Reflections on rain for the holiday season

Hello and a blessed Christmas to you all. I will be celebrating with Christmas Eve services in church Monday evening and dinner out with friends a couple times and a rousing Christmas party we had with our Bible class that I teach at my church.

The ritual I look forward to most of all, Christmas morning sitting by the fireplace reading in detail each card I received while drinking coffee and rehearsing all the great outdoor adventures of the past year.

I’m reflecting on all the rain we have had this year past. It poured relentlessly on the opening of rifle deer season which saved the hide of many deer I am sure. Rain seemed to appear at every occasion we had this year past and it was often a great inconvenience but yet it was nothing like Houston, Texas went through and North Carolina and many other places.

We had a rare and ugly event this fall when a black bear attacked a woman in western Pennsylvania. The Game Commission sent out word immediately that they were investigating the incident with tracking dogs and more but as of this writing, I’ve heard no word that they actually located that bear.

Bears in Pennsylvania do not attack without some provocation, intentional or not. As I understand it at this time, the woman had a small dog and was outside of her own home walking the dog. The dog apparently spotted the bear and began to bark at it and run toward it. The woman instinctively ran after her dog to get it out of danger. The bear mistook her running in its direction as a threat and attacked her.

Bears are seldom found close to residences unless there is something there to draw them to it. Usually, that “something” is food of some sort. Birdfeeders are one of the biggest attractants at this time of year. A dog dish on the porch is another, your garbage set out for pickup is another.

If you discover a bear at your bird feeder, don’t try to chase it away. They won’t take kindly to that nor understand just what you mean. Wait until it leaves, then take the feeder inside. If you live on the edges of rural or forested country, keeping your home area free of fragrant food is vital to everyone’s safety.

Not a typical Christmas story, I understand, but bears and all other wildlife do not know about Christmas. Each day in the winter is another day of survival for them. Food is in short supply. And contrary to the hokey Bambi stories, here is how it really goes when food is hard to find or covered in snow or ice. For deer, the big buck eats first, the does and fawns waiting their turns. Incidentally there are no spotted fawns at Christmas time.

When the buck has his fill, the doe may eat. She will kick away her own fawn from the food until she is satisfied. Once the doe has eaten, the young may eat. That’s why the biggest share of winter deaths will be the young.

Winter woods are a stark and dangerous place for wildlife. Deer yard up and congregate in large herds because they benefit from the collective body heat. Turkeys flock together and can stay in the branches of a roosting tree for 8 to 10 days without coming down if food is scarce or ice covered. Many wild creatures spend the entire summer finding and storing food for the winter,

Free running dogs chase deer to the point of exhaustion in deep snow and bring them down and begin eating them while they are still alive. Gruesome? You bet. Deer can hardly keep their feet on ice, they slip and fall many times splitting their pelvises and cannot get up. They make easy prey for coyotes.

Snowmobilers sometimes take delight in chasing deer through the woods, often to the point of exhaustion. Such deer often just collapse because they cannot endure such exhaustion in their weakened condition.

So as we feast on turkey or ham and enjoy our gas heat furnaces, remember that wild things are on their own. The Game commission often cuts down young trees and lets them lie for the deer to browse on because deer are browsers. Dumping out a big pile of corn is not good for deer. Their intestines may become impacted from the unaccustomed food and they will die.

Whatever help we can render for wildlife has to be done in the spring and summer which includes planting shrubs and fruit-bearing trees and grassy plantings. Wildlife conservation clubs and organizations engage heavily in these beneficial activities and hold fund raising banquets throughout the year to finance the cost of equipment, trees, shrubs, fencing, fertilizer and other supplies.

Possibly, this was not the right time to go on this tirade. I know I often write about it. My Christmas wish for you is that besides remembering whose birthday it truly is we are celebrating, please consider supporting however you can those folks who work hard to do habitat improvement work all year long. It is people like The Ruffed Grouse Society, National Wild Turkey Federation, Trout unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Society and many more who work tirelessly to preserve and enhance benefits for wildlife.