John Harrigan: From snakes to boars and oh so much more

JOHN HARRIGAN August 17. 2013 1:58AM


A snake kills two kids in New Brunswick. The 100-pound, 15-foot African rock python somehow gets loose from its cage in a downstairs pet store. The kids were on a sleep-over, and an adult asleep in an adjoining room is somehow unaware.

This story captivated the American media for exactly one day. There was no follow-up that I could find, and believe me, I read assiduously. "Snake Kills Two Boys," and that was it. Did any of you see this story? An inquiring mind wants to know.

Pythons typically bite and hold prey in order to gain a grip from which to wrap and constrict. There would have been a tussle with the first victim, and then the second. Would no one have cried out? And then the snake left the scene. Constrictors typically consume their prey on the spot.

The Humane Society says there have been 17 deaths from constrictors since 1978. This particular snake was euthanized, a persnickety term for "killed."

And, apparently, it was the end of story.

- - - - - -

Mention of woodland caribou in this column sparked quite a bit of mail. Many of today's generations apparently do not know their wildlife history, no criticism intended, because it is seldom taught in schools, generally because of a lack of a curriculum. This is partly my fault, because I've been invited to generate course material, but have been too busy scrabbling for a living to do so.

Shortly after the last glaciers melted, probably around 13,000 years ago - no one is really sure, maybe earlier, maybe later - vegetation of the moss and shrubbery line quickly reoccupied the land. And then came the caribou, happily grazing away.

The first people - and we do not know for sure from where - came quickly thereafter. They devised clever ways to guide, by rock formations - the same type of formations that can still be seen in the far North - the caribou into killing places.

Back 30 years or so ago, I went into the Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital in Colebrook to have a bad varicose vein on my right leg removed, and in there at the same time was an old-timer from Pittsburg. He was a large, gaunt, bald-headed man of 80 or so, and upon learning that he was there, I hobbled down to his room to introduce myself.

I could hear the gears clicking. He talked in the old high country voice. "Be you Fred Harrigan's boy?" he asked in a flat, monotone. Yes. "Be you the boy what lived with Rudy Shatney on Clarksville Pond?" Yes.

I'd sought him out because I'd heard that he'd seen the caribou, and yes, he was the boy taken by his father's hand to go up to the Second Lake dam to watch what turned out to be the last of the Woodland caribou migrate north, never to be seen again. Their habitat had changed, seemingly forever.

- - - - - -

The caribou belonged here and are long gone; wild boar do not belong, but are here.

Every hunting season, I get letters from hunters who've been surprised (that's a mild expression) by the sight of a big, wild pig bearing down on them. "Change your underwear" about covers it.

German-Austrian boars and Russian boars were imported to southwestern New Hampshire around the turn of the last century. Some escaped a private hunting preserve after the Hurricane of '38, and others from wire-snipping along the high fence that guarded the preserve.

Whatever the case, there are wild boar rooting around in towns like Lisbon, Landaff, Lyme, Haverhill and southwestern towns beyond.

Hunters have shot boars as far north as Lancaster.

One of my favorite pictures during my 45-year (and still counting) newspaper career was of Lancaster's Sonny Martin, with a huge boar on the hood of his truck.

In my years on South Hill in Colebrook, I've come onto two scrapes that were definitely not from deer. The patterns were not the same. Thus, when I go muzzle-loading for deer come this fall season, I'll pack, in my fanny pack, a change of underwear.

John Harrigan's address is Box 39, Colebrook NH 03576. His email is

John Harrigan

Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Facebook Follow our RSS feed
Union Leader app for Apple iPad or Android *
Click to download from Apple Apps StoreClick to download from Android Marketplace
* e-Edition subscription required