Close encounters of the wild kind

I’ve had a very animal-filled day. With horses, sheep, chickens, dogs and a cat you could say every day is animal filled around here, but this day was more about wildlife than the domestic type.

I’ve had a very animal-filled day. With horses, sheep, chickens, dogs and a cat you could say every day is animal filled around here, but this day was more about wildlife than the domestic type.

It started early this morning when I glanced out the window and saw the most amazing sight. Two flickers were doing a mating dance in the driveway. The male spread out his wing and started to trace a circle around the mesmerized female. I wanted to bear silent witness, to take in this rare gift of a glimpse into the ritual of woodpeckers but then I noticed something else. I wasn’t the only one appreciating the dance.

At the edge of the driveway not three feet away from the birds a small eager face peered out of the tall grass; a little face that belonged to none other than Shoeless, our cat. I had never seen him looking so happy. I didn’t need to be a cat whisperer to know what he was thinking. Breakfast! How lucky could one cat get? Two plump juicy birds so absorbed in their dance they had thrown caution to the wind.

As far as Shoeless was concerned a two-for-one special had landed on his plate. But just as he coiled himself up for the pounce a terrible thing happened. The human flung open the door to the deck and scared breakfast away. Both servings! The idiot! What was she thinking? The cat’s mouth hung slack as he stared at me in disbelief. He didn’t look happy anymore. I watched the flickers fly away and hoped they would find a safer place to resume their dance. And then I got some kibble and extra treats for the cat.

In the afternoon I took our little dog Cosmo for a walk around a trail we have carved through the forest that backs onto our house. Usually I talk to Cosmo or sometimes I even sing to scare off any bears with the munchies or grouchy moose. But today I was lost in thought as we quietly rounded a bend and almost tripped over a resting white-tailed doe and her tiny fawn.

We all jumped several feet in the air. Well, except for Cosmo who was snuffling in the grass and didn’t notice the deer at all. The doe ran a few feet up the path and then turned, stamped her foot and made a whooshing noise sort of like blowing air through a tube before streaking off into the forest.

I’ve spent almost half a century wandering these woods and I have stumbled across all sorts of wildlife, but in all that time I had never heard a deer make a sound. Still, I was pretty certain what it meant. I slowly walked over to where she had stamped her foot and made the whooshing sound before she fled and sure enough there was the tiny fawn. Its neck was stretched out flat to the ground in an attempt to make itself as inconspicuous as possible.

I wanted to kneel down and pet its trembling spotted back. I mean, how often do you get an opportunity like that? About as often as you get to witness a flicker’s mating dance. But I knew the mother would return to this exact spot once I was gone and if she caught the scent of human hands on her baby’s fur she might get confused and think the fawn wasn’t hers. Or worse, I would scare the fawn away from their meeting spot. So I did the right thing and left as quickly and quietly as I had arrived.

My third encounter took place in the greenhouse and it was anything but quiet. Hanging from a hook is an old worn out handmade hippy purse that holds an assortment of trowels, small pruners, plant labels and marking pens. I reached in to get a pruner when a mouse erupted from the depths of the purse and ran across my arm! I screamed so loud my throat still hurts. If I was being chewed on by a grizzly I don’t think I could have screamed any louder. Then I ripped out the cat repellent plant I had planted in the greenhouse to keep Shoeless from making unwelcome deposits. It might not seem very fair minded that I’m okay with the cat killing mice but not birds – especially from the mouse’s point of view— but there you have it.

Wildlife; sometimes you’re touched by the sight of them, sometimes you want to touch them and sometimes they touch you. Even when you really, really, don’t want them to.

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from northern BC. You can read more of her writing at www.shannonmckinnon.com.

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