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Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Six: Case File No. 44-304

Gus walking in grass

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Where We Left Off:

We had an internal affairs investigation into a Mad Pooper incident.

The Killer Inside Me:

Unfortunately, we have another Internal Affairs case before us and this one is far more serious to the rest of the community than the Mad Pooper. Don’t get me wrong—improper pooping as in the previous case can be a sign of serious matters, but it only affects the cats and inside humans. Today, we take a look at a string of aggressive behavior by Detective Gus!

Gus on his leash and Oliver in his stroller on the stone path

It may be improper to make excuses for his brutality (OK, it is but we support each other), but he has been bored with a lack of rodents to exterminate over the winter. He’s also dealing with his own personal issues of his Copycat, Bud, traipsing around leaving his scent close to the house. These scent markers mixed with other intriguing aromas like nearby prey and the late winter blossoms have driven Gus into madness.

black cat Gus sitting a the base of the rock wall where birds are fed.

When I distribute the bird seed, Gus will choose one of the spots and spend a lot of our outside time conducting stakeouts. His expression changes. It must be what a sniper looks like when lying in wait for hours until a voice in their earbud tells them, “Take the shot.” Gus often juggles his attention between different targets. There are moles inside the rock wall and under the ground. He gets mesmerized when he detects one a few inches under the dirt. He’ll rub his cheeks on the grass and do a flimsy, awkward crocodile roll.

The rodents may interrupt Gus’ primary target observations, but not for long. Soon enough, the small birds appear: black-capped chickadees, nuthatches, and dark-eyed juncos. I have noted a peculiarity that the white-throated sparrows and wood thrushes are better at avoiding Gus. I wonder what that’s about. Perhaps my curiosity will be resolved in another case.

orange tabby Oliver in his stroller sitting up tall and alert outside
Oliver prefers to talk to the birds.

Victim 1:

This first report dates back to December 5, 2022. The weather was mild and the birds approved of the regular feedings. They didn’t really need to be fed this often considering the lack of snowfall, but since I like to photograph them and listen to them, it makes sense to offer them food.

Gus in the flower bed (everything still winter dead) with his face down in a suspicious manner

I almost always use the Canon EOS 75mm-300mm lens. It’s not gigantic and as heavy as the type of lens serious birdwatchers use. It’s enough for me to be 30 feet away allowing timid critters their space to get snacks. Gus does not stay back with me. As I said, he gets right up to the snacking stations and stares. I think he believes he’s as invisible to the critters as he is to humans. Humans walk right by him all the time inside the house and get shocked when they see him.

Photos of the Attack

This December report is nearly identical to one of the later ones. Gus lurked next to the rock wall. I was focused on something else. I heard him jump up to the rocks which he’ll do and usually miss his target. This time, he didn’t miss. He snatched a little chickadee in his jaws. What’s different about this one is that it appears to have died quickly.

When I got close to him and saw the damage and declared it deceased, I allowed Gus to play with it. He only does this for a few minutes then he goes back to work. I took the little corpse and put it near Fort Winchester in the hopes that whatever would eat it, would be caught by the trail camera. No such luck.

Victim 2:

This was the case nearly identical to the December one. It was February 23, 2023 and also unusually without snow (we got one snowfall at the end of the month). The situation was the same: I distributed seeds and was focused on one of the other snacking stations trying to get photos of the juncos. I heard a commotion and assumed Gus jumped at a target but missed. Not this time.

The moment Gus caught the nuthatch in his jaws on top of the rock wall.

There were loud, alarming shrieks coming from this poor nuthatch! I tried to get Gus to let it go, but he wouldn’t. It appeared that his fangs (which are some of the few teeth he has left) were doing what fangs are intended to do. The shrill cries continued. I knew the poor thing wouldn’t survive, but no matter how hard I tried to convince him, Gus wouldn’t end the nuthatch’s life quickly and cleanly.

After he released the body, I examined it. It was an adult. I have no idea how to tell a female from male nuthatch. The puncture wounds looked like a vampire had been the killer.

Photos of the Attack

The next day, the corpse was still there. Vultures circle every single day, but these little birds must not hit their radar. The sneaky stray cats didn’t even come get it. I conducted another observation of the body: significant feather loss; blood near the wounds; signs of lividity were dark red on the side that had been the lowest gravity point during the night; I moved the legs and one foot was badly broken.

Unlike victim #1, I left the body of victim #2 where it was. It was still there when the snow covered it on February 28.

Victim 3:

That brings us to one hopeful report. Gus snatched another chickadee in the exact same way. The only difference was I was closer to him and was able to hold him by the harness. He released the little bird but kept trying to lunge at him. If only there was video of me trying to hold Gus by his leash while I reached out for the bird so I could relocate it. Oh, it failed.

Photos of the Attack

Gus with another chickadee in his mouth.

I was successful in keeping Gus away from it, but that smart chickadee hopped and bounced its way away from me. I managed to get my gloves on and tried again. Gus gave up for a few seconds. The chickadee wisely chose to hop into the rhododendron, found a branch, and kept watching me. All signals received on my part. I left it alone and took a photo of it keeping keen eyes on me and Gus.

The next day, I checked the bushes and didn’t find any sign of the chickadee. Possibly a good sign? There’s also the realistic possibility that a predator saw an easy, injured mark. I’m hoping the bird was only stunned and able to fly away.

Case Findings:

Gus was sliding into an ambitious hunter personality that’s different than what I was used to seeing. I had been able to previously say that Gus only killed two birds in six years of adventuring. That changed quickly in one winter! The Internal Affairs investigation doesn’t find fault with Gus for doing what cats do; however, as his human companion, I’ll try to do better reading his body language and stopping his bird assaults before they happen.

Case Status: Closed

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