The Southern Home Bestuary: Living with our critter friends and enimies.

Whitetail Deer
June 25, 2009, 3:15 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Whitetail deer         Thin numbers during season         Consume

Thinning deer provides good eats and helps the environment.

Thinning deer provides good eats and helps the environment.

  Eating away at almost anything in the surburiban landscape, whitetailed deer are increasingly raising the ire of homeowners not only as shrub, plantings and garden destroyers but as a real hazzard to drivers. Each year there are over 1,000,000 accidents reported in the U.S. from deer-vehicle strikes and approximately 10,000 injuries and 100 deaths. Other negatives include the facts that deer ticks are vectors that may carry Lyme disease and rut-crazed bucks can, and have, attacked people.

  While most people don’t take such a radical view as to want  all deer  dead,  there is a need to control populations in confined or densely populated areas where large numbers of adverse deer-people encounters may be expected. For me a hunter, the obvious answer is to shoot a few every hunting season and consume them. I am fortunate that I live such a distance from anyone that I may use bows, crossbows or firearms to take my deer.

 For most people using firearms is out of the question, but there is the potential for using bows or crossbows from elivated stands to safely and quietly harvest deer. Because the hunter is always shooting down, this removes almost any possibility of an errant arrow going to some unintended location. A problem arises that even lung-shot deer will very often travel 30 yards, which may be onto another landowner’s property.

 It is often a good plan for those who own adjoining lots to form a hunter’s consortium, agree as to where the stands should be placed and that hunters can follow-up their deer onto others’ properties. It is nice if any deer taken is processed and the wrapped meat divided up among  the members who want it – even among those who do not, or cannot, hunt.

For more information on Backyard Deer Hunting consult the E-mail new cover backyard deerauthor’s blog with that title under which will also tell about others author’s books such as Crossbow Hunting and Practical Bowfishing.  Backyard Deer Hunting  takes the reader through all of the steps from taking the hunter safety program to 50 recipes for cooking deer and other wild game. For a look at my outdoor books go to

June 17, 2009, 8:21 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Bats       Potentially sickening        Exclude

 Bats are ecologically helpful, although not very attractive, creatures that feed on night-flying insects and  remove large numbers of flying bugs from the Southern air.  These flying mammals very often nest in colonies in old houses if they can find some dark places to shelter. Their bodies are compressible so they can get in under vinyl sidings, singles, through gaps in the weatherboarding, and the joins between chimneys and the house siding.

  The bats that make colonies are females. In the Summer they have their young. The numerous droppings that they leave can be the host for airborne fungi including those that cause histoplasmosis.  Depending on the house, you might host hundreds of bats. 

  The way to discover if you have bats is to use your nose. If they start to accumulate guano, you can smell it outside of the house, in attics and perhaps even on back porches.  They can also be seen leaving the house immediately after sunset when their exit points may be spotted. The only effective way to dealing with them is to exclude them. Moth balls may serve to help keep them out early in the season, and is worth a try to put these into the nearest places that you can reach.

 At Whitehall we once took off and replaced all of the siding and replaced it, in an effort to exclude the animals. This exclusion is best done in mid-winter after they have migrated south. If you do it while they are still there, the typical result is that they just find another way in. It is almost impossible to seal every hole in an old house.

  I put on a face mask, or even a gas mask, to vacuum up their droppings when I can get a hose to them. The best over-all approach is to discourage them when they arrive in the Spring and exclude them in the Winter. If you have got them during the Summer you are fairly well stuck with them.

 A bat will occasionally get into the house with you. I usually put a bunch of rags on the end of an arrow and shoot them with a kids’ bow and then take them outside if I cannot net and transport them. Bats can be rabid. It is best to take care to avoid bites, and kill and burn any that act strange.

Dung Beetles
June 9, 2009, 10:59 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Dung Beetles      Big and ugly but harmless    Ignore

Whitehall Dung Beetle

Whitehall Dung Beetle

I am sure that most people remember the friendly fresh-eating beetles from the Mummy movies. These things swarmed and moved inside of your body munching along  with great rapidity. Well I have healthly-sized black beetles too.

I find a few a year dead or dying on the carpet. These are black, nearly two-inches long, about half as wide and have horns. There are good-sized wood-eating beetles in the South too, but fortunately these are not among them.

These feed and breed exclusively on and lay their eggs in dung. That is only half-way O.K. At least that means that they do not feed on me or my house – just on the droppings that my other coinhabitants leave around. Things like birds, bats and rats supply food  for them. As long as I have dung beetles that means that I must also have, or have recently, had somethings that leave sufficient droppings for them to feed on and breed in.

They have their part to play in the biological cycle. While not as obvious as the colorful June bugs, that are also dung feeders,  they are interesting beasties to have around were it not for the fact that they feed on the droppings of some of  Whitehall’s  more obnoxious inhabitants.

Mouse footed and faunal succession
June 3, 2009, 3:18 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Common mice   Suppress the population  Traps and sticky boards

When there is a vacant place in any habitat what frequently happens is that another species moves in to occupy that niche. At Whitehall, my 1790s home, I had finally discovered a way to successfully trap and remove a family of wood rats that had cohabited with me. It was not so much that I minded sharing with the critters, but the things persisted in running around all hours of the night and moving a sash weight behind my bed that sounded like a Chinese gong.

Sorry, guys; but you have got to go. Ultimately I trapped three adults and two juvinals with Haveaheart traps. That cured that problem.

A couple of nights after I had the last successful trapping I was making a midnight run to the bathroom. Coming back through my dark hall, I felt something stick to the bottom of my bare foot. I could not think what that might be until I arrived in my bedroom where there was some light. This was a sticky board that I had put under a piece of furniture with a live mouse attached. I had apparently exchanged 1-pound rats for 1-ounce mice.

If I have got to have one or the other I had rather have the mice than the rats. At any rate that was a new experience for me. Never before had I walked around truly footmoused. I am just glad that he was in no position to bite me.