Wild Animals and domestic Pets
Many animals frequent the urban garden. Most of these are somebody's dearly beloved pet, but there are a number of wild animals that may pay a visit.
Domestic pets come in all shapes and sizes but can broadly be split into two categories. Pets that are permitted to roam of their own free will like dogs and cats in one corner, pets that manage to escape captivity in the other.
Dogs and cats are perhaps the commonest animals in the garden and both do a fair amount of damage, but would life be the same without them? Smaller pets include rabbits, hamsters, guinnea pigs and similar small furry things, and all have become adept at escaping into the garden.
Of the more exotic escapees to cross my path, the gold medal has to go to the lion. OK. it was a little lion, but it still had teeth, and it was in my garden in London. Yes! London. ENGLAND. That was in the days before such pets had to be licenced. Recently, when agents visited an empty property to measure it up for sale, they were astonished to find a lynx sleeping in the grass. As it had no papers, it had to be rounded up by immigration and sent to a detention centre prior to deportation, but may escape on appeal. Such is life.
Of the larger native animals, the fox is becoming more common in urban districts and rapidly turning into a serious pest. They may be present for some time without the garden owner being aware, but the moment they start digging big holes the game is up. Other large animals include badgers, deer, otter, mink and regular sightings of unidentified large black cat-like creatures that officially do not exist.
I can recall when, shortly after I had arrived in London to make my fortune, a fox was sighted in the grounds of Neasden Eye Hospital.
This made front page news in the local papers at the time, but council officials assured the public that deprived of its natural food supplies, (raw chicken with feathers on), it would not survive the winter.
Well now! This fox soon realized the stark realities of its situation, where on the one hand it could go back to the old
country ways, living in a hole in the ground, eating raw chicken with feathers on, healthy exercise running away from the dogs....
...or it could slum it in Town where the home was a bit of a shed, chicken was ready-cooked and wrapped in a paper bag instead of feathers, and absolutely no exercise.
This was a tough decision to make alone, so he invited the girlfriend down for the weekend. The rest is history.
The local newspaper recently ran a front page story about a rare sighting of a Professional Gardener working in the Chiswick area. A Council official expressed doubts about its ability to survive the winter deprived of its natural food supply, (Boiled potatoes and cabbage).
Squirrels have increased in numbers to such an extent that hardly any garden in the London region is without these cute animals. Unfortunately, often the only natural food remaining is growing in your garden, and coupled with their habit of digging up your bulbs only to re-plant them next door, has made many gardeners angry.
"Hey! You stealing my peanuts"?
One thing that has always puzzled me is where do they get all the peanuts still in the shell. In all my travels, I never see anyone put the nuts-in-shell out, and everyone denies feeding them.
Mice, Voles, Rats & Hamsters.
If I don't move he won't see me.
This is a strange group but nobody ever gets the names right. Let's start with the mouse. These are small furry things normally seen scuttling around inside older houses, but rarely seen in the garden.
Rarely seen does not mean rare though, and all gardens will have a population. Usual places to find mice will be in the compost heap or under stones in the rockery. Neat piles of empty cherry stones are a good indicator of their presence. They must travel large distances to get these stones and carry them home, yet when they have finished their snack, they simply toss the shell out the front door.
Mice in the garden are not much threat to the gardener, (just think of all those cherry trees that would need pulling up) but make sure they do not take up residence in the shed. Why bother to hunt for cherry stones when you can live in a box full of Dahlia tubers?
From time to time, people tell me about the voles in their garden. Maybe you think you have some as well but let me make it quite clear it is not a vole, but probably a rat. The chances of finding voles in a suburban garden are an awfull lot less than finding a lion. Voles are shy retiring creatures that have a liking for peace and quiet, and undisturbed surroundings close to water.
Having eliminated the vole, the question remains, "What are they"? To identify the mystery animal answer the following three questions.
- Is it brown and furry?
- Is it much bigger than a mouse?
- Has it got a tail?
If you answered Yes! Yes! Yes!, then it is a Rat.
If you answered Yes! Yes! No!, "Eese no raat, eese Haamster!".
Hamsters are surprisingly common in gardens and can adapt and survive quite well to the conditions there. Of course, their favorite food is likely to be your Hyacinth bulbs. I have so many stories about rats and hamsters, this web page is not big enough. If this web-site is ever finished, I will write a book and give you all a good laugh.
Rats occupy flats.
Mouse occupies Cat.