Posts Tagged ‘Wild Animals’

This picture seems to be all that remains of the young black-tailed buck that traveled our woods -- and helped himself to my rose buds -- for two years. I forgave his harvesting my roses when he turned and looked right into my eyes as this photo was snapped. It was taken earlier this year when his new antlers were still fresh in velvet. I imagined that rack being a yard across in years ahead. My guess is he seldom left our place. It is rather a perfect bachelor pad as bucks go: meadows for browsing; ponds and creeks for drinking; woods for hiding; and does for courting. It was his turf until poachers ended his young life the first day of the Fall 2011 hunting season. Photo by James Sherman.

I try not to use the word “hate.” I did my best to raise my son in the art of not using this four-letter word or others  like it. But I’m using that word now: I “hate” deer and elk hunting seasons. More specifically, I hate the people who cheat at it: poachers.

Where’s the sport in raising your rifle as you sit in your truck on a public road at sundown and shoot a deer on private property where faded, but readable, “No Hunting or Trespassing” signs are posted?

Yes, we live in a hillside clearing surrounded by private forests and BLM land; so we expect hunters’ rifle shots to boom through our silence. The first weekend of the fall deer season they seem especially loud. I remind myself it’s a seasonal sport and tell my husband how glad I am it’s not his thing anymore.

I admit hypocrisy here: I don’t often voice my view in our rural social circles. Intellectually, I get the pros of ethical hunting as necessary for wildlife and wildland management. It’s my heart that isn’t convinced.

I’m the mom who read “Bambi” to her son and every time skipped the part about Bambi’s mother dying. My son’s 20 now. But whenever he starts a sentence, “Remember when you…,” I know he’s about to remind me how my revisionist bedtime reading got him blindsided on the playground when friends happened on the “Bambi” storyline. Adam insisted it didn’t go the way his pals said.

That afternoon, Bambi was with us in the car on the ride home from school. As soon as Adam had clicked his seat-belt around his six-year-old waist, it was game-on. “Mom, there’s only one ‘Bambi’ story right? So how come other kids say his mother got killed? And what exactly are hunters? ”

Adam’s words were like a shot to my mom heart. I’d tried to protect him from what I considered a harsh reality. And I’d put him at a disadvantage. It wasn’t the first time I apologized to my son for something I’d said or done. It was the first, and last, time I lied to Adam by omitting pieces of the truth.

I guess you could say deer hunting is a loaded issue for me. And can I just say that I got my Bambi comeuppance this summer. My chocolate Lab, Kobe, loves to find stinky things to carry home from walks in the meadow. This time, he was lagging way behind and pulling something heavy up the hill. He was dragging a skeleton: a head, spine, and partial rib cage. It could only have been a long-dead deer or young elk, taken by coyotes, injury or illness. “OMG” was about all I could say to my quite proud-of-himself dog.

Kobe knew better than to even attempt to bring his find into the house. Reluctantly, he dropped it on our front porch. Where it stayed until Adam got home and moved it out of sight for his mother.  Yes, the whole “Bambi”-on-the-playground incident came up yet again.

As it did recently when we got disturbing news from our other-side-of-the-woods neighbor: He reported seeing hunters taking aim from the road and dropping a forked horn in our woods at dusk. I literally felt as though I’d been smacked by a rifle shot’s recoil.

The young buck was apparently standing alongside the pump house on our private property when they killed it. Did I mention they were shooting toward our house?  The poachers, trespassing, dragged the buck to the county road and heaved it into the bed of their pickup. They sped off before the neighbor could make out the mud-spattered license plate number. I’m no game warden, but I count at least three rules* of the hunting game broken. Not to mention the spirit of the laws. Wonder what great heroic story the cheap-shot hunters told their peers about their illegally taken prize?

Chances are the buck poached was the one you see in the photo. He posed in our front yard earlier this year, perhaps to show off his brand new antlers. Needless to say, he felt pretty safe hereabouts. He probably didn’t stray from our place his entire life. Born here, lived here, died here. RIP.

 *      General Hunting Rules, excerpted from 2011 Oregon Big Game Regulations

Shooting Hours:                                                                                                                                                                                             ■■Game mammals may only be hunted from 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset.

No Person Shall:                                                                                                                                                                                             ■■ Shoot from or across a public road, road right-of-way or railroad right-of-way….

■■ Hunt any wildlife from a motor-propelled vehicle. Exceptions: 1) A qualified disabled hunter may obtain an “Oregon Disabilities Hunting and Fishing Permit” to hunt from a motor-propelled vehicle except while the vehicle is in motion or on any public road or highway.

To Report Wildlife Violators in Oreogn,  Call 1-800-452-7888 or Email tip@state.or.us


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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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“Dog Befriends Elk”

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ELEPHANTS seem to have a handle on how to be happy: They create their own happiness moment to moment, day to day, year in and year out. They think the same as Abraham Lincoln, who used to say, "Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be." We'd be wise to follow suit. OUR LESSON: Decide to be happy, and don't let events, others' comments, finances, long lines at the supermarket, a flat tire, a bad grade, tangled Christmas tree lights, or a rainy day derail you.


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