We had a brief thaw here last week, enough to melt almost all the snow (though it was replenished quickly enough). Turns out one of the side-effects of “warm” (translation: above freezing) temperatures and low winds on an area with decent snow cover is very thick fog.
That doesn’t, however, stop it being winter, and winter brings all the little creatures who’ve survived the year scuttling into our house to escape the cold. The ladybirds which cluster around the lights and wander haphazardly across the kitchen table are a harmless manifestation of this phenomenon. The chipmunk which spent the summer taunting our cat just outside the window and some of last winter rummaging around inside the walls was less so, a) because of the noise and b) because of the danger to our electrical wiring. (It left, eventually.)
It’s worth noting at this point that Tia, our cat, for all her enthusiastic stalking of anything small and moving which wanders into her field of vision, has never proven particularly good at catching anything. Her New Zealand record was one mouse. Which is why I was a bit surprised to be woken up one night by her insistent meowing in my ear, and find her very proudly offering me this.
Small dead mammals on my bed at four in the morning are one thing, but small dead mammals I can’t identify are quite another. After poking it gingerly with a biro to make sure it was dead, I negotiated it away from the cat and stashed it on top of the rubbish for later identification (i.e. at a time that was not four in the morning, when I could remember to put my glasses on.)
I’m pretty sure that it was a northern short-tailed shrew, which made me extra-glad it was dead, since they apparently have a poisonous bite. What it was doing in the house is another question, as Wikipedia claims they spend most of their time in underground burrows. But there have been some very suspicious squeaking noises from under the oven, and the cat has suddenly taken to spending a lot of time in the kitchen, staring at the oven. This often coincides with the squeaking noises. Sometimes at four in the morning. As yet, however, there is a distinct lack of dead shrews at that hour or any other, for which I think I am grateful.
What I would be most grateful for, however, is to never run into the inevitable result of many small mammals running about an ecosystem: a small-mammal-targeted predator. Like…this.
It maintains my thesis that small mammals are inherently evil: they attract snakes, what more evidence do you need?