Posts Tagged ‘elk’



Just for fun, during the past week, I made a note each time I saw or heard something animal-related. When I look at this list in context, I’m amazed all over again how a change in place changes our conversations. I’ve been thinking back to what the common conversation thread might have been in my past life in a newsroom. Some talk of animals would have filtered in: I did, after all, sit next to the paper’s farm reporter for many years. Mainly, any chit-chat there was time for was about our kids. I believe all of our back-then kids would have enjoyed the following animal bytes.

A  tenor-toned frog has been offering melancholy serenades at bedtime —  and on in to the wee hours. I don’t know much about frogs, but I’ve seen several Facebook posts about their nighttime habits of late. Male suitors seeking springtime mates perhaps? (One of my goals is to learn something with each of my animal posts. I just did: Frogs overwinter more or less hibernating in mud and damp soil.)

Lilly, the barn cat I wrote fondly of a few weeks back, has a tummy sagging with kittens-in-the-making. We can’t help but marvel as her stripes keep, well, expanding exponentially. Her fave napping spot is on the horse blankets atop my saddle in the tack room. I hope that won’t be her chosen birthing spot!

The cougar, North America's largest native cat. WL Miller photo from weforanimals.com

At our monthly book club potluck, mention was made of our host’s neighbor having caught sight of a mountain lion in the driveway they share. It’s not unexpected to hear claims of cougars — North America’s largest native cat, often seen screaming from a cliff in old Western movies – out here in the woods. It’s quite sobering, however, when you hear there’s one only a few driveways from your home. Driveways out here can be miles apart: Still, I wonder if it’s out there watching us as we move about our place.

Okay, I know there is a world of difference (not to mention continents) between cougars and lions. But when I found my husband watching a movie about man-eating lions in Africa the next night, I suggested his timing was quite poor. I did use the puma–in-the-neighborhood theme to my advantage on April 1. I tricked my son into grabbing his camera to take a photo by telling him the mountain lion was drinking from our pond down the hill. April Fools’!

Speaking of predator types, my husband, Jim, described a scene I

Coyotes are generally lone hunters, because they prey mainly on small mammals and rodents. Coordinated pack hunting comes into play when the quarry is large game, such as elk. John Good photo from weforanimals.com

think I’m glad I wasn’t home to see.  From time to time we hear coyotes, usually at night, their plaintive howls and cries following them across the valley floor. Jim was feeding our chickens one morning when he saw a coyote trotting alongside the woods below. He noticed another leave the woods right behind. Then, two coyotes exited the far side of the woods, moving in the same direction as the first pair. He glanced that way and saw elk grazing on the hillside above. The pack had a plan in motion.

We keep guns locked in a safe; but Jim ran inside, and was able to grab one and fire off a few shots over the heads of the stalking coyotes. They scattered, and the elk moved calmly up the hill away from the woods. Why do we feel so protective of the elk? Many farmers don’t.The half-ton animals hurdle over or shoulder through fences to graze in cultivated fields. I want the coyotes to survive, and the elk, too. I know this is all part of nature and the circle of life, and yet….


Wolves remain on America's Endangered Species list. From weforanimals.com

A similar debate about wolves continues here in America’s Pacific Northwest. Wolves remain on the Endangered Species list. For decades, they were absent from our state, historically, their home turf. They are reappearing. Experts say there are 29 in Oregon’s remote northeast. It’s ranch country with cattle herds and sheep flocks easy prey, some say. Others state that domestic dogs kill far more livestock than wolves. Our local NPR station aired a both-sides-now conversation about wolves. Here’s the link, if you’d like to have a listen.

Gotta end with a smile-maker. I attended a Faith and Culture Writers Conference with two women friends. As one picked up her Bible, the soft leather cover stayed in her hand and the bounty of whisper-thin pages of gospels and verse fell away. When she’d picked up and reassembled it all, I noticed a corner that looked chewed-on.

The dog did it, my friend explained: “We have a  67-pound black Lab puppy, named Kohl. My husband called me at work one morning to tell me he’d made a discovery: Kohl had been conducting his own version of Bible study. My husband found the cover of my Bible in our living room, and the Old and New Testaments in our family room.” Guess Kohl was spreading The Word, we joked. Now her Bible is not only well-loved, but a tad dog-eared!  I’m sure Kohl’s been forgiven: Dog, spelled backward, does spell God.

At least a baker’s dozen animal bytes remain from my week of country conversing and eavesdropping. I hope you’ll find the next collection as sweet as, well, a bear claw bakery treat.

