I discovered from the wildlife camera that coyotes visited on the first night of the storm before the snow had piled up to travel-stopping depths.
In past years, I've observed that many mammals follow our ski tracks because the packed tracks provide an easier walking surface than the rest of the vast forest. When there's a big storm, we are usually the only humans who use the forest so all ski trails start and end at our house. Consequently, in past years, I've seen all sorts of mammal tracks tromping straight into our clearing in our ski tracks. This winter is our first with a wildlife camera ready to take photos. It'll be interesting to see if a wider variety of species show up in our clearing than in the summer.
Yesterday, Khyra's human sent me information about a tragedy. A pair of coyotes killed a promising young folk singer hiking in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. My internet searches indicate that very few people have ever been killed by coyotes in North America. Our western coyotes are dwarfed eastern coyotes, and the tragedy occurred where huge (up to 60 lb) eastern coyotes roam. This post talked a bit about eastern coyotes.
Our local coyotes flee people. However, they've been known to be aggressive toward dogs. Although I've seen and heard coyotes in our forest innumerable times, I felt scared that I might be attacked in only one encounter that happened a few years ago. I've worried much more about our dogs being hurt or killed than about myself around coyotes.
My opinion is that we should make room for wildlife, even animals who scare and threaten us. We need to be smart about taking precautions (like carrying pepper spray, avoiding their favorite haunts, and controlling our dogs) when we go into the forest. But, I'd never stay home because of wildlife fears or kill wildlife just because of a potential threat.
Intriguingly, in coyotes, attempts to reduce their population through poisoning, shooting, and trapping have had the opposite effect. When coyotes become sparse, they deliver larger litters of pups and more pups survive to adulthood. Consequently, the coyote has flourished despite the efforts to eradicate or reduce their numbers throughout the country. Some people believe that, through our efforts to eliminate coyotes, we've accidentally selected for coyotes that are more clever about avoiding our violence. The survival of the adaptable coyote contrasts markedly from the our effects on other predator populations, like wolves and grizzly bears.
Today, the pups and I skiied on our trails, and it was difficult to tell that we'd tracked those same paths yesterday. Yesterday morning, the snow on our deck looked deep.
This morning, it looked bottomless. That's a normal height deck table almost completely swamped by the snow!
K and R tended to stay in the faint furrow that was the last remnant of my trail-breaking work of yesterday. It was difficult to pick out the trail but the dogs' noses did the job!As I trudged along trying not to tweak my spine again, I noticed the dogs' snouts point upward and their bodies go on high alert as we approached a boulder-strewn area within the forest. The blanket of snow hid the boulders well but small patches of red rock peeked through and objects the size of volkswagons obviously hid below the snow.Cloven tracks of mule deer marched up the slope and around the boulder outcroppings. I honestly don't understand why the deer hang out in this area. It's a lion route, and there isn't much deer food. It would seem safer for the deer to avoid areas with such great lion hiding, ambush, and stalking terrain. However, over many years, a small herd of deer has consistently lived in this patch of forest. They must have some wisdom that eludes me. Below, their tracks head uphill around the boulder field.
R started to investigate, and when I called him back, he almost got lost in the snow depths after leaping off a big boulder.
He made it to me but thank goodness he's black, and not white, or I might have lost him in the snow!
I decided to do an 'out and back' ski so that I could enjoy the fruits of my snow packing efforts on the way home. Look at the nearly 2' tall walls of snow on each side of the ski tracks.
Just before we arrived home, the sky magically cleared, giving me a view of a nearby rocky peaks, now adorned with patches of snow.
The storm is winding down but, once again, it reminded me of the power of nature. Last week, I rode my bike in shorts and animals lolled about with ample food all around them. Today, I wore many layers and wondered how plant-eating large mammals survive. I know that elk cooperatively use their hooves to dig down to grass in meadows and even resort to eating aspen trees. As elk move long distances in deep snow, they walk single-file, leaving a deep track like my ski track. I'm guessing that they take turns at the front, trampling the snow to make walking easier for the other herd members.
Our animals amaze me with their tenacity and clever tactics for survival. By comparison, I have it easy - I simply have to figure out how to keep my spine happy despite the lack of mountain biking. I'm hoping to ride my studded mountain bike tires on our roads tomorrow. It'll take a few days before the trails get packed sufficiently for Mr. Fatback to float over them!