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Wolves, turkeys and free attention

A cacophony of sounds coincided this evening in one unexplainable happening.

I was outside at dusk when the turkeys in the forest started making a huge ruckus.  The last time such a noise came from them, a large hawk flew out of the forest.  But tonight was crazier.  Not only were the turkeys in a frenzy, clucking and screeching, but one of them was screaming uncontrollably.  In my imagination, a turkey was being murdered while the other turkeys scolded the perpetrator.Wild turkeys, not native

In fact, I did once witness this same phenomenon with some small birds.  I walked outside to find a cat that had a wren in its mouth, while dozens of other wrens screamed from the nearby rooftop.

While the turkeys were going wild, Koda, who’d been listening to the birds, began staring westward towards Herman Mountain.  He had picked up the faint sounds of a howling wolf .  As I strained to hear the wolf, several other wolves across the valley began to answer.  The wolves began howling back and forth to each other.  This lasted several minutes–the wolves howling,  the turkeys complaining.  As the turkeys began to settle, the wolves called for a bit longer–then all was still.

Its a mystery to me if there is any connection between these two auditory events.  Its around turkey mating season, so maybe that’s what all the fuss was about.

Yesterday I took a short jaunt around Herman Mountain.  Mt. Herman from my cabinThat mountain is actually named after the man who built my cabin in the 50’s.   Herman Elsbury owned a sawmill near here.  All the logs from my two cabins were from the valley, which he milled.

It took some exploring to discover the high trail a few years ago.  I had used all the deer trails, which climbed from one steep forested area to another with several plateaud meadows between.  The high trail is reached from the backside which is gradual and climbs to the highest plateau.  Its a beautiful hike, and last summer JB showed me how to access the peak.Mt. HermanI haven’t been carrying bear spray yet, although there has been sightings in the Park and on the lower Clarks Fork.  I haven’t seen any tracks around here.  Hiking in the GYE is unlike anywhere else in the U.S.  Its not a jaunt in the woods.  Its a primeval experience.  You have to have all your senses in gear, alert, open, present.  It is a wonderous experience that takes you back to your native, most basic existence.

And since I wasn’t thinking about bears, well, I really wasn’t present.  I was on a little mental holiday.  Until I was jolted out of my reverie.  In the deep snow, about a mile up, suddenly huge tracks appeared.  Not of a bear, but of two, maybe three, massive wolves.  They had run easily up the steep side, my side of the mountain, and were heading I assumed towards the meadow where I’d seen 150 head of elk the other day.

I’m not worried about wolves for myself.  They’d be afraid of me.  But I need to be vigilant when I hike for my dog.  Although I’ve heard that if your dog stays close its unlikely anything will happen.  I’ve also heard otherwise.  And by the size of those tracks, those wolves were a lot bigger than Koda.  Wolf tracks with Koda

The wolf howling nearby tonight may have been the same wolves I saw tracks of yesterday on Mt. Herman.  There are supposedly five in the valley; one has a limp.  My friend saw four of them, all black, crossing the road the other evening.  They seemed to have regrouped since last summer, when the pack was mostly killed off for predation, leaving a mother and her yearling pup.

My walk, and this evening of turkeys, was just another reminder:  this place is a wild place; and it is always, in every moment, deserving of my free and total attention.

2 Responses

  1. Trying this again: for some reason, my browser does not like WordPress, and whenever I open another site, it closes Wp.

    Anyway, great blog you have. I need to do some updating, and will post a link at EcoRover.

    I agree with you about taking extraordinary measures (even spraying biocide) to save whitebarks and limber pines. But not for lodgepoles: the beetle is as natural a part of lodgepole ecology as fire. There is some good literature on this, though it’s generally suppressed by American foresters raised in the Pinchot conservation paradigm.


    • EcoRover, I agree on the lodgepoles. On some of my earlier posts I talked about lodgepoles being fire adapted and now we are living in a fire suppressed environment. Thanks for the comments. You have a great blog with great photos. Wondering what camera you use?


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