Bear claw, an almond-flavored sweet pastry popular in America. From datasource.com

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Nancy, a friend and former-co-worker, who is an animal lover and AMAZING artist, posted this charming video on Facebook. Since we are “into” elk these days (That means observing them as they make their seasonal stay-a-few-days stroll in the meadow below our house.), well I just have to share this video of an elk and it’s puddle. As I commented on my Facebook page, some of this elk’s moves remind me of a cutting horse on a cow; or of my horse, Callie, when we ride through, hello it’s just, a puddle. Thankfully, her moves aren’t as swift as this guy’s. Click on the following link to view the YouTube version. Elk and its puddle video:

And while I’m thinking about it, if you admire animal-related art, take a few minutes to visit Nancy’s blog.  Here’s a sample of her felted animal creations.

"Maka," a felt sculpture by artist Nancy Lorenz, smiles on a beach in Hawaii. The real-life Maka, a Labradoodle, is "spokes-dog" for the Hawaiian Humane Society.


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"Spring's" first-elk sighting, from the deck on a February afternoon. Photo by Adam Sherman.

ELK. We’ve had two elk sightings this week. The first glimpse of elk this time of year is rather like seeing the first Christmas tree lit up in someone’s window in November: Full of promise. If the cows (female elk) are moving back into their traditional calving areas, well, spring can’t be too far off, we tell ourselves.

My son, Adam, spotted the elk in our “backyard” and ran for his camera. He pointed out two very large elk seemingly having a siesta on the edge of the meadow that butts up to a Bureau of Land management (BLM) forest. Powdered in snow, the elk were perfectly camouflaged in the snowed-over grass and trees. They’d placed themselves with their heads and bodies turned due south. We live in grape country, and it’s common knowledge that pinot noir varieties thrive on south facing slopes, because of the warmth that location affords. Elk apparently know that trick, too.

Right before a fresh bank of clouds blotted out the momentary sun, Adam spotted a few smaller, younger-looking elk several paces up the hill: yearlings perhaps; siblings, or as one friend described the elk in Adam’s photo, “young lovebirds.”

The first time I saw elk out here in the “sticks of the sticks,” they were causing a bit of a traffic jam. A  herd of Roosevelt Elk was following a lead cow across the seldom-traveled gravel country road I was driving. The elk were not in single file, but they were in no hurry either. I counted 33. Quite possibly more members of the larger, loose herd (reputed by neighbors to be more than 50) were hidden in the trees.

With any luck, we’ll catch a glimpse of the more elusive bull elk, too. Throughout April and May, the bulls will shed their antlers, which can weigh up to 40 pounds: The blood flow to them stops, and before long, they drop off. Antlers are made up of one of the fastest-growing living tissues. Over the summer, each bull grows a new,  fuller set of antlers – just in time for mating season in the fall. He with the biggest antlers often gets the girl.

Koi, a type of carp, are as colorful as many tropical fish yet able to survive chilling winters. http://www.scenicreflections.com

FISH. Tales of the biggest-fish-ever that got away abound. That wasn’t the kind of story I had in mind when including Fish as a blog category. I was, well, dreaming of something larger than life, along the lines of  Moby Dick or Flipper.  A colorful fish story works, too. Here’s one about a tamer variety of fish, but fish big in their own right.

Very cold weather in recent weeks has in-town (well, as in-town as you can get in a burg that numbers maybe 1,600) folks concerned about the survival of the colorful koi residing in their frozen garden ponds. Mostly orange-red and white, koi resemble shoe-box-size goldfish; however, they are by no means giant goldfish.

Koi, called nishi kigoi by the Japanese, are descended from 200-year-old black carp, or magoi. The flashy varieties we know today can survive beneath frozen water, because they’ve retained the tough constitution of their ancestors – and their smarts.

As the top of their liquid world freezes or turns to ice,  koi sink to the bottom of a pond where it’s warmer, and remain motionless. If I understand the science right, the frozen top layers insulate the water below, giving the koi a place of refuge.

Some koi experts say koi ponds should be at least four-feet deep, a depth that nearly always allows the pond’s “basement” to remain liquid. If the spell of freezing temperatures lasts, koi owners suggest making a sauce-pan-size hole in the ice so the build-up of gases can escape before harming the flashy fish.

Koi can grow two to six inches a year, reach three feet in length and live 25 to 30 years. In the world of koi breeding, competing for top prizes can mean big dollars: A champion might be worth $100,000 or more! And that’s not a fish tale.

Sources: Christian Science Monitor and http://www.pond-doctor.co.uk

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“Dog Befriends Elk”

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