Ratting Out Ferrets, Skunks & Weasels

My encounters with urban wildlife just keep coming.

No sooner had I “herded” the hummingbird out of my upstairs bedroom for the second time last week, than a fat red-breasted robin flew through the kitchen door. I was momentarily thinking of something Hitchcockian, but with a bit of encouragement, the robin fled through the other open door with nary a peck on wall or person.

Time to get back to work, I thought, as I carried my freshly brewed coffee back to my office. But wait? What was that? A flash of brown fur flew past my backdoor slider.

I scratched my head. “Nah,” I said to myself. “I must have imagined it.”

Nope. Not imagined. There it is again. “My god, it’s a ferret. What’s a ferret doing in my backyard?”

Quick. Grab the dog — don’t want ferret guts all over the patio — and move in for a closer look.

But wait. Not ferret. Too skinny. Black tip on a pencil-thin tail. Ridiculously short legs on an extra long body. Reddish brown fur. Pointy noise. Tiny dark eyes, and extra shy. By the time I stepped into the yard, the “creature,” having stared directly at me, had rushed toward the barbecue and crawled up into the dark cavity.

Great. Barbecued rodent.

A quick Google search of the mysterious mammal sent me to Orange County ferret organization, where I learned that the number of urban ferret/aka weasel sightings are increasing. Great. Now I have a weasel living with my Lynx.

It’s not like this is the first wild creature to take up residence in my yard. Before we remodeled the house, we had a family of raccoons that loved the dark space below the Jacuzzi. Each spring, mom would parade her new babies to the French doors in the backyard, where they would set up a begging display. Tiny clawed feet scratched the window in hopes that I’d refill the cat food dish.

One day, I came home to the unmistakable squeal of raccoons gone bad. There, in my bathroom, three of the masked bandits were playing in the toilet. They had picked up the bathroom rugs and were pushing them in and out of the water, tossing them in the air, and fighting over them. I cannot begin to describe the mud, the water and the raccoon stench that was everywhere. Caught in the act, their faces beaming with guilt, they made a mad dash for the back door, leaving a trail of dirty wet paw prints through the house. They looked over their shoulders almost with a grin. “Ha ha…we got her!”

A few weeks later, I received a frantic call from my son Austin. He was 12 at the time.

“Mom, you’ve got to come home now.”

“Why? What’s up?”

“You’ve just got to,” he said with a slight catch in his voice. “There’s a … (pause)”

“A what, Austin.”

“There’s a skunk in the bathroom. He keeps peeking at me down the hall.”

(Side note: same bathroom the raccoons used. What is it with this room?)

“Open all the doors and don’t scare him, okay? I’ll be right there.”

I arrived just in time to see the tail end of Mr. Black and White moving toward the fern garden. Fortunately, he had taken his fragrance box with him and we were spared dousing the entire bath in tomato juice.

We’ve had more than our share of coyotes and the associated “lost” cats that go with that particular dog hunting in our neighborhood. Rabbits and opossums, field mice and roof rats. Deer occasionally find their way (or are they lost?) down the paved street known as Wendt Terrace. Their spindly legs always seem to out of place on the asphalt.

When I was a kid living in north Laguna, we had a small mountain lion (not a bobcat) that was at home in the hills behind Fayette Place. One night, he pretty much devoured my cat. While the cat survived, my parents still talk about the vet bill that saved him.

The beauty of the big cat was not lost upon my 10-year-old self. To see him loping across our lawn was a moment in childhood awe and wonder.

At the same house, I came home from school one day to a small herd of cattle grazing in our front yard. It was pretty wild to be confronted by mooing steer that blocked the pathway to my after-school cookie snack. They had broken through the Irvine company fencing and were more than content to consume the rich greens that my father had so carefully planted and nurtured.

Ah, wildlife. Even here in the suburban/urban environ of Laguna Beach. I anxiously await the next creature to cross my threshold, and I’m sure I’ll be equally surprised.

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