Wildlife

Hawks and Squirrels, Bears and Goats

As the leaves fall the big reveal begins. What exactly have the neighbors across the way been doing all summer with all that building and landscaping? We’ll know soon enough. The golden leaves of fall are quickly conceding to fate and weather, dropping in abundance to coat the ground in a blanket of yellows and reds. And suddenly we see what was screened for months.

I watched a red-tailed hawk flying rapid spirals up and down a white pine tree, wondering for a moment if it was injured, then recognizing the reality of what was happening. The hawk chased a gray squirrel that was scrambling up, down and around the trunk trying to reach the relative safety of the branches above, but found itself stuck in the long exposed trunk. Its only chance was this spiraling scramble. And this is where the hawk proved to be an expert flyer, keeping pace with the squirrel for what seemed like forever. But suddenly it was over, the hawk flying to a nearby branch, exhausted perhaps, but having the food that would keep it alive to fight another day. I picked my jaw up off the ground and left the hawk to its meal.

The big reveal brought another surprise. I knew the neighbor’s didn’t have a dog, but caught a glimpse of an animal walking back and forth on their patio. A look over the fence confirmed it was a goat pacing back and forth near the patio door. A text to the neighbor to inform them of the visitor and a visit from Animal Control and the goat’s owner revealed the truth of the matter: this goat was a survivor, having run away from a black bear that’s been breaking into animal pens for a week now killing chickens and goats. Dangerous, unusual behavior for the bear. And the State of New Hampshire has taken notice, setting traps to try to move this dangerous character out of the area.

And so it is that I finally put a wildlife camera out in the woods, beyond the old stone fence that separates land that I pay taxes on from land that is preserved and funded by all taxpayers. After close encounters with deer, coyotes, fox, opossum, skunks, raccoons, groundhogs, bobcats, fisher cats, snapping turtles, assorted rodents, bear and now a domesticated animal I’ve finally taken the hint. That preservation land is an animal highway between the brook on one side and the larger forest on the other. The land that I pay taxes on was once part of that highway, until I put up a fence to keep the dog from meeting this parade of characters marching by. Having shifted the corridor over to the other side of the wall the least I could do is capture images of the travelers. And I wonder what will we find stored on the memory card? There’s still some time left in 2020, what haven’t we seen yet? Unicorn? Centaurs? Griffons? In this year of years nothing surprises me anymore.

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