As I wrote the headline for this story, I had to stop and chide myself. What would make one day any different for a wild animal? Isn’t everyday a play day of sorts? They have no snarled commutes, do not have to punch a time clock, they don’t have infernal beeping of notices and alarms and if they don’t care for the boss they simply leave without paperwork or exit interviews.
Yet on this day, with a little layer of snow on the ground, I watched the herd come scrambling out of the deep forest in a most joyful way. Some were running, others loped along while still others ambled. The runners worked up the others in the herd and soon the activity thrummed like the school playground at recess. Willy/nilly, to and fro, the helter/skelter hum of activity riled up the herd as they pranced through the snow in the open clearing.
A long-time woodland owner and successful cedar tree grower told us his secret to keeping tender cedar seedlings from becoming dinner for the wildlife. He said that setting up the site ahead of time with the mesh cages in place give the elk time to snoop around the area and have fun playing with the cages. With the elk used to seeing empty cages, it is less likely that they will mess with them after they are protecting the new seedlings that are due to arrive for planting next month. Continue reading
The herd of 70 plus has been spotted almost daily since elk hunting season has closed.
The open fields have been very tempting for the large group and they are not roaming far between their foraging grounds,
During the season, the elk had disappeared deep into the forest and only came out into the clearings once or twice. Now they can be seen all times of the day, from early morning to late evening. One night they ran into my fence and shorted out the electric wire by tangling it up with a non-electric woven fence. Luckily the cows were not in a hurry to leave their green pasture for a walk with the elk herd. We were able to get the fence back easily.
While making pretty pieces of 16 inch wood for the bundles there are many odd sized pieces that come out of the labor. Our wood fired furnace can burn any sized wood up to 3 feet long, but all those small, irregular pieces are a hassle to keep loading into the big furnace.
Rather than chunking them in with the large pieces, we load them into the pickup when heading into town and drop them off at my brother’s place. He uses the small, misshaped pieces for his shop stove. The small pieces are easy to light and are a good size since his stove can only take up to 17 inch pieces. Usually a small fire is all that is needed to keep the shop comfortable while he works on projects.
It is a win, win,win. We get rid of the ugly wood, and he gets enough warmth to be comfortable in his shop, and he converts our elk meat into delicious smoked breakfast sausage, pepperoni and chubs of summer sausage. I really think I am getting the best part of this deal…
The large herd of elk were scattered across the open 60 acre field just beyond the fence line from our show cows. Cows and elk have been known to graze in the same field but they usually don’t get into close proximity with each other.
Closest to the fence were two branch bulls (male animals with horns that have points that branch off of main spike). The branch bulls are the dominate masters of the herd and eventually a battle will determine which of the two masters will retain control.
Being only about 40 yards from the house and less than 10 yards from the cows, this herd was not rushed or spooked by very distant gunfire. They seem to understand that the area is currently in deer season and that they are safe from any kind of harassment.
We counted 11 elk out playing in the field. They were a rowdy bunch, running one way and then another, kicking up their heels and scuffling around with each other.
They would come up to the fence to peek at the cows and calves that we had in the close pasture.
They were a curious bunch and at one point it looked like they wanted to jump the fence and head right into the yard around the house.
The black corner on the lower right hand side is the head of one of the cows. The elk would come up to the fence, less than 10 yards from the cows before scampering off again.
When a loud log truck drove by on the county road the small herd took off out of the field. We watched as they headed out of this pasture, through an old log landing and out toward our property on the other side of the river. That is when this small group joined back up with the rest of their family. It was the large herd, now well over 60 animals strong and eating all the newly sprouted leaves on the clover in our smallest hay field.
The large group of animals when joined with this rowdy group took off running across the small field, over the fence, down through the river, over another fence and into our far field. Still not done running, they crossed the big field, again crossed the river to another field before jumping fences and heading up into the tall timber on the hill.
I nearly broke into the Sound Of Music song while feeding the main herd across the river. It looked like the whole hillside was swarming with the big herd of elk.
If I could of captured a panorama of the hill the elk would be showing en-mass nearly filling a football field across two ridges that range in elevation more than 200 feet with a canyon in the middle.
The herd moved (it really did look more like a swarm rather than 60 individuals) first to the left then to the right before one of the leaders decided that it was time to move on and they took off with great speed over the rough terrain and disappeared over the horizon.
It had to have been the largest of the three herds even though counting individual animals was not possible. I am happy that they decided,for now at least, not to come down into my fields to eat all the grass that is finally starting to grow.