I had an unexpected and unpleasant surprise last weekend in my garden. All over several beds, some devious night-walking creature had excavated holes; here, there, and everywhere. Not deep holes, most around 6 inches deep, and all had the appearance that a frantic, clawing Tasmanian Devil had occasioned across my garden. I say this despite never having seen a Tasmanian Devil except in the Bugs Bunny cartoons I was allowed to watch in my youth. I wouldn't even know that a Tasmanian Devil existed but for the Warner Bros. cartoon character, but that puts me one up on all of the younger gardeners reading this who have been deprived of even that knowledge. Isn't it a shame that our modern enlightened society now views Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner as violent cinema and indicative of poor parenting?
In Kansas, of course, a Tasmanian Devil would be quite unlikely due to geography, and I have no idea about their actual digging habits beyond what Wikipedia tells me. I have, however, no real evidence as to the culprit since no prints or scat or fur remnants exist to provide clues of identity. I suspected first that Mrs. ProfessorRoush had allowed our Brittany Spaniel to run unsupervised, or perhaps we'd had a visit from our daughter's Italian Greyhound or the neighbor's Labrador, but quick blanket denials were issued by all suspected parties.
As regular readers know, I edge my mature beds with limestone to protect the mulch and contents against the occasional prairie fire. The vast majority of the holes were next to the limestone edging rather than in the center of the beds. Knowing that there are a number of voles and newts that like to hang out under the limestone edgers, my logical conclusion is that whatever sentient organism dug these holes and threw loose dirt all over the mulch and adjacent plants was after food in the form of those small garden delicacies. I suppose it is also possible, since about 10% of the holes were in the middle of the beds (some were close to damaging young roses!), that the culprits were after the fat white grubs that inhabit every spadeful of my soil. With this chain of logical reasoning, I hypothesize a nocturnal coyote as the most likely villain, with perhaps badger or anteater as other geographically possible criminals. For now, my only chance at identification is if the culprit returns and provides me a footprint or poses for my game camera . Maybe it has already since I never identified the animal in the second picture I posted earlier.
I feel somewhat chagrined, however, that barring an escape from the Sunset Zoo in Manhattan, a Tasmanian Devil is quite unlikely in my garden. A resident Tasmanian Devil would be a cool addition to my garden and the carnivorous nature of the creature might help me prevent rabbit and rodent damage. On the other hand, reading that the Tasmanian Devil has the strongest bite per body mass of any predator, and that it can take a back leg off sheep in a single bite, I might eventually regret having the creature around. A badger might even be a better, if not exactly safer, choice.