Tuesday, February 11, 2014

We Are Not Amused

Our local NPR station is doing fund raising this week, which cuts into some of its regular programming.  One of the things that’s omitted is the brief, humorous news piece that starts off the second half hour of the “Morning Edition” news program – a feature that Mars calls the “amuse” (as in amuse-gueule, a small, savory item of food served as an appetizer before a meal.)

It has become a part of our wakeup ritual so, better late than never, in mid-afternoon I found the missing segment on the Morning Edition website.

“Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne. When its tough tabby took off, the horse barn housing the LAPD's Mounted Platoon could have been overrun by rats and mice. But enter two new officers from the feline corps - partners Willie and Harry. Harry, by the way, is the talkative one. They're the newest grads of the Voice for the Animals Barn Cat Academy. Top of their class - rats take note. As the mounted police equine keeper told the LA Times: They know the beat. It's MORNING EDITION.”

Intrigued, we found more info in the online San Bernardino Sun.  “’Cats are a top-line predator,’ said Melya Kaplan, executive director of the Venice-based nonprofit [that provided the cats]. ‘When rodents meet a top-line predator, they leave … It’s beautiful, absolutely beautiful.’”

The phrase “top-line predator” was new to me.  But I understood exactly what it meant because of something Mars and I had witnessed just a few hours earlier.

First I need to set the stage a little.  Our town had about a ten-inch snowfall a few days ago and because of the cold temperatures at least eight of those inches are still on the un-shoveled parts of the ground.  About five feet in front of our family room window is a path of pavers that runs across the yard from our driveway to the sidewalk on the other side. In addition to cleaning all of the walking and driving surfaces I’ve shoveled a ten foot long path from the driveway into our bird feeders – parallel to the pavers and about six feet away from them.

Just before lunch Mars and I were watching the bevy of small birds and pair of squirrels that were ground feeding on sunflower seeds when a longhaired gray-and-white cat that we have seen in our yard before appeared on the scene.

He skulked onto the pavers and paused just about across from the location where the two tree-rodents were blissfully chomping away.

 “He’s going to try and catch the squirrels”, I commented incredulously to Mars thinking to myself I have never seen this or any other feline succeed in the act. 

Within five seconds the mouser was over the snow bank in hot pursuit of the squirrels down in the snow canyon beneath the feeders.   And he quickly emerged onto the driveway with a limp furry red-spattered gray carcass dangling from his smiling mouth. The predator paraded down the path as if to display his trophy to the stunned audience, then turned and trotted off across the driveway and out of sight. 

“Well”, Mars asked, “Do you still want to eat?”

A check of the yard a short time later showed absolutely no signs of the incident, and within fifteen minutes the remaining squirrel and birds were back in their regular places doing their regular things.

A top-line predator indeed, but definitely not an amuse-gueule – at least for us anyway.


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