DayeTime: Beavers and Panthers and Bears (oh my)

This time of year is when nature comes alive. A big part of life in Avoyelles is our animals -- from the barn swallows who have decided your front door is the perfect place to build their nest and raise their family to the big beasts that lurk out of sight.

Recently, three creatures have been in the public eye.

Perhaps if you think of the animal as just a fat, flat-tailed, web-footed rat you won’t feel so bad about the parish’s declaration of war on beavers.

From time to time, the Police Jury raises its voice, wrings its hands and bemoans the problems caused by beavers. There is a flurry of activity, some dams are broken up, a trapper catches and kills a few of the large rodents, gets paid $45 per tail and then packs up his traps and moves on.

The effort leaves the parish a few thousand dollars poorer while making no significant impact on its beaver population.

That may be changing. We’ll see. My money’s still on Bucky, but I’m tempted to go with the underdog Police Jury.

You see, the Police Jury hired a company a few months ago to blow up beaver dams. Really blow them up. With explosives that go “boom.”

Parish employees are also out there breaking up beaver dams in a non-stop battle to keep the creatures from flooding valuable timber and farmland.

Beavers are also blamed for residential flooding caused by drainage canals backing up.

In addition to the boom-boom boys, the parish has hired professional hit men to ice “nature’s engineers” throughout the parish.

These guys will go out like Navy SEAL teams, set up sniper nests at night and take care of the critters one at a time, in addition to setting traps in the infested areas.

It sounds cruel -- and from a strictly PETA way of thinking, it is -- but sometimes a little cruelty is necessary. The beavers are destructive and their destruction has to be stopped. Since buying them all one-way tickets to Bermuda is not a sound solution, the parish has only one way to deal with the problem: “Neutralize the target with extreme prejudice.”

Sorry Bucky.

In other animal news, there have been several reports of a panther, or panthers, in the parish. Unfortunately, there has been no physical or photographic evidence presented to support those reports.

State Big Carnivore Program Manager Maria Davidson told me the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries receives many reports of black panthers around the state. Those are generally dismissed as “mistaken identity” reports because, she notes, big cats in North America are not black.

Jaguars in South America and leopards in Africa can be either spotted or black, but are usually spotted.

I did receive a report from a usually credible source that a large brownish feline with a long tail -- yes, we’ll say cougar -- was seen stalking a horse on an Avoyelles levee.

The witness said he was so stunned by the sight that he forgot to take a picture with his phone before the horse and its would-be killer bolted away.

Note to cat-sighters. Stay clear of the animal. It would be dangerous to provoke a close encounter of the feline kind.

If you can snap a photo from a safe distance it could help state officials determine what kind of visitors we have in our woods.

If there is a panther-cougar- mountain lion out there, it is almost certainly not a Florida panther that was once native to Louisiana. It would probably be a young male Western cougar who wandered too far east in search of a home to call his own.

Since these vagabond cats don’t bring their girlfriend along on their road trip, there is no likelihood of a permanent population in the area.

About 40 years ago I interviewed a West Texas cougar hunter who was searching for evidence of panthers in the Tensas Basin north of here.

He also noted that many people reported seeing black panthers, even though that is a virtual impossibility -- unless it would be an escapee from a zoo or circus or an illegal exotic pet.

He said Louisiana’s possible panther habitat has too many roads and highways criss-crossing it to support the big cats.

Because panthers roam great distances in their territory, and are not keen on stopping and looking both ways before crossing the street, they would surely show up on the side of the highway with armadillos, raccoons, skunks and ‘possums.

In fact, he said, it was the post Word War II increase in highway traffic that was responsible for the elimination of the Florida panther in Louisiana in the first place.

Just one note about the bears.

It’s not as much of a tradition as the first robins of spring or the groundhog seeing his shadow, but the first bear visit of the year is becoming an annual event.

The first bear-up-a-tree reported to us was in Big Bend in early May.

As noted before, this is the time of year when Mama Bear sends Baby Boy Bear packing so there aren’t any unpleasant family squabbles when her new boyfriend comes courting.

Since Brutus would be much bigger than the young male, any fight would almost certainly end in the smaller male’s demise. One lucky scratch could also end up getting infected and sending Brutus to that big “pick-a-nick” grounds in the sky.

We can’t know why Mama Bear drives her son away when he reaches a certain age, but we choose to think it is out of love and concern for his safety. Mamas are like that.

To recap:

See a beaver, shoot the beaver.

See a panther, DO NOT shoot the panther, stay clear, take a photo if safe to do so, contact LDWF.

See a bear, ditto the panther instructions, but no photo is necessary. The state knows they are out there.

AVOYELLES JOURNAL
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