By Jack McShane

One of our intrepid editors got a call from an Andes person stating that she had recently observed a wolf run across one of our local roads. OK, I realize that a large male coyote can fool one into believing that they just observed a real wolf. However, wolves do not exist in the wild in NYS. An article in the April issue of The Conservationist states the following: “Using genetic analysis, researchers found that eastern coyotes are roughly 64% western coyote, 26% wolf ancestry, and 10% domestic dog”. The DEC does not use the term coywolf instead of eastern coyote. These very prolific and now pretty ubiquitous predators in our forests are larger than the western coyotes and have larger jaws, a pretty awesome beast that will continue to fool many into believing that they have just seen a real wolf. Some also claim to have seen a mountain lion of which there are none here (now). [Some Andes Gazette staff dispute this assertion.]

Speaking of coyotes, there were sixty-one killed in a contest in Sullivan County sponsored by The Federation of Sportsman’s Clubs. It covered Sullivan, Otsego and our own Delaware County. The largest taken were 51, 47, and 46 lbs. They were taken with firearms, traps and dogs. I don’t know what you think, but I think the kill was unnecessary because they primarily prey on rodents, do not pose a risk to humans and rarely take down a deer. It has been shown by research that when coyote populations are put under stress such as this, their fertility rises and instead of having 2, 3 or 4 pups they start having 5, 6 or 7. Nature’s way.

Breaking News: Just after writing the above I was watching four hens and one strutting Tom turkey hanging out under the birdfeeder doing their usual, the hens feeding, paying absolutely no heed to the potential and amorous suitor. About twenty minutes later, there right out in the orchard, was copulation! Real avian porn. A hen had apparently taken heed. I was, only the second time in my life, seeing the act, despite close to fifty years of observation and hunting these fine gamebirds. Go for it guys and gals (better yet, Toms and Jennies in turkey parlance). Still on turkeys, I watched something really hilarious below the feeder: two Jennies feeding below, giving no space for an obviously very annoyed and impatient crow. Finally, and I thought it might happen, the crow gave a tug on the tail of one of the Jennies, to no avail. After three tries with no success, he finally flew off, in, I presume, great consternation.

Wildlife news from my friend Laurie who resides up the road and over the hill from us: She reports two very interesting things: A find at the end of winter was a Tom turkey’s beard, which must have frozen to the tree limb he was roosting on and, when he took flight that winter morn, it was torn from his breast. Later, in a thaw, it fell to the ground to be found and retrieved by this intrepid wildlife enthusiast. (My son feels, “No Way!” more likely it was a remnant after a successful predator attack.) She also reports that after seeing no bluebirds last year (I also had seen none) she had a pair checking out one of her bluebird houses only to then have them disappear. Don’t give up hope, Laurie. I presently have a pair that is giving my favorite house a thorough check-out and they are hanging around. My fingers are crossed. All of the other thirty or so houses have been cleaned out and de-moused, so come on bluebirds!

A very notable event marking Spring is when our olfactory senses are alerted to the wonderful smell of a skunk. I say wonderful because I actually enjoy a small whiff and I repeat, a small whiff. This is probably because, as I drove up to Westchester to new hunting grounds from Long Island as a newly-licensed seventeen-year-old on the Hutchinson River Parkway, that lovely smell from road kills was a reminder that I was now venturing forth into new and yet-to-be-explored territory. There were no skunks on Long Island, at least not back then some 63 years ago. I have now given away my age and the reason I like the smell of skunk. Some, back then, and I guess it was legal, would somehow capture baby skunks and have a veterinarian remove the scent gland and then make pets of them. The word was that they made great pets that would respond to a call and jump up on the owner’s lap (think a lap skunk.)

Finally, in case one of you get sprayed: mix 1 quart of hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of liquid soap; according to Cornell Cooperative Extension, this will eliminate the smell. My advice is don’t mess with the critters in the first place!

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will last as long as life lasts.”  Rachel Carson.~