the mistake it would need to take food. But we'd figured out its game and finally it gave up. Instead, it flew to a family a few campsites over from us and took their steaks. Better their dinner than ours, I say.

Later, we encountered a campground regular who had dealings with the hawk from previous trips. He just posted a portable umbrella over his grill area and that settled that.

"Yeah, I'm guilty. What ya gonna do about it?"

The second critter that made an impression on us was the raccoon who tormented us for days at Blue Spring State Park. The first day we were there, as we were setting up our camp, this raccoon showed up while our backs were turned and snagged a packet of hamburgers from the cooler it had overturned while we were otherwise engaged. All we could do was follow its felonious little footprints into the underbrush. Lesson learned.

Later that night, as we were watching TV in our travel trailer, Carole looked as the same raccoon opened our front door (Carole had left it ajar) and barged into our personal living space! Carole screamed bloody murder as its small masked face appeared around the edge of the refrigerator. The noise forced the trouble-making asshole into a hasty retreat. But Carole must have angered the varmint, for the following morning she looked for her sandals (which she'd left by the door) only to find that one of them had been stolen. We never found it, and the only explanation that makes any sense at all is that the raccoon took it out of spite.

The day after that the raccoon returned again. She came out of the brush as we were preparing lunch and sat herself down right in the middle of our campsite and dared me to try to move her. By this time I was fairly sure it was a female, since she looked to be very pregnant. Yes, it could just have been a particularly fat and healthy raccoon, but I tend to think she was pregnant and eating for the many little assholes growing in her womb.

I had to post myself between her and the food that day. Later, we stopped at the ranger station to complain and the ranger showed up with a live trap. The next morning it only held a silly possum, and we had to leave soon after. The ranger assured us that if she caught the real culprit that she would not harm her, only move her away from the campground. I'd like to think that she didn't cause anyone else the problems that she made for us, but who knows?

She sure looked pregnant to me.

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