Monday, March 10, 2008

Rat Patrol

Tuft, above, is one of an extended family of barn cats that keep us from being overrun by the local rat and rabbit population. Waldron, as a lot of small islands, has its own selection of fauna. We have no mice or voles, no raccoons, skunks, and as far as we know, only one fox, and no deer. But we do have a healthy population of rats, both the common grey rat or ship rat, Rattus rattus, and Rattus norvegicus, the brown wood rat. The story here is that the former came here on old demasted sailing ships that were used as barges to haul off the sandstone from the quarry on Pt. Disney 100 years ago. The sandstone was used to pave streets in Seattle and Tacoma and to build the Columbia River jetty. You can still see marks on the cliffs from the old quarry.

When Joel first moved to the farm in the late 70's no one had lived here for decades. Except for the rats. So a friend gave him a cat. Mama Cat, as she came to be called, was not a tame cat and she lived in the barn and began our line of calico cats. Only females are calico colored so the males are either black and white or orange and white. Except for Tasha, who is a Siamese. We're not sure where she came from. She showed up in a litter of otherwise calico and orange and white cats.

After a few years it became obvious that the cats were thriving a bit too well, so I started a campaign of spay and release which took years. I'd always fail to capture one female cat and she'd show up the next year with 4 calico kittens. But two years ago we caught Gretel, the last fertile female, and now they will just live out their years and hopefully keep the rats and rabbits at bay for us for a while longer.

When Siri was little she was the official cat (and sheep) namer. So all the cat names are her creation.

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