This gal crossed our path the other day. A few seconds later, the rest of the family bounded after, too fast for me to catch their pictures.
The master of her clan stood watch afterward, just over the ridge on the right, staring warily at us as we proceeded uphill. Then he too wandered off.
The dog didn’t seem to notice. He never chases deer, apparently preferring someone else to do that.
Deer are nothing unusual in the countryside anywhere, of course. We must be wary for them as we drive the highway. They have been so abundant nearby in town that last year the council decided to have hunters cull the herd. People could reserve some of the venison at the local butcher.
We don’t see them often on our property for some reason, although last year the dog did alert us to one brash creature who had approached the front door to enjoy the flowers in my planter.
My friend Karen tells me that all the houses on her side of the highway seem to have the same lawn ornaments. They reposition themselves from day to day.
One good thing about being here in the winter is that we don’t need to worry so much about bears when we hike. The bears are supposed to be sleeping it off, although a cub has been sighted in town recently. As you can see from the picture at the top, it’s been mild lately. I guess someone woke up before the end of naptime.
Karen told me that people had been seeing lots of elk lately on the ridge to the east. I told Mark about this, and he set up the telescope facing out the east window. We’re not used to seeing them on that particular hillside. Sure enough, there they were.
Seeing “lots of” elk is a relative statement. Our friend Leon, a retired cowboy, says they used to see them up on that ridge by the hundreds when he worked for the Cross Ranch. Ab used to tell him to ride up there and drive them off.
In the warmer months I often scare up these beautiful, elusive creatures when I hike uphill. They always bound away out of sight, of course, but a lone male will often stand guard behind, chattering loudly at the dog and me to stop trespassing. They don’t seem to understand the concept of “public land.”
The wolves and bears have devastated the elk and moose population here, alas. (But why not the deer? Perhaps someone will write in and tell me.)
Moose are so rare that sightings are cause for celebration, while the published oral histories of the area tell us that they were abundant a century ago.
I’ve read about the explanations for this shift in the natural history of the Greater Yellowstone region, but that’s a better topic for another author. I merely note with regret that I encounter far fewer moose than when we came here less than a decade ago.
A few years ago I did see one up close during my morning bicycle ride, to my sorrow. Someone had struck it on the highway just west of Stoney Point. I wanted to hold a funeral.
The dog and I have somewhat different sentiments about the actions of nature’s predators, of course. He often comes trotting after me proudly dragging something far too large to transport, or stops to enjoy a snack from a disembodied joint.
In the warmer months (as you see here) I have to prevent him from indulging in these pleasures, for his own safety. Another good thing about winter is that these treats are frozen, and probably safe to consume.
He knows he’s not allowed to bring them into the car or the house. But I am tempted to import one of these bones back to Brooklyn so that he can show them off at the dog run.
(“You and your silly tennis balls! You think that plastic thing from the grocery store is a bone?“)
© Lois Wingerson, 2016
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