Distress Call in the Night

i was sitting in my rocking chair writing when all of a sudden the night time silence was pierced by a racket of intense and noisy screaming. The dogs were immediately on their feet and ready for action. My first thought was “a fox has a chicken.” I grabbed my machete, slipped on my shoes, and headed for the door. The screaming was mixed in with a racket of whining and whimpering from my dogs. I couldn’t make out exactly what noise i was hearing because they were making their own racket. I left them in the house and stepped quietly onto the porch. The chickens were silent. They were all asleep. No feathers, no intruder with its tail sticking out the fence. I wanted to hear the noise again but i struggled at how to provoke the animal into talking as i wasn’t sure what kind of animal it was that i had heard. Something told me to whistle. I thought this sounded stupid. What animal besides a dog would answer a whistle. But something told me to so i did. I whistled in the darkness. The noise came loud and clear to the right of me. The close proximity of the noise maker startled me as i realized it was in the yard to the right of the house, close to the tool shed. I recognized that it was not a chicken. This was not one of my animals. This was a wild animal. Either a coyote or a fox had it but it was in grave danger and probably a lot of pain and its distress call was clear. “Help me” “help me”. With a sinking feeling i returned to the house. I had a good idea what it was, but i wouldn’t be sure until i consulted the internet. I stood at the front door, my dogs all excited and just bursting to go find this wounded animal. I whistled again. The animal answered me. It answered me 5 or 6 more times, each scream louder and more urgent than the last. Then there came a point where i whistled and there was no answer. I whistled again. Only silence. The animal was dead. I knew it was not my place to take wild prey out of the mouth of a wild predator. I had to worry about the animals i was responsible for and leave the wild ones to them. For if i started taking mice and rabbits and possums out of the mouths of coyotes they would need a new food source, and what would be left but my animals that i was raising. So, i didn’t interfere when coyotes took down a deer in my yard or foxes chased down rabbits. However, hearing that dying animal answer me in the darkness, i couldnt help but feel it was talking to me, screaming for any intervention possible, and i did not appear. I had no intention of intervening and still i answered it, provoking scream after scream to leave the body of what would turn out to be a jack rabbit. I wondered if it was Josie. She was a wily sneaky rabbit that ate everything i planted even when i tented and netted and fenced the heck out of it. She was clever and she’d always find a way in. For this reason i didn’t love having her in the yard, but, she would always sit nearby and watch me as i did the evening chores in the summer and i grew to think of her as familiar even if she did annoy me with her appetite for all things i was trying to cultivate. I wondered if i had just listened to Josie die. I wondered if it was a coyote or a fox. I figured fox was most likely since i did not hear any howling or yipping and the coyotes tended to tell one another about their kill when they got something. Also, the fox den was behind the house and the rabbit den was beside the shed. It was bound to happen eventually just because of the proximity of the dwellings to one another. I found a video clip of a man making a distressed rabbit call trying to bring in coyotes so he could shoot them. The dogs and i agreed that this was exactly the sound we had heard and the dogs went ballistic trying to get inside my phone where the noise was coming from. I turned the video off. Listening to that noise made me feel like there was a rock in my stomach. To live in the wild without ruining it you have to resign yourself to take a hands off approach to what goes on in the woods. I was committed to this approach but it did not mean i always found it easy to carry out.

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