I unwittingly observed last night the tail end, so to speak, of a small suburban drama that unfolded across the street without my being aware of what I was seeing.
What I saw from my kitchen window was a cluster of my neighbors gathered across the street engaging in animated conversation. It all seemed pretty routine, although a little unusual to see that particular combination and number of people socializing. I caught a few glimpses of the gathering here and there as I made dinner, and at some point in the evening, as the light was fading, I observed one of the men carrying something on the blade of a shovel as he walked toward a nearby garbage can. My first thought was “that’s a body,” but I instantly dismissed it as a trick of light and imagination because how grim would that be?
Well, it turns out the story was grimmer than I would have thought, and it involved a close call for me that I am grateful to have avoided.
Apparently a badger found its way into our neighborhood last night and was discovered in the yard of the neighbors directly to the east of me when they went outside and confronted it. It went under our shared fence and headed west through my yard—where, thankfully, neither of my dogs was out alone at the time or there would have been bloodshed and likely death—and continued on across the street to my other neighbor’s back yard. She spotted it there and, concerned for the safety of the pets and children playing in the yard immediately to the west of her, called our neighbor David to take care of it. He is a fisherman and hunter who fears no beast, so he came right over with a bow and arrow. We live in a compact subdivision, so this was really the only weapon he could safely use.
Unfortunately for the badger, their species is hard to kill, and one arrow was enough to stop its progress but not enough to finish the job (David tells me he has confronted full-grown badgers against which 12 shots from a pistol did not finish the job). I’ll spare you the details of the badger’s demise, but suffice to say that it involved brute force and was not pretty. And so, the object being disposed of with that shovel actually was a body.
I didn’t think I had to worry about wildlife when I moved to suburbia because I thought it was far enough away from any natural areas that the wild animals wouldn’t bother coming this far into town. But as it turns out, there is a creek just a few blocks away, and some open areas in a largely undeveloped business park nearby, so I guess they’re as close to us now as they were when I lived right on the edge of town with acres and acres of open natural spaces just a few blocks away from my house. Several of my neighbors who have dogs leave dog food outside, which of course attracts wildlife, which brings ticks and other dangers to all our pets.
My dogs would not do well in a badger encounter. They both have tremendous prey drive and fighting spirit, so they would not be scared off by any animal. Rudy has had one near-fatal wildlife encounter in his life and several run-ins with skunks because he does not know how to back down, and everything I know of Reggie tells me she would be shoulder to shoulder with him in any fight. But they’re little dogs, less than 20 pounds each, and neither has the physical wherewithal to defend against a badger’s scimitar-like claws and famous aggression. So I’ll be supervising their time in the yard from now on, particularly at dusk. The last thing I ever want to have to do is dispose of a body with a shovel.