Life goes on

Mike Bleech Outdoors Columnist

There are no boot prints in the snow along trout streams, no orange-clad hunters kicking brush piles.

Snowmobiles race along marked trails. But seldom do they see the deer that lie under low-hanging hemlock limbs watching them pass. Deer can not afford to flee loud creatures that rarely stop.

Hikers, cross-country skiers, and snowshoers get into some remote areas. But they are few in number and almost never inclined to disturb nature.

Wildlife, other than those that visit bird feeders, is not given much thought.

But life goes on.

Life for wild critters may hang on a thread during harsh winter conditions. During the warm months when people usually observe wildlife, it is a time of plenty. Now is a lean time for most wild animals.

Coyote hunting and simple coyote talking is an entertaining reason to spend time outdoors during winter. Pelts are prime in case you would like to get a coyote pelt tanned. Turned fur-side out and hung at the nose, a coyote hide is a nice addition to a den or man cave. Even in this year when I soon will leave my youth behind (by my liberalized standards), still, I would like to have tanned hides of coyote, red fox, gray fox and maybe bobcat on my office wall. But until I get the first one, a nice coyote, the others are on hold.

Forget any notion of trimming down coyote numbers for the sake of deer. Coyotes always win. When there is abundant food, their numbers increase. If their population is too high for the food supply, they have smaller litters. More cruel, they may die of disease. The current outbreak of mange in black bear and coyote probably relates to high populations of these predators.

It is part of a system that seems to be perfect. Plants and animals may persist for millions of years between mass extinctions, evolving to adapt to slowly changing conditions. Coyote are the current result of considerable evolving. It shows. I do not think current science admits to the full mental capabilities of coyote.

Listening to coyote during winter can tell interesting tales about how like goes on during winter. Coyote are unlike most other wild critters in that this is generally not a lean time. Coyote benefit from the misfortune of other critters.

Our usual method of calling coyotes is to drive lightly traveled roads and stop every few miles to call. We listen for several minutes at stops in case coyote already are talking. The noise tells interesting stories.

On some occasions, we have heard coyote communicating long distance while they hunt. The coyote is a remarkable animal. These very intelligent critters are able to coordinate hunts to increase their chances of killing food. In my mind I can see the coyote chasing a weak deer, taking turns chasing as one coyote pushes the deer past another coyote which then takes up the chase.

The end comes when the coyote converge on the spent deer. From a distance it sounds more like a fight then it really is. You may hear barking and snarling. Then later howling would call the rest of the family to the fresh kill.

A coyote kill can be a gruesome thing. Coyote will get a deer on the ground where they may start eating it before it is actually dead. Some ice fishers at the Allegheny Reservoir have watched this unfold. Even at Chautauqua Lake it has been reported.

This is something everyone should understand. Nature is cruel. The concepts of fairness and justice do not exist in the wild where the number one rule is eat and don’t be eaten. If you think things should be fair and just, it is up to you to see that they are so within your realm of control. But do not allow yourself to expect it in nature.

Nature must be bountiful during winter for some predators because this is when their breeding season begins. Baby great horned owls may not be cute, not at all, but they have to eat just like bunnies.