Taking Chances

It’s said that desperate people do desperate things. Perhaps the same can be said of the animal kingdom, at least during the winter. Winter has come to the North Country with a vengeance: below average temperatures and a proper snow of 10″. Weather like this burdens wildlife still trying to make a living despite the conditions, sometimes precipitating changes in behavior.

One day out walking, we spied something moving ahead on the trail. It was walking close to the ground. Not a feral cat. We’ve seen a few on the trails before. Certainly not a woodchuck. As we approached closer, the animal didn’t seem to notice us, but kept to its task. My first thought was that it was a good thing that we were not a predators. When it finally saw us, the oppossum ducked into a cozy place under some brush. He had been feasting on a not-so-lucky rabbit. I don’t always think of these noctural marsupials as carnivores, but I guess that’s what was on the menu this bitter cold day.

The cold winters often bring wildlife that are usually nocturnal out in the day time. Owls have been known to hunt during the day as have coyotes. Deer can sometimes be found grazing on the warm south slopes. The other day driving through town we saw a red fox hunting along the road. A remarkable sight to be sure. Its usual habitat is along creeks and other wooded areas. This usually very leary animal moved deliberately along a ditch line, its head down while it searched for its prey. It wasn’t too far from the sidewalk and the road. Surely it must has noticed the walker headed right in its direction. This cold day it too was perhaps a little desperate and taking a bit of a risk.

I thought the same too when I saw the three deer in our yard last night. It wasn’t too late, perhaps 8 p.m. The neighbors had someone clearing their drive with a Bobcat. He noisely went about his work, while the deer crossed our yard and made their way up to the bird feeders straight in the direction of all the noise. Our neighbor feeds the birds through the winter. Certainly this was the prize these deer had in mind. The guy doing the drive probably never saw them there, nor did the deer seem must put-out by his being there either. They had their fill and jumped the creek back to our yard. We watched them with binoculars in a darkened room. It was such a treat to see deer acting like deer and not just bolting away, tails flashing. We watched as one of the deer, a doe ambled across the yard, with her fawn close by. They headed away from us, probably to the next house that feed the birds.

All this goes to show is that it’s probably a good idea to get out there and enjoy these rare glimpses of wildlife.