Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Merit Promotion

Warning: Photo of barn-cat animal casualty below. Non-gory, but not suitable for sensitive audiences.

Before taking on his secret identity as Suit Guy, with powers of professional salary and health insurance, Perfesser Chaos does the morning chores each day.  Waters everyone, feeds the poultry and rabbits, lets the chickens run free.

I hibernate under the eiderdown until he leaves, largely because I cannot predict when he might be occupying the lone bathroom.  As long as I can keep my bladder comatose, there's no need for the screaming.

He often gives a status report as he changes costume after the chores.  Even odds whether I'll remember later that we're low on rabbit pellets or the latch on the ducks' pop door needs a new screw.

Tuesday morning I'd commandeered the fancy shredded-foam pillow and was enjoying my last few minutes in the flannel sarcophagus when he ended his debriefing with the always attention-grabbing "And there was a dead ferret in the center barn stall this morning."

I'm not sure exactly what I said before achieving consciousness, though what I thought was something along the lines of "Do we raise ferrets? Have I forgotten that we raise ferrets?  I like ferrets, but wouldn't I remember that we had them? This seems very unlikely ..."

 "Wait, do you mean weasel?"

"Yes, weasel."

"In the center barn stall?"

"Yes. I thought you'd want a look at it, so it's in the barn freezer."

Of note:  There are currently two hens setting eggs in the center barn stall, in their broody trances and as vulnerable as a chicken can be. The stall is latched closed and inaccessible to the dogs, but the barn cats easily hop down into it.

When I got back from appointments in the afternoon, I remembered to check the freezer, and found this.

He's smaller than the picture makes him appear -- only 6.3 ounces.  Also far more beautiful.  I probably wouldn't think so if he hadn't been intercepted before savaging my broodies and then moving on to the leporarium and the coops.  Weasel predation is easy to determine; the weasels themselves are difficult to trap, and impossible, as a practical matter, to exclude.

It must take many hundreds of these tiny ermine (short-tailed weasel) to make one coat for Cruella de Ville.  The carnage does not bear contemplation.

The cats aren't saying which one of them just jumped about three varmint-control pay grades.  Smeagol was, as usual, AWOL at the dinner hour tonight, but was reported present and fine at breakfast.  Gollum didn't have a scratch on him, but appeared smugger than usual.

There's no sign of a struggle. One of the fiercest small predators among the mammals succumbed to a single neck bite from a moggie before he put a mark on any of our chickens and rabbits.

The dogs are going to have to work pretty hard to justify themselves at their next review.

If you know of an educational entity that would like a display specimen of a male ermine in summer pelage, for taxidermy and/or a skeleton mount -- he's beautiful, nearly undamaged, and an object-lesson in not screwing with the barn kittehs.


  1. Kimberly Hounddawg BumpesesMay 9, 2012 at 1:53 AM

    You are the best writer I have ever not yet met. Thank you.

  2. Your local museum of natural history would like to have him, I suspect. Weasel fan, here, sick at the thought of a cat killing this beautiful little hunter. Weasel numbers aren't exactly booming, for one thing, and for another, your little one may not have been after rabbits or chickens -- "rodents are almost exclusively taken when they are available," sez Wiki. Weasels are easy prey for a cat: See slide #24.

  3. Wow, GOOD kitty. My cat just hunts spiders and snakes... And is afraid of them if they come at her.

  4. You could probably identify the killer with DNA, but it's probably best to give them all credit, thus proving felines superior to canines in guarding.

  5. Luisa -- I'm a weasel (and predator-in-general) fan myself. But this guy's presence in the barn is powerful circumstantial evidence for intentions towards the chickens and rabbits -- especially chicks and young rabbits. The cats have kept the rodent population in the barn and immediate environs down enough that it's poor hunting for those.

    A friend had her flock of leghorns terrorized and depleted by a weasel (species uncertain) that would leave them dead outside during the day. She'd find them one by one, with little Dracula fang marks in their necks, or their necks eaten slightly, the rest of the chooks hunkered down and silent.

    My neighbor traps for "fun." He keeps no animals of any kind, no pets or livestock, nothing that needs to be protected from predation. His extended family's cropland can only benefit from the services of the red fox, coyotes, weasels, but he kills them for jollies. There is no closed season on them, no bag limit, no protection at all. The cats, by contrast, are blameless.

  6. "Broody trances...". Perfect imagery. I've got one that is such a state right now. Only other broody hen I've ever had was a homicidal maniac if you tried to remove her from the nest. We called her Butters the Serial Killer. I much prefer the broody trance since we aren't hatching any eggs!

    Have not seen weasels around here. Bald eagles, hawks, and foxes are our free range predators. The bald eagles are especially abundant this year.

  7. Depending on the quality and personalities of the local school district, any one of the life science educators may well be interested in the remains.

    Lovely little one, but glad to see he didn't dine on chickens or rabbits.

  8. Our big, sedentary, orange male cat killed a large rat for us this winter. It had entered our laundry room one morning during sewer construction in the neighborhood.

    The cat was quite proud of himself, and now insists on being addressed as Rat Slayer. I gratefully comply.


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