OUT AND ABOUT

by Dave Hanks



 The snow is fluffily,
			“sifting” down.
		It leaves a thick “carpet-like” covering
				upon the ground.
			 

		Its mystical magic
			that floats on the air.
		And it’s an invigorating joy
				to be out where –
			


		The wonders of life
			move to and fro.
		And lucky we are,
			that much I know,
			


		To have natural treasures
			so close at hand
		And everywhere present
			across sky and land
			


   Winter can be a good time to observe large mammals.
   Heavy snow makes movement inefficient for conserving 
   energy. Energy that is so important for winter survival, 
   when one must compete for the scarcity of available 
   food, and the energy to maintain body temperature under 
   cold conditions. The beasts are reluctant to move
   much, and if you are careful not to stress them, 
   you can get close up and personal.
    

Targee snow and moose

Woodland Surprises

I come around a forest bend and much to my surprise

There before me is a face – I look into its eyes

My pulse rate and blood pressure – So very quickly they do rise!

Is this thing friendly? Or is this my demise?

Backing into cover, a move I feel is wise

Perhaps the surrounding foliage will provide adequate disguise

To stay at an adequate distance, is something I’d advise!

Surprises can be abundant when you are out in our wild lands. I’ve been growled at by a Black Bear that was behind a bush, chased by a bull Elephant Seal, startled by a Western Diamond-Back Rattlesnake rattling by my foot, and charged by a cow Moose – I was lucky that our truck was close at hand. Once in Canada, a bull Moose was foraging in a roadside bog. He seemed unbothered as long as I was on the road. I took two steps down into the bog, and up came his head. He was on the alert – so I stepped back up on the road and serenity returned. A cow Moose can be one of the most aggressive animals you might encounter, especially if she has a calf.

Surprises can be close to home also: like the Moose at rest in my nephew’s back yard, or the occasional moose, coyote, or fox seen in neighboring agriculture fields. Surprises can also be quiet ones – like the Great Gray Owl we came upon, so quietly resting in a snag – photographer’s cameras all around the tree snapping away. Many moments of silent satisfaction were gained at that event.

Animals are very defensive of their individual distance, and for safety sake, you should respect their space. They will usually give you a warning if you are violating this distance. It could be vocal, but more often is through body language. It is wise to always be alert to those signs.

(Dave Hanks)

A big cow Moose – very formidable

A big cow Moose – very formidable

Early Rising Brings Wildlife Pleasure

Dawn is anticipation
And freshness and new born joy

When reading the Audubon Magazine, we noticed an item about the new Chairman of the association’s board of directors. He was asked what it was about nature that gave him the greatest pleasure. He replied, “The two hours between dark and dawn.”

When I was a youth in college, I could have easily slept most of the morning. Now (youth a distant past) I find that I have become a morning person – in summer often arising at 5:00 A.M. to get my work done before the day heats up. Not only is the coolness more conducive for working, but there’s a delicious freshness to the early morning that gives an added amount of vigor.

For anyone who is interested in wildlife, there are other reasons to be out and about early. Those two hours of light (a big chunk before the sun actually rises) provides the greatest chance to experience the nocturnal creatures before they retire for the day. Like me, they are “keen” to avoid the mid-day heat. And it’s so pleasant to have the natural world all to yourself for a couple of hours before the populous emerges from their abodes at about 9:00 to 10:00 A.M. Picture taking goes much more smoothly when you don’t have to worry about disruptions to a tenuous photographic situation.

Moose are a prime example of the two hours of opportunity. To observe them, you’d better be out of bed or the chances to see them drastically diminish. Daylight usually makes them take cover in the willows or other vegetation of their habitat. The Bull Moose pictured was very close by our campsite. If we hadn’t gotten up early, we probably would not have even known that he was around. Many camping neighbors did not see him.

The times of freshness  
Are so short and fleeting
With energy present and then soon gone

Resting after foraging through the night and early morning

A Family of Moose

A promise to our granddaughter, to take her camping without her
brothers, resulted in a two night stay at Spruce’s campground in Brighton
Canyon, Utah. Our campsite was located next to a beaver dam. The beavers would
appear in the evening and early morning to work on the dam or to feed. We even
heard them chomping away in the dark. However, the most excitement came when
this cow moose and her two calves decided to browse along the side of and in the
beaver dam. This happened as we arrived at our campsite, and was an auspicious
beginning. Our granddaughter was very excited and spent much time around that
pond, looking for the beaver and the moose family.
This largest member of the Deer family can stand 6 ½ to 7 feet tall and bulls
can weigh up to 1400 pounds – cows 1100 lbs. In summer moose are solitary but
may gather at a food source in winter. In the Buffalo Valley of Wyoming, one
February, we counted 85 individuals along a 5 mile drive.

Wetland shrubs, that seem to have been pruned, are a sign that moose have
frequented the area. Moose are very mobile and can run at 35 miles per hour.
They are also excellent swimmers, moving through the water at 6 mph. Their
endurance is also good, as they can keep swimming for up to 2 hours.

The Moose rut is in September and is preceded by the shedding of the bull’s
velvet. Dead velvet itches. This causes the urge to thrash it off on bushes. The
thrashing, in turn, stimulates the production of testosterone. Calves are born
after an 8 month gestation period.

Moose will generally move away from you, but a cow with calves can be very
aggressive, even more so than a bear.