Friday, February 25, 2011
OK, OK, Nick doesn't count as wildlife ...
So, when we moved in, we weren't sure what to expect when it came to wildlife. We were told deer and turkey were prolific, but that wildcats, snakes and bears also prowled these parts. Our realtor's advice to me: Just strap on a weapon in the morning and you'll be fine. Said the city girl: Say what?
We moved in in January, a few days after one of Chattanooga's rare snowstorms, providing us a startling roadmap to the mountaintop's critters. I spotted tracks that looked like a small wildcat, a big cat and possibly a bear. But then again, I MAY have been seeing things. We spent the first few weeks being quite alert when we were outdoors -- always scanning the perimeter for any potential danger, always armed during our morning and evening walks.
A few weeks later, a neighbor told us that bears are infrequent (once every two years, someone spots one), but that we'd be overrrun with deer and turkey. But weeks went by and we hadn't seen a single deer or turkey. There was a empty old deer trough on the north side of our property, so we filled it with corn -- with no intent to kill, of course, just to SEE some deer!
Day One: clear signs of deer nose prints in the corn. Day Two: a few more. Day Three: the buffet was clearly open -- half the corn was gone. By Day Five, the trough was licked clean. But we've yet to see any deer. That may have something to do with our unbroken habit of sleeping in.
Now here for six weeks, I have let my guard down a bit. I only rarely scan the yard when I'm out and about. But yesterday, I was shoveling the gravel/sand mix that was unearthed by our new water well (yes, still shoveling and yes, my biceps are making a comeback) when I heard something rustle in the leaves about 50 feet away. At first I dismissed it, but then I noticed that Nick, who'd been napping in a sun patch nearby, had heard it, too.
Now I saw three black triangles -- two looked like ears, the third a tail? A panther, I thought? Not this far north. Maybe a dog. Now Nick isn't known for making quick friends with strange dogs, so I started herding him into the house and off I went to investigate.
The rustling hushed. Then all of a sudden, a handful of black turkeys popped their heads up from behind a leaf pile. The next thing I know, a string of about 25 wild turkeys darted away from me. They moved in a single-file wave, reminding me of the velociraptors in "Jurassic Park."
A couple of hours later, on our sunset walk with Nick, he caught wind of the turkeys. One minute he was with us, the next minute he was gone. This isn't like Nick. He stays by our side quite loyally. Twenty minutes of a panicked search and it was nearly too dark to see anymore. Mason and I had split up, leaving me unarmed and fuming at Nick.
We were just about to halt our search when here comes Nick, running down the path toward me with the biggest damn happy dog smile on his face. I'm still not sure if he was smiling because he had a grand time chasing a scent, or smiling because he was lost and was happy he found me. Poor guy, I promptly swatted him on the ass and told him never to R-U-N-N-O-F-T again.