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Monthly Archives: December 2015

pondwolf-1

Seeing as the wolves were continuing to visit our house almost daily, making it impossible to let the dogs out for even a minute without close supervision, we decided it was time to do something to ease the tension.

It was time to do a wolf hunt.

So we went out on the pond in front of the house and froze some bait into the ice, including a moose foot, a deer hide and some marten carcasses.

The next morning, the moose foot was gone as were several of the marten carcasses. The night had been mild, and the moose foot and a few of the marten didn’t have a chance to freeze solidly into the ice before the wolves scarfed them up. But the deer hide was still there, as were some of the marten.

I decided to keep a close eye out and by late afternoon that same day I had made sure not to venture outside for a couple of hours, had kept the noise level in the house low and hadn’t turned on any lights. Around 4:30 pm, I got up off the couch, and looked out on the pond.

Two wolves, tugging at the deer hide.

It took a couple of minutes to get everything organized and to sneak out on the deck. I took aim at the largest wolf and shot. I could tell I hit it, but didn’t wait around to see if it would fall over. Instead I quickly racked in another round and shot again. With the second shot, the wolf went down instantly, for good. The other one ran off to the right – it was safe, as I had only one wolf tag.

The one I shot was a big male timber wolf, over 7 feet long from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail, and my brother-in-law, to whom I gave it (he’s a trapper), estimated it to be over 100 pounds. It had a bit of mange under the armpits and some wear between it’s shoulders, but  otherwise the fur was reasonably good. We didn’t see any ticks, or any evidence of injuries. The colour was typical gray.

There were wolf tracks on the pond and in the field in the days that followed, but nothing now for a couple of days. Perhaps the other was trying to figure out what happened to it’s mate, or partner. I’m hoping this event has made it and the other wolves in the neighborhood more wary of our house, as in it’s not a safe place to hang out.

Eight deer did show up the other morning, more than I’d seen all year. I’m sure it was my imagination, but they seemed relaxed and happy.

As I have said before, I  like wolves, but I don’t like it when they start to be too brazen. And I love my dogs. A few people I know have been out walking their dogs and had a wolf attack their pet. Several more simply ‘lost’ their dog during the night. I do not want to have that happen to us.

I will buy another wolf tag for 2016. For the rest of 2015, the wolves are safe – at least from me.

otter-1

This time of year, there isn’t a lot of wildlife to see and photograph. So when Lil said there were several eagles and otters showing up every day in the open channel in front of her mum’s place, it didn’t take me long to decide to make the drive, have a visit, and tote along my camera gear. I’m glad I did.

When I arrived, there was nothing to be seen, but when Lil started to think about preparing lunch, eagles started to fly in, followed shortly by a pod of otters. A number of eagles showed up, mostly adults but one juvenile as well , and five otters.

I first tried shooting from the house, but the floor was constantly shaking (people moving and the fridge running) and even with a tripod and a lens with vibration reduction, I had a hard time getting tack sharp photos.

So I went down into the basement and out the door, and had much better luck, although some of the eagles took off and that was a bit of a bummer.

But the otters, especially two of them, were very cooperative.

I didn’t get any photos of them eating. Lil said that on a couple of occasions on previous days, they had been chowing down on clams, and once or twice I did see one of the otters chewing on something. They might also have been after fish, which could be what attracts the eagles, although this time they didn’t do any fishing as far as I could tell.

The eagles and otters for the most part stayed out of each others ways, although one day Lil said they had been chasing one another. I would have loved to have seen that!

I have been seeing a lot of otter sign while out hunting,  so I would have to say the otter population is doing well here. They are usually associated with water, but especially in winter, they often travel long distances over land.

Otters are trapped for their fur, but Ontario’s registered trapline system, whereby trappers are restricted to a specified geography (so it’s not a free-for-all), encourages trappers to manage their trapping area on a sustainable basis. There are also seasons, and limits can be imposed by the government. For a variety of reasons, trappers here don’t pursue otters with the effort they put out for other species, particularly marten.

While otters have from 1-4 pups a year, these weren’t necessarily a family group, as otters like each others company.

I hope the otters stick around. They’re nice to see and fun to watch.

note: I saw later I forgot to turn on the main switch for vibration reduction (VR). The lens has two VR switches, whereas the lens I had been using all fall ( a smaller, lighter, but less powerful telephoto) has only one switch. Oh well, I still got some great photos.

tinybuck-1

The deer season (and moose, for that matter) locally closes here on Dec. 15th. As I’ve been saying, I’m not likely going to shoot a deer, but I have been hunting with friends, who would very much like to fill a tag, as they don’t have any moose or venison in the freezer. For them, time is running out.

We haven’t been seeing much, and most of the deer we have seen have been what we first assumed to be does and fawns. But are they?

This year, I’ve seen some of the smallest antlered yearling bucks I’ve ever come across in my life. I had heard and read of very small antlered deer, but usually ‘button bucks’ are fawns with nubs that have not broken through skin. These deer, though, have tiny, polished, hard antlers. And I do mean tiny. The photo says it all (taken in our yard). At a distance, one would never guess such deer were bucks.

I’m almost positive this is a yearling buck because in August, I saw a yearling buck (it wasn’t a fawn – it had no spots) with what I believed to be its sibling sister in our front yard. It had tiny antlers; they were still in velvet and I recall thinking that they would have to do a lot of late season growing to be even on the small side of what most yearling bucks in this area sport. Seems they didn’t grow.

This isn’t the only deer I’ve seen or heard of with tiny little antlers this year, although the others are not quite as minuscule as the one in the photo. I saw and photographed one in town the other day that might have had an inch of antler on each side, and a good friend told me today he has one hanging around his house that also has antlers that likely measure around one inch. All tiny buttons for sure.

Antler growth on yearling bucks is often used as a measure of the health of the deer herd and the quality of the range.  While the range quality at the landscape scale is in decline mainly owing to the decline in logging activity, all the deer I’ve seen or heard of with the little antlers are from areas where the habitat is still good or, as in the case of the ‘town buck’, where there is ample access to supplemental food. So I think the tiny buttons are mostly a reflection of the severity of the previous two winters.

I suspect the does were in very poor shape when these bucks were born, as the winter of 2013-14 was one of the most severe in terms of snow depth (and cold) since winter severity records started to be kept in this region, which was 1955. To tell the truth, I’m amazed that any fawns were successfully raised following that brutal winter. Last year wasn’t as harsh, but it was still brutally cold and there was enough snow accumulation to spell trouble for the deer, especially fawns.

So even though these deer have tiny antlers now, I think they could still have quite the crown in a couple of years. The fact these deer are even alive (and they do look healthy) tells me they have good genes.

In some circles, the thinking might be that yearling deer with such tiny buttons should be culled, especially if the management goal was to produce large antlered bucks. Given the circumstances, I’d say that in this situation, such a strategy would be a mistake. However, that’s all simply speculation, as there is no management plan for trophy bucks in this area.

But it would sure be interesting to be able to track antler growth of these tiny buttoned bucks in the years to come. Definitely a research need.