Critter Spa

by Margaret Lansky

We had just moved into a new house in Mountain View and planted our dream back garden with a small pond, a soothing waterfall, water plants and some goldfish from the store on Castro…five for a $1. We bought $3’s worth and named them 1 through 15.

The fish grew and they would come to the surface to be fed directly by hand. We loved that pond.
So did the neighborhood critters. In the night we would be wakened by splashing noises, screeching fights and howls of pain. Some cats were involved. In the morning, half the water would be gone from the pond, the plants pulled up and little fish tails or heads left as offerings. This went on for weeks.
We tried a lot of things—sprays, radio noise, motion detector lights— but all were unsuccessful. The raccoons especially enjoyed the spa with dim lights, soft music and soothing green surroundings. They even took a rubber ducky out of the pond and put it on the top of the waterfall!

Soon all the goldfish were gone and the critters started digging up our garden plants. That’s when we gave up. We hired a licensed trapping company…I know, not very PC but we were about to become grandparents and didn’t want our grandchild playing in a yard rampant with critters.

The trap was set and two days later we were awakened at 1 am by a loud banging and screeching. We found a large opossum in the trap. We went back to bed only to be awakened again at 3 am by flashlights shining in our bedroom window and loud knocking on our front door. A police officer was there to tell us that our next door neighbors had reported suspicious noises from our house and thought we were being burglarized. Our neighbors had been on vacation and I had not yet told them of the trap. They didn’t call our house in case the burglar picked up the phone…haven’t quite figured out that logic yet, but we are still very grateful for their concern for us.

The police officer checked in our backyard and confirmed it was a trapped opossum, went back to the front door and called into the night “All okay, it’s only a trapped opossum”… and all of a sudden five other police officers came out from the sides of our house and popped up from behind the bushes. It was very exciting.

What a night. The next day the trapper came and removed a 40-pound possum that he claimed to be the biggest he had ever seen. And it was not a pretty one. We thanked our neighbors and then we had to explain to their little girl that the opossum had to go up in to the hills, very, very, high up into the hills.
Since then we have found out that a pond should be at least 3 feet deep so that the critters can’t feel the bottom and then they will not go in to it. The result is that we filled in the pond and now have a water feature which is very pleasing and makes soothing sounds although some critter keeps taking the back door off of it. I wonder who?

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