Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Walk on the Wild Side

This spring has been very dry. We haven't had any precipitation since April, and the hills are parched. Today we had a few drops, but not enough to even measure. On top of that, the temperature has sunk to about 6 degrees -- some of the moisture came as snow!
After letting the horses into the yard all day for some lawn trimming, I took the big girls for a walk. Here you can see why it's called Big Sky Country.

We were in search of adventure, or at least the unusual. We weren't disappointed. At our first pause in the walk we saw a heron perched in the dugout:

In the larger pasture at the back we found this rock. It resembles some of the picture rocks I've found, though it almost looks as if there is writing on it:

And for those of you unfamiliar with badgers, here's an example of a badger hole. They dig into prairie dog towns, and burrow down until they find nests of gophers. They do this all year, I'm sure in winter they can really feast down there while everyone is hibernating.
In the winter, you can't see these holes as they are covered by snow, and it's easy to fall into them up to the thigh, so it's a good idea to walk slowly as I discovered when I ran down a hill and nearly snapped my leg. Ouch! And of course these are treacherous to horses.

Then we found this hanging on a fence. I don't know how it got there, maybe the wind. But I have no idea how it became so frayed. From a distance I thought it was an animal hanging there, (I've seen gophers impaled on the fences before, perhaps dropped by hawks) and I had to get very close to see that it was actually a large piece of birchbark.

As we got to the back corner, we disturbed a pack of coyotes. I counted six, though there may have been more. They yipped and barked at us, and split into two groups. One group ran around and ahead of us in an arc toward the trees, the others stayed just ahead of us and ran forward and back, leading us on and trying to find out what we were up to. Their yipping sounds like the war cries of Apaches in old movies. And I once read that wild dogs do not bark -- but I beg to differ. If you consider coyotes wild dogs, I can tell you they definitely do bark, just like dogs.
We first saw them in the dead field that borders ours -- see how dry it is, it looks very alien.

On one side of us was this dry field, on the other side at quite a distance was a grove of trees and a pond. When the coyotes yipped and howled and barked, their voices echoed, so that it sounded like another pack was over the ridge. I'm sure they were using this to their advantage, because the group that stayed with us was luring us in that direction. I'm familiar with this area and I know that they use that area as a kind of living space, and so it seemed that they would want us to leave it, even under escort.
Here's one of the escort barking at Cricket:

And here they are engaging all three mastiffs in a game of follow me:

As you can see, they would come pretty close:

We continued our walk, and went up the side of their territory, over the hill to the front, then along that pasture, and down the hill toward home. When I got to bottom of the hill, I looked up and saw three of them peeking over the top, making sure that we had left them alone.