Escape the holiday shopping sprees and give yourself a ‘wildlife Saturday’
A white-tailed doe almost ran into my truck as a buck chased her across the road, but on the snow-covered road I could not stop in time to snap a picture before they disappeared into the thick willows at Camas National Wildlife Refuge.
It was just what I needed after spending Black Friday going to a mall, being physically mauled and then having my finances mauled. I don’t call it “Black Friday” shopping; I call it “mauling” and only do it when necessary.
As I spent five hours driving and hiking around Camas, I found that I was not the only one looking for some real life. Other vehicles, loaded mostly with women, were outside and I wondered if they needed a “wildlife day” also. None of us were disappointed that most of the summer residents of the marshland have headed south as we saw enough of the year-around residents for us to enjoy.
“Did you see the blonde porcupine?” asked a young lady as she showed me a picture as we stopped to chat. I had not.
“Are there any moose out here?” asked another. “I love to see them.” I gave her directions where they would have a better chance at seeing a moose.
After a slow early morning with a few whitetails and porcupines observed, the marshland became alive as a threatening snow storm approached. A pair of Gray partridge on the side of the road became a herd of 14 as I approached. A flock of nine Ring-necked pheasants worked the edge of a dry pond, as they appeared to be getting their craw filled before the storm hit.
With all the activity the predators showed up. Coyotes began howling while the Northern harriers began harassing the pheasant until the colorful gamebirds flew off into the thick reeds. The newly arrived Arctic summer residents, the beautiful Rough-legged hawks, hunted the marsh for a hapless careless rodent. A lone white-tailed buck came out of some willows to show off his head ornaments that he will soon drop.
It was time for a hike, so keeping an eye on the storm I set a quick pace and headed for Sand Hole Lake, the only pond on Camas that has water in it all year long. I was disappointed that I did not run into the herd of elk, but enjoyed watching the Trumpeter swans and Canada geese dropping into the open water.
The storm materialized as well as a weatherman’s predictions – it stalled over the Donkey Hills in the Pahsimeroi Valley and all we got were a few odd shaped snow pellets. I and the wildlife didn’t need to be in a hurry but it is always better to be safe than stupid. Some of our lives depend on it.
On the way home, I thought how thankful I was that after most Thanksgiving dinners are over, stores offer a sardine-making activity for the early shoppers to push, shove and grapple over “door busters.”
This makes the Black Friday a little more bearable for me but still gives me an excuse to enjoy a “wildlife Saturday.”