Thursday, April 09, 2015

Wild about wild animals

The people of the world seem to be going wild with various ideologies that are harmful to others, and I need a break from writing about these foibles.  So, why not write about wild animals I’ve encountered?

My first close encounter with a wild animal that I remember was on a Boy Scout camping trip.  I don’t remember if I was a junior or an adult leader at the time.  I was sharing a tent with one of the scouts when we heard scurry along a bottom edge of our tent.  I got out a flashlight and we saw a mouse running around.

Without thinking, I grabbed the mouse and stuck it in my shirt pocket; the shirt was on a hanger on a rope at the top of the tent.  Then I started worrying that the mouse might gnaw a hole in my shirt, but I did nothing.

In the morning, I found my shirt pocket intact, but with the mouse dead inside.  I don’t think I injured it when I captured it; I think it died of fright.  I felt sad, but I felt it was a territorial dispute.

A much later animal intrusion ended more happily.  A bat went down the chimney at our cabin and rustled all night trying to get out.  Lucky bat, it was not cool or cold weather when we would have had a fire below.  I managed to get it out with chimney cleaning rods and duct tape.  I gave the rods a couple of taps on the roof and the bat went gliding off.

I’ve encountered bears many times, and my first Reader submission was a compilation of bear stories.  Black bears are more likely to turn and run when encountering humans, but don’t count on it.  My latest encounter was a bear in our cabin yard.  I stepped outside to take its picture, but I made the mistake of clicking my tongue to catch its attention.  I got its attention, but it chose to run the other way from that eight-foot tall animal standing to the top step.

We’ve seen moose tracks around our cabin, but these have all but disappeared as the trees have grown bigger.  A DNR forester told us that if we want moose we should clear cut.  The moose like to munch on young aspen.  Maybe we’ll have more moose as our recent clear cut fills in.

The most moose I’ve seen was on the Kawishiwi River in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.  My son and I must have seen fourteen moose in one day.  We were at least three canoe lengths from one grazing the water plants.  I wonder if I’ll ever find those pictures in my jumbled archives.

Among the most skittish animals are woodpeckers.  Even if they are twenty feet up in a tree, they often will fly away.  I did manage once to get some pictures of a pileated woodpecker a lot closer than that.  Within a block of our house one was battering away, and I took several pictures almost level with it.

I did sneak up on a sapsucker drumming on the aluminum vent stack of our outhouse.  I guess it was so lovelorn that it didn’t notice me sneaking up on it to within eight feet.

Probably the least shy animals are wild turkeys.  Or is it most dumb?  A few years ago I saw one strutting around on the shoulder of Hwy. 44.  I stopped and took several pictures of it.  It would walk toward me and then back off.  I almost thought it was a domestic turkey.

But this past weekend I missed a flock of turkeys.  I saw a single turkey on the opposite side of the road.  I decided not to stop.  Then I looked to my right and saw about a dozen turkeys on my side.  Thank goodness they were on the shoulder and not on the pavement.  I slowed down but didn’t stop.  I was too tired from cutting up firewood.

One animal that I had to stop for was a huge snapping turtle.  Its shell must have been two feet or more front to back.  I stopped and took several pictures as it made its slow way across the road.  I doubt that anybody would have hit it; the damage to their car would have been considerable.

I do wish that I had stopped for another turtle crossing the road.  I was staying with my sister-in-law in a small town while I attended a conference several miles away.  As I drove to the conference I saw a turtle crossing the road.  I thought of stopping and carrying it across but didn’t.  When I came back in the evening, there was a broken shell only a quarter way across the road.

Another amphibian that fared better was a green toad that got caught in our rain gauge.  I tried shaking it out, but its sticky feet held tight.  I laid the gauge down on the ground, but it still didn’t leave its “shelter”.  I stomped or banged the ground behind it, and it darted out so fast that I almost couldn’t see it.

Deer are both curious and skittish.  I have taken pictures of them as little as thirty feet away looking right at me.  Other times I only have to wave a hand while I’m in the cabin and they will bolt.

I rarely see wolves, but we hear them or see their kills.  We came across a deer carcass on one of our trails. The next time we passed the spot, the carcass was almost gone except for an organ and some hair.

I did get a great “video” of a wolf howl.  You can listen to it on YouTube; look for “Wolves Howling in Brimson”.

You can also find some of my animal photos at

Some year Mel will be organized and find all of his notes and pictures.

This version has a few corrections from the original article at