Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Five:
Case File No. 14-222
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Where We Left Off:
Last time, we witnessed a bizarre incident. After Gus killed a mouse for trespassing inside the house, I put the body in the hedges and a blue jay immediately took it.
The Long, Hot Afternoon of Earth:
If you’re new to our cat detective case files, (first of all, welcome) you probably don’t know about the relationship between Gus and the outdoor critters. Gus is slowing down now that he’s a six-year-old gentleman, but he still loves to hunt. His patrols in the summer are often a combination of long periods of conducting surveillance while trying to look non-threatening and bursts of hunting activity. He misses his targets a lot, but don’t tell him I said that.
Sometimes, I have to hold Gus’ leash so the target has ample time to get a head start. Other times, I let him go after his target. If it’s a chipmunk that he’s after, I always do my best to take them away from him safely. I’ve only failed once. RIP, Sergeant Burrows.
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On June 22, Gus caught Chipcent Donofrio twice! As you can tell by the video and photos, Gus was careful in how he carried the chipmunk in his mouth. I think this was probably due to Chipcent not squirming while in his opponent’s jaws. By now, Chipcent must realize that Gus will carry him away from the scene and let him go. If he waits it out, he won’t be harmed. The trick is for the chipmunks who have been caught to get their bearings and head towards a safe space before Gus can nab them again.
Chipcent is a brave little fellow. He ventures down from the Boulevard Trail and goes all the way to Cheeks Moretti’s rock fortress, the lilac bushes, and sometimes beyond. He and Munka Kelly mostly travel north by leaving the Boulevard Trail and going through hedges to Bunny Hollow, Garter Snake Ridge, and the junkyard.
I can’t even remember when Gus and Chipcent had their first meeting. By now, Chipcent is a pro at dealing with his nemesis. This time, Gus was able to get some information out of the adorable scuridae rodent to back up The Grumpy Old Man’s claim that a beast left LARGE tracks in the grass and knocked over the barrel full of rain water.
Perhaps The Grumpy Old Man noticed the tracks because he prefers to keep the lawn grass long; it’s easier to see the direction lines like when vacuuming plush carpet. Maybe he had special Army training for tracking. He tried hunting when he was young and I don’t think he liked that part of being a carnivore. Chipcent confirmed that several large beasts are in roaming the area for summer. These footprints are wide and round — nothing at all like hoof tracks. That means it wasn’t a white-tailed deer nor Jersey devil-deer nor a lost goat (that’s happened in Hackettstown when a goat escaped the auction house and went to live with a deer herd for a while). We were looking at evidence of a bear or volkolak.
Since Chipcent provided excellent leads, I told Gus he had to let him go. Gus then realized a key piece of information about possible motivation for Munka Kelly and Chipcent Donofrio to be traveling so far in search of food. We knew chipmunks ate plants, nuts, fruit, and insects (though we’ve never witnessed the insect eating behavior); but, what we didn’t realize was that they will also eat eggs and newly hatched baby birds! There is a robin family nesting in the lilac bush adjacent the private road.
The parents have been doing a great job protecting their nest. I’ve seen them chase away many blue jays and catbirds. I’ve tried many times to get a photo of the mother on the nest, but she always takes off. They chose the location well. The lilac leaves are large and I can barely see in between them that there’s a nest at all. There are utility wires on one side and the huge maple on the other which provide excellent vantage points for watching the nest while they aren’t on it.
Eastern chipmunks are skilled at climbing. We don’t have any proof that the local Chipmunk Mafia is after the eggs, but it is something to consider. They could probably do it.
July rolled into existence with the heavy weight of humidity and heat waves. It’s been rather disgusting. The planet has gone to Hell. Fish, mollusks, and water fowl have literally been baked or boiled due to hot water temperatures or droughts. It’s what “The Colonies” are like in The Handmaid’s Tale — the place where “unwomen” are sent as punishment. New Jersey residents have been told about a mysterious bird disease effecting some of our common birds: blue jays, robins, grackles, and starlings. So far, so good over here. I try to get good photos with the zoom lens so I can study their eyes since the primary visual symptom of this mystery disease is conjunctivitis.
On July 2, the fireworks were already going. Humans can’t wait to blow shit up. We heard blasts so loud that one sounded like a canon and plenty of others were clearly dynamite. I grew up hearing people refer to M-80s and Quarter-sticks. Yeah, even though fireworks are now legal in New Jersey (ugh), those dynamite sticks are still illegal. According to the ATF website, it seems like you can blast practically anything as long as you have a federal license.
Gus captured more chipmunks on July 2nd. He learned that most of the animals were anxious and nervous. The birds were fighting a lot. The chipmunks were having territorial wars. And Gus… my dear companion started pooping outside the litterbox in June and it continued into July. The animals are obviously stressed about things.
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As for the chipmunks, it was a showdown John Wick style. Cheeks Moretti, Munka Kelly, Chipcent Donofrio, and Gus faced off against each other. Now, in fairness, Gus had spent a long time in the shade of the big maple tree simply watching and taking observation notes. He decided he needed to intervene and did end up making two quick captures of, I believe, Chipcent inside the peonies (video on Instagram slide 2).
What started out as an investigation solely into chipmunk behavior ended up being an opening to examine the greater animal population behavior. The climate change problems and humans’ compulsions for destruction have been causing disease, distress, and death in animals.
Case Status: Closed