September 30, 2022

Defining Nature and Wildlife

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It was a cold early November day as I sat motionless on the top of a granite ledge some 50-75 feet above the hardwood forest below me. There was a stiff breeze blowing up the mountainside hitting me in the face. The noise of the wind through the trees made it nearly impossible to hear anything else around me.

The same roar of the wind also made it difficult for the doe and her fawn below and to the left of me, to hear me when I got to the ledge and sat down. I was surprised to discover her there after I had settled in.

It became a huge learning experience for me that day. I got to observe for perhaps 20 minutes the actions and reactions of a mother deer and her young one in a completely natural setting. What I saw that day was wildlife in nature.

Another event that happened to me that I wrote about in my son and my book, “The Legend of Grey Ghost and Other Tales From the Maine Woods“, was to witness a momma bear and two cubs frolicking in the beech leaves.

I was deer hunting and had been working my way up through a hardwood ridge as I skirted the edge of a large beaver pond. I began to work up more of a sweat than I cared to, so I sat down on a big beech stump left several years prior by the logging crew that had been in the area.

It hadn’t been but a few minutes when I could hear something below me rustling in the leaves. I watched and waited as the two cubs perhaps no bigger than 30 or 40 pounds made their way up the hillside probably headed for the ledges. Mom was nearby and none of them knew of my presence. I was able to observe these guys for quite a few minutes. What I saw that day was truely wildlife in a natural setting.

I made my way up the old logging road headed for my deer stand. I got to the top of the crest in the road just before the brook that tumbles down off the nearby mountain. I heard a noise and froze in my tracks. Down off the side hill, totally unaware that I was there, a big fisher cat made his way through the brush and came to a stop on the side of the road.

Like a child learning to cross the street, he looked both ways several times, not noticing me as I remained motionless, and then proceeded to cross the road following the brook on his journey to who knows where. This was the first time in my 40 years of hunting, fishing, hiking, camping and being outdoors that I saw a fisher cat. What I saw thay day was wildlife among nature.

This past year I saw something that I had never seen before also. I was on top of a mountain. I had gotten up there by way of an ATV. I had made the hike many times before but with my bad back, I swallowed my pride and took the ride.

At the top of this mountain, you are at least a half mile perhaps more from any water. I had worked my way along a hiking trail that winds its way in around the rocks, dips and gullies. I got tired and sat down. Soon I heard the sound of some kind of animal running through the woods coming in from behind me. It didn’t sound big and in a flash an animal I had never seen before ran within 30 feet of me never stopping. I got to see it long enough to put together a description to my hunting partner and wildlife biologist.

I describe it as being a long cat-like animal. All black and furry but with long hair. Its legs were short and its tail was nearly as long as its body. As I described my sighting, my hunting partner began smiling as he knew what I had seen. It was an otter. “An otter?”, I questioned and he went on to explain to me what one looks like out of the water and dried off.

I had never thought about it before. I had seen many an otter playing in the water and doing their things. This was the first time I’d seen one on top of a mountain far from the nearest water and dried out. Without thinking, I assumed they pretty much lived in the water. What I saw that day was a fine example of wildlife in nature.

I could write another book describing the things that I have been witness to. I certainly consider myself to be a blessed man to have had the opportunity and to have had a father who cared enough to introduce me to all this. But I don’t own it and I don’t control it. It is there for everyone, they just have to go and experience it for themselves.

But what I have done and will continue to do until I die, is something that too few do anymore. Our society is more into canned wildlife and canned nature. Many of our canned nature lovers vehemently oppose canned hunting to any degree, yet they think nothing of canned experiences in the outdoors.

This is not the case everywhere but the act is growing faster than I like. In Maine and New Hampshire, entreprenuers have begun tourist businesses of trucking people around on moose sighting trips. You know this isn’t that bad because so far nobody is setting up the moose for the viewing public.

The tour guides have learned where the moose like to hang out, particularly in the spring and early summer and that’s where they take their clientelle. What would happen if the business or the even the wildlife officials in charge of managing the moose began feeding them in order that they hang around so people can view them?

This is what’s going on in parts of our country. Just yesterday I was reading about elk being fed in Wisconsin in the Clam Lake/Chequamegon National Forest. The people are feeding the elk during the winter so they can go there and see them. State wildlife officials didn’t object until after 18 elk had been killed as a direct or indirect result of feeding the animals. To remedy the problem, they are attempting to procure funds to buy a flashing sign to warn motorists when elk are present.

Is this wildlife? Is this nature? What are we doing? This is all unnatural and threatens the survivability of the wild animals. Is this a zoo? Are zoos not good enough anymore for people to go and view animals? Aren’t we in essence simply creating glorified zoos?

The public is demanding this opportunity and state officials are caving in to the demands. In some cases, like Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the elk numbers have gotten too big and officials want to send in rangers and slaughter hundreds of the animals. Is this what we really want?

I say not with my money. Hunters have funded this activity for too long. We are paying more at the pump, so to speak, each year so state wildlife agencies can continue to provide wildlife viewing areas for the public. I say wildlife viewing areas are great when they are done in a natural setting and not fenced in or lured in by baiting just so people can get their money’s worth.

I have spent nearly 50 years of my life getting my wildlife viewing done and I did it the hard way but the rewards for what I’ve seen will never be replaced by anything else. I say if the public wants the experience of viewing “wildlife” in “nature”, it’s time they got off their dead butts, out of their air conditioned SUVs and headed out into the woods.

Tom Remington