Semper Fidelis - Semper Discentes

Roadkill

In Coleoptera on May 2, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I am not a hunter.  That being said, I’m not anti-hunter, either.  It’s just not something I enjoy doing, and seems like an AWFUL lot of work.  A couple of years ago, after moving to my isolated “holler” in the Missouri Ozarks, I DID kill a turkey; however, the dumb bird wandered down my driveway, and I walked out onto the front porch barefooted, and in my underwear, and shot him from there.

This is to let you know that I have some serious qualms about killing anything I do not intend to eat, which COULD put me at a disadvantage when it comes to procuring bait for my half-dozen carrion beetle traps (See “I Carry On With Carrion”, from earlier this year.)  As you may have guessed, carrion beetle traps should be baited with carrion–rotten meat.  I’ve realized that I can collect as much of this stuff as I want simply by picking up dead animals off the rural highway leading to town.

On any given day, as I travel the seven miles into the village, I’ll see at least a dozen or more squirrels darting erratically across the road.  I do NOT try to hit them, but soon learned that their movements are impossible to predict, so I no longer attempt to swerve around them, inviting exciting and explosive crashes down the Ozark mountainside, as my Jeep cartwheels down the slope bursting into flame and strewing bits and pieces of my 61-year-0ld carcass throughout Douglas County.

When I DO hit one of these creatures, or find a FRESH cadaver in the road (the vultures have not yet arrived), I simply stop the Jeep, make sure he’s REALLY dead, then throw him into the passenger-side floorboard, to take home and put into a baggie in the freezer.  Several times, I’ve been caught in the act by passing motorists, who surely feel that the Sims family has fallen on hard times, resorting to eating roadkill.  When I brought home a fresh, fat fox squirrel yesterday, I looked in the freezer and found that I had two mice, one cardinal, and two frozen gray squirrels.

Time to set out a few more traps, and rebait the ones already in place.  Brett Ratcliffe, of the University of Nebraska, who taught me how to build the traps, recommends leaving the fresh bait outdoors, or in the trunk of your car for three or more days, so as to attain the proper degree of ripe decay.  I usually, however, just bait the traps with fresh meat, and let it “ripen in place”.  I therefore shoved the two mice into one trap, the cardinal into another, then cut the fresh squirrel in half with a double-bladed axe, and put half into each of two traps.  One-half-squirrel is JUST the right size for a single trap.

I still had two more traps to bait, and only two completely frozen squirrels remaining.  How was I gonna cut a rock-hard squirrel into two semi-equal pieces?  My wife was not at home.  I CONSIDERED thawing the thing in the microwave, then remembered daughter Susan’s disastrous experience with a banana in the microwave.  Got out the sharpest of the kitchen knives, a great old big one, with a sorta serrated blade.  I think it’s called a “bread knife”.  Sawed like a madman, and managed to get a little groove cut all the way around the midsection, before I remembered the ELECTRIC knife.  Took a good five or ten minutes to vibrate my way all the way through and get the trap baited.  In the future, I’ve decided to cut the UNFROZEN squirrels in half with the axe, then freeze the individual pieces, in “individual servings”, so to speak. 

Got all six traps set out, with a variety of baits, and can’t wait until the bait gets REALLY odorous, in a couple more days.  There’s a certain endangered carrion beetle (Nicrophorus americana–the American burying beetle) out there that hasn’t been seen in Missouri for many years.  I’d love to be able to find a few of those.  Happily, as I scouted the woods for decent places to set the traps, I came upon several really nice morel mushrooms, which are rather late in appearing this year, due to the crazy weather over the past few months.

I really appreciate having a wife who doesn’t complain TOO much about road-killed animals in the freezer.  Don’t think I’m gonna tell her about the knives, though.

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  1. Kelly and I had the ‘freezer talk’ just after we moved into the new house. It was full of specimens to be pinned, field boxes, and bait for my traps (luckily she didn’t find that). Kelly’s assertion was that the freezer should have room for food items. I often wonder why Kelly (and Amanda) put up with all the ‘joys’ of living with someone with a ‘natural history problem’.
    PS – Kelly (and the neighbors) haven’t noticed the traps quietly snagging dung beetles in our yard. The traps went out in the front yard (Regis would disturb them in the backyard) the first morning we moved in.

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