Early Saturday morning, around 2:00 a.m., the Critter Gitter alarm went off. I jumped out of bed, grabbed a headlamp and an ax handle, and headed for the garden.
All summer long, a porcupine has raided the garden. On several consecutive nights, it would cut a straight path through the strawberry patch, or across a grow box full of lettuces. Occasionally, it would attack our cherry trees. Then, it would disappear. Shortly after that, a neighbor would report a porcupine in their garden. Apparently, one or more porcupines spent the summer making the rounds of the neighborhood gardens, grazing at will.
Michelle went to the Department of Fish and Game and checked out an electric fence, and an alarm called a Critter Gitter. This small, battery powered box casts an electric beam over an area of several yards. If it senses motion or body heat, it flashes LED lights and raises an alarm. It’s programmed to cycle through distinct patterns of light and sound with each triggering, so that animals don’t become used to it.
We set the Critter Gitter up in the garden. It worked well—setting up a flashing shriek whenever any of us forgot about it and walked into the garden, or whenever the wind flapped the row covers too briskly. We never caught the marauding porcupine in its beam, but we could see that it would be valuable should that ever happen.
Eventually, we returned the tool to Fish and Game, but we ordered a couple of our own, and put them up in place of the one we’d borrowed.
Now it’s practically October. I’d begun to think the alarm had about outlived its usefulness for this year. But, that was not yet the case.
Word around the neighborhood is that a bear has been digging up carrots. Our carrots have yet to be harvested, so we’ve been on alert against the possibility the bear might make its way to our side of the ridge.
For this reason, I tried to wake up fully as I charged out to the garden. I knew that I might face a porcupine, but I might also face a bear.
Luckily for me, I found the former. An obviously very well fed porcupine careened around the garden, trying to get away from the shrieking Critter Gitter. I waited till it cornered itself at one end of the garden fence, then I brained it with the ax handle. I went back inside for my butcher knife, slit its throat to bleed it out, and went back to bed.
In the morning, Michelle and I butchered it. Many hands do make light work! It took us a mere hour and a half to do the same job it took me most of the day to do on my own back in June (see Night Hunt). Not only that, but we ended up with far fewer hairs in the meat.
We ended up with almost 5 pounds of garden-fed porcupine meat. We canned a pint jar of it to learn the ins and outs of canning red meat, and made porcupine bourguignon with the rest. You can bet we had a big garden salad on the side!
The Critter Gitter stays in place. There could be more porcupine out there, and the moose always threaten our kale through the winter. It’s earned its keep, but will continue to do so in the future.