Preface: I own about six acres of mostly trees, sitting on a hill, overlooking a pond, but otherwise landlocked on all sides by neighbors. Way the hell out in the Cascades.
Elk don’t care.
I didn’t grow up with elk. I’m from Kansas, originally, the the most we had was deer, so it’s always a treat for me to look out the back window and see a dozen or score of the big critters walking by. (Even more interesting when you drive up, park, and realize that they haven’t moved from the septic field, that you drove by them at a distance of maybe twenty feet, and they are now eyeing you from a distance of about thirty yards as you decide whether or not to make a break for the front door, because they aren’t leaving. It was a weird day, but that’s another story.)
We got a crapton of snow up here over the last few weeks. One of my neighbors clocked about 30 inches in three big storms and one small one. Tuesday night, we got maybe another inch or two. I know because Tuesday day I had broomed all the cars clean finally. The driveway’s too deep for anything but an old Ford pickup to get down, and I keep having to dig it out to make it back up the hill, so the cars have not moved in two weeks.
As a result, we park the truck at the bottom of the driveway on the cul-de-sac. Wednesday, with a fresh layer of powder, Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm) and I were walking down the driveway, where there are tracks from the truck, and some more from a neighbor’s tractor, where he was hauling feed up to my other neighbor even higher on the hill for her horses and chickens.
And then I see a deer track, crossing from the left, over the driveway, and meandering over by barn before she comes back and heads into the trees. Not unexpected. I have a couple of families that live in the area and I keep salt licks out for them.
Then I seen BIG tracks in the snow. Solitary elk has wandered out from the trees where they were bedded down. Walks along the middle of the driveway. A little while later, another one emerges, walks next to the first one, and they go all the way to the bottom of the driveway. (It’s maybe 200 yards long, give or take.)
At the bottom of the driveway, the one elk that had been walking in the heavier snow turns left and heads down to the pond, and maybe the neighbor’s house (dude who owns the tractor).
The other one just kept going straight. She got to the bottom of the driveway and went right down the middle of the street, leaving footprints in the snow (that’s about how much we had down there by late morning.)
At some point, her trail disappeared, because truck tracks ran over them and erased all sign, but she had just been casually ambling along, all by herself. Mind you, the last time I saw the herd a few months about, I counted eighteen butts visible in the open or tucked back one layer in the trees.
Nope, she was off for a meander.
Snow’s the worst in 40 years, according to more than one of my neighbors, about half of whom have lived out here for that long. (I’m the gentrifying generation, and the first of four houses that have changed in the last 3-4 years. Whole neighborhood will probably turn over in the next five years, as these folks are all generally 65-84 now.) The critters around here have had to work at it, to eat and be safe.
I’ve gone through about two big bags of birdseed in the last two weeks, just opening the back door and chucking handfuls onto the back porch and nearby snow to feed everybody. Kitty remains entertained when she’s over in the main house, like today.
I am not an ornithologist. But my wife plays one on television, so she can identify most of the birds. I have had a bunch. Spotted Towhee. Variegated Thrush (if I said that right). All the usual suspects, mostly the little attitude problems. Wife has two kinds of woodpeckers (big and medium sized, one of them “Hairy Woodpecker”) over at her suet feeder.
Gang just came back and is feeding as I write. They had a frantic morning. At one point, half a dozen of them slammed off the sliding glass door, about a couple of hours ago. When I looked up, all the little birds are gone, and there’s a hawk just landing. Not a species I know. Light brown back, smooth-colored chest that looked darker than salmon and a little more pink, but I just got a glance before she turned and chased somebody into the trees.
I don’t remember ever seeing hawks around here. Tried looking her up, and could not find a good picture, but apparently a bald eagle is considered a hawk, according to some of the websites I consulted, so that’s a thing I learned today. Always thought eagles were a thing. Or maybe I misinterpreted a larger group of collective raptors. Ornithological experts welcome to chime in.
But the elk have me laughing the most. I can only imagine me coming down the street from town, to the dead-end that is my driveway, and seeing an elk standing in the road, probably waiting for me to drive around her. Deer are at least polite enough to move to the curb, and have.
What’s things like in your corner of the world today?