THE WINCHESTER-NABU DETECTIVE AGENCY
YEAR TWO: CASE FILE NO. 06-58

Cat Detectives

AMBER LOVE 18-JUNE-2018 Catch up on Year One and previous Year Two cases at the Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency. This work is supported by the generous backers who adore my cat stories at Patreon.com/amberunmasked and they also get first access to what’s happening with my books and podcast.

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Where we left off:

Although we’ve seen that Oliver Winchester has a strong connection to the afterlife and ghosts inside our residence, it was Guster Nabu who would discover that the recently deceased old woman on the hill is still keeping watching over her cottage and estate.

Why Must I Die?

First, the bad news:

Gus and I began the day with a one-hour stake out of a chipmunk who lives in the rock wall around Oliver’s patio. Oliver wants all the chipmunk real estate leases renewed, but they hate when we come around for signatures.

We were stricken with unexpected tragedy! We came upon another dead body at the outskirts of Gnomez Addams’ new territory in The Grove. It was a baby bird. Gus had no interest so it was up to me to make notes for the case files. I also didn’t feel like taking photographs of this poor dead baby.

Species: presumably Corvus brachyrhynchos (American crow)

COD: believed to have fallen from high distance out of the nest near the top of an evergreen where the crows are frequently spotted.

Age: undetermined

Further reading:

Baby crows do not look like adorable goth chicks. As cute as the images are that go viral, people tend to share without checking accuracy; not that it matters, I guess. A cute baby animal picture in your timeline will perk you up for at least a nanosecond. The Corvid Blog is a great resource for this. The blog has stopped being updated, but that post is important for pointing out the differences in chickens and crows.

If you happen to find a baby crow on the ground and it’s alive, you should not touch it! According to the Corvid Research blog, as long as the bird has feathers and is clearly not injured, it’s fine. Leave it be, please. If you find an injured crow, only a licensed rehab person can take care of it. You’d be allowed to have that temporary custody until getting the licensed person to take over, but if you don’t know what you’re doing you could easily read the situation wrong. The Corvid Research blog explains that what may look like “feed me” mouth gaping behavior in a crow is more likely intense stress caused by human handling.

“The more we study death in social animals the more we are beginning to realize there may be a cost to prematurely removing ailing or dead animals from their groupmates.  Being able to interact with their dead may serve an important role for social animals, and denying them this opportunity may have serious implications in their ability to process that death.  So be thoughtful about how slim the chance of survival is.  It might be that the kindest, most responsible action is no action at all.”
Swift, Kaeli. “Tag Archives: Baby Crow.” Corvid Research, School of Environmental and Forest Resources, 9 June 2016, corvidresearch.blog/tag/baby-crow/.

Finally, some good news:

One of things I’ve noticed as Gus and I pay more attention to the wildlife in the backyard is how the groundhog population went from surplus to nil. Happy to say, one has been spotted.

Oliver
OLIVER KEPT WATCH FROM THE OBSERVATION DECK.

Gus and I left the baby crow corpse and continued on to the junkyard at Garter Snake Ridge. The junkyard has become Gus’ favorite spot. It’s often more temperate than the rest of the yard because of the shade. The cement blocks he plays on and rests on feel cool to the touch. Since we haven’t been hiking through the woods and rock climbing, Gus uses the junkyard for parkour practice. It’s also a safe place for me to unhook his leash so I don’t have to climb on the piles of crap and untangle him.

Amber & Gus

Gus and I have previously seen a squirrel run into the cinder blocks but today, it was no squirrel. He sensed something. He sniffed around the bricks and blocks then followed the scent to the slope of Garter Snake Ridge.

Amber & Gus

Gus went behind the old barn doors that lean against the sloping ground. He was there quite a while and I got nervous that maybe he was stuck.

Gus

I had no idea what was happening underneath those doors. I don’t know if I’d have the adrenaline “Mom strength” to lift them up if Gus didn’t come out soon.

Gus

He finally crawled up and out, but he wasn’t alone! After he moved out of the way, a fast-moving furry loaf hustled out the top and sailed over the barn doors and raced in back of the cinder blocks/brick piles!  We went inside to report to Oliver who was already napping.

If the large creature was indeed a groundhog, aka woodchuck (Marmota monax), there are reasons it’s significant. First, as stated earlier, we hadn’t seen any in the backyard in years. The Grumpy Old Man used to shoot them. I highly doubt he did it for hunting purposes and considered them an extreme nuisance because of the damage burrowing does to the yard. A final point of surprise, in the 2015-2016 winter hunting season, almost 50,000 woodchucks were killed by hunters. I had no idea there was a formal “woodchuck season” for hunting until I was doing all the research for Bear Roots.

Source: http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/pdf/2017/smgame_summary17-18.pdf%5B/caption%5D

It doesn’t appear that data on the groundhog hunting “harvests” or kills was done consistently. It’s also possible there are problems with older records before computer databases were used regularly. However, back in the 1982-1983 winter hunting season, 165,559 groundhogs were recorded as “harvested.” (source: NJDEP)

Does this have further meaning?

If this creature is a groundhog and decides to stick around, it may be a positive sign for the other local wildlife. It seems that their burrowing skills are taken advantage of by other animals who take up shelter in their tunnels. As you know, Groundhog Day in America is celebrated far and wide. People love it and some people love to hate it because they have no sense of fun or joy. Staten Island Chuck is infamously known for biting former New York City Mayor Bloomberg back in 2009. If you can believe Wikipedia, that incident cause Chuck to be secretly replaced by his granddaughter Charlotte when it came time for the new mayor, Bill DeBlasio, to participate in the annual shadowcasting ceremony. Then sweet Charlotte suffered from a fall and the zoo in charge vehemently denies that Mayor DeBlasio nor the ceremony were the causes of Charlotte’s death.

Visual confirmation was obtained the week of June 4th when the animal was spotted in the vicinity of the neighbor’s wood pile. So it seems, this groundhog may be sticking around and making a home for itself. We don’t know the gender so the animal’s name for reference shall be Skylands Sam. Gus and I hope Sam will be around next February to make their first historic weather prediction. We hope Sam survives all manners of predators and hunting season.

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