Friday, November 23, 2012

Inky the Barn Cat

It was twelve years ago this month of November that we first met Inky. Construction on the barn was about complete and we were busy filling the hay storage area with 400 bales of hay for the winter. We noticed a black cat on the ridge above the pond, about 100 yards from the barn, keeping tabs on the activity. As soon as the hay area was full he moved in. Occasionally we’d see him at feeding times either disappearing into the hay stack or scampering back to his watch post by the pond. It wasn’t hard to come up with his name from his coal black appearance.  For Christmas we left him an opened can of cat food. Otherwise we didn’t have much interaction with him. 

By spring he was starting to tolerate our presence and would sit on an upper layer of hay watching us as we went about the horse chores. Sometimes after feeding we would sit on a lower layer of hay giving him the chance to view us from a closer perspective. It wasn’t long before he would sit just above us and I swore I could hear him purring. Finally I gave it a shot and put my hand up where he could sniff it. Instead, he rubbed up against it and we were friends from that point on.  To solidify our relationship we started feeding him and made a nice bed of hay bales in the haystack. Later Don made him an actual plywood bed nestled into the hay. 

It was obvious that Inky was an intact male and every March he would head out in search of love. He would return in a week or so a little worse for wear.  Three years of this behavior was starting to take its toll on him. When he disappeared for nearly a month and then showed up in really bad condition we decided it was time for a visit to the vet for neutering. He’s been a homebody ever since.

Inky struggled to recover from his last trip abroad and even by late fall he still wasn’t in the best of shape. We decided that maybe it would be better if we moved him to the old cabin for the winter. He would be safe, warmer than in the hay, and would have plenty of food he didn’t need to share with the raccoons or birds.  He wasn’t particularly happy about it right off the bat but settled in within a couple of days. Come mid to late April, we packed up Inky and his bowls and he headed back to the barn. 

That became the routine until this spring when we realized that our last horse, Mandy, would not be with us much longer and that would leave Inky at the barn by himself. Without horses to feed twice a day we would have no reason to visit the barn and him. So we decided to make the cabin his permanent home. We came up with a way for him to go in and out on his own during the day and be inside at night.  Inky is an incredibly smart cat and he quickly figured out the new schedule even waiting for me on the front porch when it is time to return to the cabin for the evening.

We have no idea how old Inky is. When he arrived twelve years ago he was fully grown. He may have started his life alone but he is part of the family now and he won’t end his life alone. Who could wish for more than that?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Under Seige

When I undertook writing this blog my goal was to write about living at this wonderful place. I would leave politics and un-related topics out of my blog. But an issue very dear to my heart compels me to deviate from my initial decision. 

Recently the US Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency within the Department of Interior, removed gray wolves from the endangered species list. Rather than relying on scientific data to make this decision, they made the change to placate local interests such as livestock producers and hunters. By removing the wolf from the endangered list, FWS turned over the management of the wolves to local states. Immediately Idaho, Wyoming and Montana enacted hunting and in just 73 days over 350 wolves have been killed. Idaho has vowed to remove 80% of the wolf population from their state. Wyoming has opened 85% of the state to killing wolves by any means at any time. 

This action by FWS and reaction by Idaho, Wyoming and Montana is wrong and flies in the face of scientific data showing that the wolf is an important part of a healthy ecosystem.  The whole point of the reintroduction program in the early 2000s was to return a critical predator to the northern Rockies ecosystem in sufficient numbers in part to balance the elk populations.  The experiment has been a complete success. But for many human hunters who have grown accustomed to easy hunting from their motorized vehicles the wolf is a competitor and one they resent. In addition, some livestock producers using public lands for grazing refuse to provide adequate protection for their livestock and want the wolf gone.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has filed suit to stop the killing and has initiated a petition drive to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to reinstate the gray wolf to the endangered species list. They have a short video clip available for viewing.

I ask you to watch this new 45-second video about the embattled wolves -- and then take action to help save them from slaughter. Please tell Interior Secretary Salazar to call off the guns and return wolves to the endangered species list until the states present a credible plan for protecting them.