Ernest La Belle lives in Wilson and has written the following wildlife saga, which he titled “You Came to My Door”:
“You came to my door on a cold January afternoon, seeking shelter from drifting snow and hungry coyotes. It had been two years since you were born on the summer range in Grand Teton National Park. Your second set of antlers had long ago lost their velvet and the muscles and sinews of your once stout body are now stretched thin under meager layers of flesh that bare the lines of your rib cage and the sharp corners of your hips and shoulders.
“For 10 days you remained on a bare patch of dirt beside the back door of my house, raising your noble head and struggling to your feet only when I open the door and tell you in my awkward way that you have nothing to fear from my sudden presence in your life.
“The grass and sedges that had sustained you throughout the previous summer and fall are now buried under deep snow, leaving only willows and other sharp-edged browse that have become embedded in your gums, causing lesions to develop and a great wad of undigested food to form in your jaw. For many weeks now, apart from a few twigs, the only food you have taken in your mouth is the snow you have scooped up with your swollen tongue during the inevitable process of starvation that set you on this path to the back door of my house.
“How I grieve for you that you will not again graze under open summer skies or that you will never carry the massive rack of a full-grown bull elk or that the stillness of an early dawn or the soft chill of dusk will not be broken as you signal with your bugling that you are building a harem for all to envy. I carry your spirit with me as I go to sleep at night, only to wake in the morning to find you ever closer to the end of your short life. What am I to do about this?
“Finally I make the call and after I describe your condition the voice at the end of the line tells me that the animal must be put down. We talk about the options, a bullet to the head or sedation and removal to another place. I opt for sedation and removal, knowing the end result will still be the same.
“It is not long before the two olive green vehicles roll into the parking area behind my garage, each with a Wyoming Game and Fish emblem on the door. There are three men, two of them I have met before. I again see in each face the narrow look of a hardened professional who has dealt with many seasons of life and death among the ungulates and carnivores native to the open sage and forest habitats of northwest Wyoming.
“They study you from a distance. You are aware of their presence but barely able to lift your head from the frozen dirt beside my back door. I ask about what comes next. I am told they will dart you with a narcotic a hundred times more powerful than opium. You will then be carried away alive in the back of one of the trucks and will not have died on our doorstep.
“I watch as the serum is carefully injected in a dart which is loaded into the breech of a bolt action rifle. I then take the ranger through the front door of the house and slowly open the back door from the inside. I step back and the shooter leans out and takes careful aim. You are now up on unsteady legs, head down, facing away from the entryway. There is a sharp “POP” as a red-tipped dart penetrates the tough hide of your bony hip. You flinch from the impact but there is no other movement until you slowly lower your hindquarters to the ground. In less than 10 minutes you are down again, forelegs folded under your antlered head, your dark eyes closed for the last time.
“I turn away with a quick silent prayer for this wild creature who had arrived at my door on that January day. It is also a prayer of gratitude that our spirits had become so closely intertwined during this fleeting time in our respective lives.”
Field Notes: Still February, yet it’s difficult not to believe some aspens show a tad bit of bud swelling and that certain days, willows weren’t showing their colors. More certainly, some birds are very active, more vocal.
Roman and Sam Kravetsky are welcoming a Stellar’s jay at their feeders, an unlikely sight in their Porcupine Creek habitat. Roman and Sam have evening grosbeaks; this species is widespread in our region this winter, after some sparse years.
On Thursday, Pat Conner spotted a falcon, species unknown. Pine grosbeaks are showing up in urban settings. Mary Lohuis enjoyed watching red-breasted nuthatches and chickadees hanging on to icicles to drink drops of melt water. Mary also heard three great horned owls conversing in early evening Friday at Skyline Ranch.
Of course, ravens never miss an opportunity to court on any day hinting of spring. Look for ’em.
Beverly Boynton was happy to see a couple of dozen robins on East Broadway in Jackson. Lots of call notes from them to brighten the day. Jennifer Dorsey had three flickers at a suet basket on Sunday. Andy Angstrom found a Harris sparrow on Sunday near Porcupine Creek. In Victor, Idaho, Andrea McKeen has common redpolls back after some years of absence.
There seems to be a marked general absence of Cassin’s finches. Do you agree?
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