Owls & pussy cats

August 20, 2013

By Jane Garrison

Almost every night last year when I went to bed I could hear the reassuring “whoo whoo” of an owl. It wasn’t an irritating noise at all; it made me feel like we had a night watchman looking out for us when we seemed to be most vulnerable. “Ole” was an appropriate name, so that’s what we called him.

Then, one day I noticed what appeared to be a pile of bracken fern in the middle of our lower yard. I thought it was odd, because bracken fern doesn’t usually break off and blow around. The tip-off should have been when 20 or 30 crows showed up and started their most irritating, loud discussions.

They sat on limbs, the bank, and twigs looking at the heap in the yard. It went on for an hour, and it still didn’t dawn on me; I was just going crazy watching this very loud cackling, cawing and agitated behavior right in my face. Then, they all flew away.

I went down and checked out the heap. It was our “Ole.” He’d been poisoned, and the crows knew it. They wouldn’t touch him. I sadly put him in a garbage bag to get him out of the food chain.

My theory is that someone had rats or mice in their house and used poison. The owl lived on rats and mice and unfortunately got one of the poisoned ones. Just think of what we lost — not just a natural, sustainable way to take care of an oversupply of vermin, but a beautiful, watchful creature that guards us and reassures us when so much feels hostile.

Last winter was mild, and that means lots of bad bugs and critters are out in force. The aphids are a good example, but don’t poison them. They can be blasted off of most plants with plain water and a strong nozzle.

I’m seeing a lot of voles this year, carving tunnels and holes through my beds and grassy areas. Yesterday, our indoor cat brought one in from the basement and laid it to rest next to the dining room table. I jumped a foot when I saw it, but there is no way I would think to poison these critters. If they get outside, some animal in the food chain could eat them. Or, if caught inside, I could poison my own cat.

Poisons and chemicals are overkill for almost everything. Keep outdoor areas cleaned up and think of trapping, if legal, before poisoning. If all else fails, make sure your application doesn’t extend beyond your target — very hard to do.

By the way, I heard another owl last night. It made me smile.

 

Jane Garrison is a local landscape architect and master gardener who gardens in glacial till on the plateau. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

 

Come and see master gardeners at the plant clinics, through August, at the Issaquah Farmers Market from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays at Pickering Barn, 1730 10th Ave. N.W.

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