It was late the other evening, almost midnight, when I noticed the security light in my garage had come on.
I opened the door and walked outside.
"Anybody here?" I asked out loud. Nothing answered, so I closed the garage door and went to bed.
The next morning, as I left for work, I was greeted with a small surprise on my doormat: animal droppings. So I started searching for the culprit.
I rummaged through the clutter in my garage and finally noticed a pair of eyes glaring back at me from behind a collection of stepladders and yard tools.
It was a raccoon. He was creating a den under my workbench, complete with leaves and some rags I'd set aside for washing my truck. It took a boat paddle and some strong language to persuade him to leave.
Raccoons are among many forms of wildlife seeking new quarters this time of year. My friend Jim Ozier, a Georgia wildlife biologist, told me the next two to three weeks are the busiest time of year for many animals.
"Some of them are getting ready to migrate, which takes extra energy," he said. Huge groups of warblers, thrushes, redwing blackbirds and other birds already are on the move.
"Other things are getting ready to sleep all winter, and they need to store up extra energy or plan to find places with better shelter," Ozier said. "Snakes in particular are taking advantage of this."
With seasonal hibernation just around the corner, reptiles are busily stalking the last meal of the year before turning in. "You'll see a lot of them now in communal areas, like rocky hillsides."
Or cluttered garages.
DELINQUENT DOVE HUNTERS Georgia's first dove season has come and gone, and the Wildlife Resources Division officers from the Thomson district stayed pretty busy.
In all, 2,613 dove hunters throughout the east Georgia area that includes Augusta were checked by game wardens, and 123 people received citations or warnings for various violations.
The most common offense was hunting over bait. Officers charged 48 hunters for that offense and issued 30 warnings. Seven people were charged with shooting over the limit and four received warnings for the same offense.
Other law-enforcement activity included citing 29 hunters who did not have an HIP stamp and five charges for hunting under the influence of alcohol. Officers also confiscated 94 doves.
The next dove seasons on the Northern Zone are Nov. 22-24 and Dec. 10 to Jan. 15. In South Carolina, the next seasons will be Nov. 17-24 and Dec. 21 to Jan. 15.
WEATHERBY RECALL Weatherby is offering a free safety upgrade on all Vanguard brand rifles made between 1970 and 1993 - and have asked owners of such weapons to cease their use until faulty bolts have been modified.
Further information is available at www.weatherby.com or by calling the company at (800) 227-2018. Use of affected rifles before the bolts are upgraded could cause an accident or serious injury.
The company will provide a bolt return kit enabling owners to ship defective bolts to the company, which will repair and return them. Affected rifles bear the following serial numbers: 00001-03810; V00001-VX44065; VS00001-VS23699; VL00001-VL46984; W00001-W0099; and NV0001-NV0099.
Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119, or firstname.lastname@example.org.