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Thread: Notable wildlife encounters?

  1. #31
    Flashaholic Subterrestrial's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    The Mountains (they were calling....)

    Default Re: Notable wildlife encounters?

    There is a lot of open space in my town, so lots of critters around. I go hiking every weekend and walk around a lot of night so "I've seen things". I have so many, let me see how many I can think of off the top of my head.

    One of the most memorable and bizarre happened the day before Thanksgiving, last year. It's not uncommon see coyotes out at night and raccoons are a dime a dozen, of course (I have a family of them living under the building next door to mine and they come out after dark and climb in the oak trees outside my apartment). So it's pretty late and I'm coming back down a hill, past an area where I often see coyotes. I start to hear a sound I've never heard before. It's really strange and I'm certainly on my guard. This is at the tail-end of our three-year drought and food is getting scarce to the point where even mountain lions are starting to creep into human neighborhoods (which is practically unheard of). So as I get closer to the source, I spot two coyotes. The sound is like a cross between a growl and a squeal. It's apparently a raccoon distress call, because coyote number one has the raccoon in his mouth by the scruff of his neck. This isn't exactly a full-size adult raccoon, but it's no little cub either. Coyote number one sees me and starts to run up the street carrying the raccoon in his mouth. I'm like "Really? A raccoon? You're going to eat a raccoon?!?!" Good luck with that. I realize times were tough, but that's pretty damn audacious. As soon as the raccoon stops being scared and remembers that it's basically a little bear, it's going to turn that coyote into hamburger. Never mind the fact that another, much larger adult raccoon (momma?) started chasing after them. And all the while, coyote number two is just standing there watching the whole thing unfold.

    There are mountain lions around here as well and while I've never seen one, I have found tracks and kill carcasses. I've also heard them, which is not the most pleasant experience. They have quite a range of vocalizations and my grandfather who used to hunt a lot always said one of them sounds like "a woman screaming". Well, I have to disagree. It doesn't sound like a woman screaming, it sounds like a woman screaming bloody murder. I heard it one evening as I was heading back to the trailhead and it was the most blood-curdling, bone-chilling thing I've ever experienced. It's apparently a territorial sounding, from what I've read. I'm not afraid of them, if only because I know they're much more afraid of me than I can ever be but I really don't care for that sound.

    Had an interesting encounter with a black bear family this past summer in Lassen Volcanic NP. I had a cold and was making the trek out to King's Creek Falls from camp. The altitude plus having lungs half full of cement (or that's what it felt like) did not make for a pleasant experience but my ordeal soon paid off. On the way back, I passed a group on horseback and they'd asked if I'd seen the black bear sow and cubs in the meadow. I had not at that point. Later I'm back into the forest when I hear cracking and snapping sounds. Whenever I'm in the woods, I know to immediately start scanning the canopy when I hear this, in case a branch (or worse, an entire tree) is about to fall on me. Turns out I'd just stumbled upon momma tearing into a fallen log while her cubs ran around playing. I watched them for a bit and let them cross the trail and get a little distance. When they were far enough away, I cautiously walked past them. As I got closer, momma gave them the signal and they ran up the nearest tree. I passed with-in 10-15 feet of her, cautiously watching me. It was pretty clear that she was in total control of the situation, which was just fine with me. They apparently passed through camp early the next morning (if it was even the same family). I told the story to some friends of mine who got into camp later that week and they were horrified. They asked "weren't you scared?" If you know these animals and understand their behavior, there's nothing to be afraid of. Anything, fear if your worse enemy because when you're afraid you may end up doing something stupid and creating a situation which didn't need to get created in the first place. Besides, seeing a black bear during the day is perfectly normal and most of the time they're too busy to even pay any attention to you. Seeing a black bear at night is a situation in which I would be a lot more wary. These creatures are diurnal, but once they figure out that human's have delicious, high-calorie food that they carry with them everywhere they go, that's when they start to "turn". They switch to nocturnal habits so they can prowl around the campground when humans are asleep and may even begin to display ursine food aggression behaviors towards us. tl;dr DON'T FEED THE BEARS!

    I'm a big fans of redwood trees, so naturally I've been up in Redwoods NP a few times. Despite having stopped several times at key meadows where Roosevelt Elk hang out, I'd never actually seen any until I was heading out of the park on my last day, the last time I was there when I drove past this small neighborhood and people were stopped all along the side of the road. There was a herd of them just grazing. I stopped and watched. After some time, a couple of cows (the matriarchs?) gave a signal and the herd started to slowly make their way across the road and back into the woods. They were mostly cows, a few young bulls and one great big bull who was obviously the patriarch. We waited and watched to make sure they made it across the road, then he followed them. His rack of antlers was almost as tall as the slide-in camper on the back of the pick-up he walked past and when he reached the split rail fence on the other side, he just stepped over it like it wasn't even there. That was one big elk!

    I've seen bobcats here in the Santa Cruz mountains, but the ones they have in the Sierras are much larger of course. A couple of years back, I was in the high country above the Yosemite valley when some people were stopped on the trail. They pointed out a rather large bob cat near by. He was just sitting there, when he causally stood up, stretched and slowly sauntered off, pretending he didn't know but was fully aware that he had an audience (typical feline). The next year, I was riding on the bike path near lower Yosemite Falls when I saw a ground squirrel frantically scampering over Manzanita branches. I quickly realized what he was running from; a Bobcat! A big one that passed very close to me (but wasn't paying any attention to me). I'd never seen one down on the valley before. Lots of coyotes and bears, but that was the first Bobcat.

    Speaking of Yosemite and the high country, as much time as I've spent there I'd never seen a Marmot until last summer when I was in Sequoia NP where I saw at least one almost every day.

    My first rattlesnake encounter was interesting. It must have been young, because it wasn't very large and I thought it may have been a gopher snake until I got close and saw the pattern on it's back. The weirdest thing was that it's tail was flickering, but there was no rattle. It may have broken off (can and does happen), but I didn't get close enough to find out, since it was waking up and already turning around to see what was happening. I quickly stepped over it and passed. I was talking to a herpetologist later and she said that other snakes who live with rattlers will mimic some of their behaviors for defensive purposes and even rustle leaves with their tail to recreate that sound, but I'm 100% certain this was a rattler.
    Last edited by Subterrestrial; 11-05-2016 at 03:49 PM. Reason: typo

  2. #32
    nbp's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007

    Default Re: Notable wildlife encounters?

    Wowza! Great stories!!

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