A mother needs to feed her children, and therefore needs to eat a lot to produce the required milk I kept telling myself. And the coati mundi that regularly visited our camp up on the side of Carr Peak in southeastern Arizona has obviously just had babies and was still nursing, though she did not bring the little ones with her on her daily visits. But I had to do something, or so I thought, to prevent her continual raiding of my seven hummingbird feeders scattered like Christmas tree ornaments through the oaks that shaded my site.
The hummingbird visitation population was high, since our camp in Carr Canyon was only one “Sky Island” removed from Ramsey Canyon, the “Hummingbird Capital of the World.” I was already filling the seven feeders daily just to keep the hummers fed. But now the coati was chug-a-lugging an entire feeder in one visit. I would need to buy sugar futures if I couldn’ t discourage her.
She preferred one particular feeder, always going to it and ignoring the others. She would climb up the tree trunk until she was level with the feeder, which hung from a low branch. She would then reach out and grab the feeder, pull it over to where she deftly grabbed it, hold it up with one of her long-clawed paws, and drink it like you would drink a glass of water. But the hummers that had claimed that feeder for their personal food supply did not like it one bit, and buzzed the coati constantly while she fed, but she ignored their threats.
But I had an idea. No coati was going to outsmart me. The next morning I took the feeder down from its regular position. I threw a light line over a horizontal limb of the oak tree about fifteen feet away from the trunk, tied the feeder to the line and hoisted it to about ten feet off the ground, and tied it off to the trunk. She could no longer reach it from the trunk.
As her regular visit time approached, I poured a glass of wine and settled back in my chair to see what she would do now. She arrived on schedule, walked about checking the new arrangement, and without another thought, started climbing the tree. But instead of trying to reach out to the feeder, she kept on going up to the branch that held the feeder, and walked out to where the feeder hung from its line.
She then grabbed the line and raised it hand-over-hand until she could reach the feeder and drank it dry. And though this may sound anthropomorphic, I definitely detected a smirk on her face as she disappeared into the underbrush and was gone.
I knew I was beat, and so to make it easier on me (bad idea) I decided it was simpler to just fill a bowl with sugar water and give it to her. Simpler than having to lower, refill, and raise the feeder every day.
She loved the new arrangement, especially the predictability of her food supply. Another bad idea. She began arriving earlier and earlier, and would move up dangerously close to me (what long, sharp claws you have my dear!), coming right up to the door of my motorhome, if the bowl of water was not out when she arrived. She would follow me as I filled the bowl and carried it out from the campsite to here feeding place.
She became quite aggressive over time in demanding her food, so that my only recourse was to leave. And I didn’t quite want to give up this great boondocking site, but had to—to avoid what could have turned out to be a nasty confrontation. It was great having her visit in the beginning, but I learned my lesson. I knew better than to feed wildlife, but was selfish in wanting to observe this beautiful member of the bear family of which I had little knowledge.
I no longer put food out to attract wildlife, and even cut back on the bird feeders, as the spill over from the feeder attracts critters–especially rodents. I have no desire to beat my one-night record for trapped mice in my motorhome. At another time, unfortunately, I also failed to heed this advice.
Richard Guerry Pirtle
My goodness Bob,
Glad you didn’t get hurt on that one. I like Woodstick’s suggestion, a feeder on a metal pole is certainly a good idea, hardware store gardening departments often have long hooked poles for displaying hanging plants that would work quite well.
Good story Bob, makes me want to go to Arizona!
all my best,
Richard Guerry Pirtle
The only thing about that is & check into it, is becoming mesmerized your eyes have to keep moving or this will happen it’s like getting hypnotized to one spot very dangerous!
Enjoyed the story, they are very ingenious creatures for sure. We put birdfeeders on metal pipe and pound into the ground so the critters cannot access them.
“down from it’s regular position”
its, not it’s