By Jack McShane
March 18, 7:15 pm to 7:45 pm, 30 degrees, location: over the kitchen sink, activity: washing the dishes,
observing: nothing. About seven acres of fields, forest and lawn, in full view, nothing. No wind, no movement. Not a single critter terrestrial or avian, not on the ground nor in the air, nothing. Where was everybody? Let me guess, going to bed, the diurnal ones, and arising, stretching, the nocturnal ones. There was none in the overlap period which would be the crepuscular, my observation time. Strange, almost eerie, acres of land that in daytime would be seething with life on the ground, on the feeder and in the air, now nothing: a somewhat chilling scenario, a reminder of what it might be like after a nuclear catastrophe. Of course I wouldn’t be around either to observe it, so what is the point? Well, times like this in our natural world occur often. I won’t say why because I don’t know. Is it all coincidental, or is it something that is an important part of the workings of nature? Again, I will say that I don’t know, but I will say that I have experienced it many times. Going back to my younger days when I was, to say the least, an ardent, if not a fanatical, bowhunter who would arise well before dawn, get up in a tree stand and sit or stand for interminable hours waiting and watching, usually mesmerized by the critter traffic around me both on the ground and in the air. Then there were those times when the activity would slowly cease and the world would go silent. Often, it was because of the unseen approach of a predator, at times a hawk, a canine, a feline or even a wandering Homo sapiens. All critters would take note well before my awareness of the usually silent and stealthy approach. Now from behind the kitchen sink I saw nothing but the encroaching blackness of night. Morning brought normalcy with multiple species of birds, squirrels and a cottontail rabbit making their normal routines and two deer browsing the outer field.
A golden eagle has again been seen chasing deer by my friend Lore a wildlife enthusiast and keen observer of the natural world. She watched as an immature golden chased a group of 6 deer just 2 to 3 feet above their backs until they reached the safety of the forest. It then attacked another single doe grazing in another field, which soon joined the others in the safe zone. These very accurate observations have caught the attention of an Audubon hawk-watch expert that stated that golden eagles are known to take down deer in both northern Europe and Asia. This is the first time such a pursuit has been reported in NYS. I had mentioned that fawns could easily be taken, but was reminded by a friend that the golden eagles will all have left for Canada where they nest by the time our fawning season begins in May.
The bird feeder has been taken down because my avian friends have now much less need, and the chance of a destructive removal by a hungry bear. Speaking about bears, the DEC statistics show that 1,295 were taken statewide of which 9 were taken in our town of Andes in the 2018 hunting season. These were lower numbers than those taken in previous years and the reasons given were that many went into den early because of a low mast crop. It is hunger, not cold that is the biggest driver to early denning. I feel that the reported numbers might be low as some hunters do not report their take and a number are killed by farmers who have crop damage and receive nuisance permits. When Theodore Roosevelt, the ardent conservationist and hunter, was presented with a bear chained to a tree for his pleasure of shooting it, he demanded its release. That is how our beloved “Teddy Bear” originated.
On a worrying note, there was a report in the Adirondack Explorer that described a rise in bears with mange throughout the northeast. Mange is caused by mites that dig into the skin and lay eggs. It causes a slow death. The victim’s hair falls out; they slowly starve to death; they just become skin and bones. Locally there was a coyote with mange visiting one of our golden eagle research sites. Wildlife biologists are monitoring the situation closely and searching for potential treatment options. I recommend that if you see a bear or any other animal with the signs of mange, report it to the DEC wildlife division.
“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed,” who else, but Teddy Roosevelt.~