When the Nocturnal’s Come Out
I like the dark side of the day. When the planet turns it’s face, at least the side I inhabit, away from the sun. Things change. People go inside, traffic dies down, the heat subsides, and the nocturnals come out again.
Of course, I also like to sleep. But that isn’t always easy around here. After dark, things start happening here on the edge of the woods.
There are nocturnal animals living in our hood. Cosmo likes to sleep outside in his kennel so he can keep track of them from behind his six foot tall fence. Sometimes he finds it hard to maintain his composure when things start moving through the yard. I wake up to his Dino the Dinosaur yapping and hear him running laps along the fence line, huffing and puffing. He’s not a barker, which is a blessing, but he does get in a lather over things out there some nights. When I open the the back door and call him, he charges inside, all “Hey Mom, did you see that?”, which of course, I did not.
I find it a distinct disadvantage at those times to be a human and not a dog. I’m aware that my senses have been dulled by evolutionary changes I can’t undo, and probably wouldn’t want to in the world I inhabit. Who could stand the smell of Tide or Eau de Perfume with up to 300 million olfactory sensors in their snouts? Our poor pets. But at night, in the dark, on the edge of big woods, those extra olfactory sensors would sure come in handy.
There are so many things, out there in the shadows, that could be spooking Cosmo.
Blacktail Deer come out of the woods to browse. Cotton tails ascend with wiggling noses, and hop about, cautiously nibbling on grass and dandelions. High in the fir trees, a Great Horned Owl perches, his astute gaze piercing the night in search of prey. Coyotes break out into eerie high pitched singing that moves from clear cut to wooded lot to creek bed as they travel around in the darkness. And there is a huge feral black cat with Halloween eyes that stalks the neighborhood day and night. Cosmo would love to get a piece of that. He hates cats.
There are more formidable nocturnals about also. The Fish and Wildlife officer in the hood, who live traps a lot of racoons around here, told a neighbor there are two cougar, one with a radio collar, and two bear living in the area–that he’s aware of. I imagine they are out there too, some nights.
I say this because a couple of years ago we started smelling something dead on the property. A few days later Glenn discovered the body of a yearling doe in the brush on the edge of our woods. It must have been the same scrawny one we had spied hanging out behind his shop for a few weeks prior.
When an animal dies on private property in this county, there is no one to call to remove it. So we left the remains where they were. Let nature take its course. It didn’t take long for the scavengers to move in. Buzzards started circling overhead, just like in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Noisy ravens were soon hanging around, swooping through the trees, cawing at one another in sharp raspy voices. One day I walked around the back of the house and found myself eye to eye with a huge buzzard. He had stationed himself in the lower limbs of a large tree, just a few yards from the carcass. It was startling, really, how big he was at eye level. And I heard a little coyote activity back there once or twice, at night, but not as much as you might expect.
Then it got quiet again.
After about a week, I tip toed over to see what was up. Nothing. As in no-thing-at-all. A few tufts of hair on the ground. No bones. No entrails. No doe. Something had carried it off, but where? There are rough woods behind us, with all manner of downed branches, blackberry thickets and heavy brush to contend with. It’s not the kind of terrain that you could drag things through. Whatever it was that removed that carcass, it had to have carried it along the edge of the yard to some break in the woods, and then ??? I’m guessing it was a cougar or a bear. I didn’t go into the woods to look for clues. I booked it back into the house. It was…impressive.
So, on nights when Cosmo is in one of his “no thanks, it’s way cool out here and I’m not coming in” moods, I sleep with half an ear cocked to the open window. Because he can’t tell me what is out there. It keeps me guessing. Sometimes it keeps me awake.
He’s behind a six foot tall page fence. But you can never be too careful. Around here. After dark. When the nocturnals come out.
©2017 by Ilona Elliott