John Harrigan: A bear and a deer play spring roles
My neighbors and I live in territory where bears abound and bears are all around, so we are pragmatic about it all and keep each other apprised. “A bear trashed my birdfeeders,” one of them said, noting ruefully that she'd intended to take down the feeders that very week, and I figured that mine might be next.
The next weekend, I had to go downtown for just a moment (it's always “just a moment” when something bad happens) and uncharacteristically left open the two big overhead doors on the main barn. I returned a scant hour later and found the entire main barn, the adjoining shop and the stables a mess, courtesy of a bear's visit — in broad daylight, no less.
Now, I keep two big trash containers in the shop and barn, not for garbage or table scraps or anything edible or recyclable but for just plain trash, stuff that has no real place in the scheme of things except to eventually get buried in a landfill. But in a household featuring a good number of people coming and going, I can never be certain what gets tossed where, and evidently someone had tossed a food scrap or two — a sandwich crust, a candy wrapper — into the trash barrels, and that was all it took to catch the nose of a hungry bear.
Not content with scattering the contents of two big receptacles all over the place, the bear sought out my rodent-proof birdseed container and made short work of that, too. Anyone who's ever tried to vacuum up 25 pounds of bird seed from a crushed-rock floor will understand why I quickly used up all my swear words and will have to go back (again) to Swear School.
Do I blame the bear for all this? No. I knew he was around, and I left my barn doors open. End of story.
The next wildlife episode was on the more pleasant side. Bob Vashaw, who was helping me recover various fence lines from the ravages of wind, snow, blowdowns and the furious onslaught of spring growth, came in on his way home to report that a doe had evidently dropped her fawn the night before at the top of a little alder swamp inside the main pasture where a friend keeps his three horses. The fawn had hidden in a brush-pile, while its mother hovered nearby.
Now here was a dilemma. The doe had apparently jumped over the fence to find an ideal birthing place inside and would no doubt jump back and forth over the fence to find food for herself and return to nurse the fawn. But when the time came, how would she get the fawn outside the page-wire enclosure?
As things were, she had chosen a fairly safe place to have her fawn. The pasture has a long history of guard dogs protecting sheep, and the coyotes still more or less respect the fence line. Bears, which are one of the main predators of newborn fawns, are another matter, but they are fewer in number. Thus the pasture might be the best place for the fawn to be for a while.
But still, the ifs and maybes of the situation gnawed at me, and in the end I could not escape the vision of the mother leading her fawn around and around the inside of the fence, trying to get it out, and so I moved the horses and opened the gates. And as I did this, I came upon the fawn, hiding in the brush-pile just as her mother had told it to, not moving a muscle, and caught a glimpse of the doe jumping into the dark shade of the alder swamp to watch from just beyond, and I left this little tableau to play out during the night, as they always seem to do.
John Harrigan's address: Box 39, Colebrook 03576, or email@example.com.
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