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July 6, 2012

Animals know how to protect themselves

A few days ago, I started mowing _ or bush hogging, if that's what you want to call it _ the meadows on our old farm.

The song birds have raised their young, so it's time to mow down the tall grass and get the goldenrod before it flowers and spreads new seed.

As I started up into the upper field with the tractor, several flashes of black and white caught my eye between the front tires. I immediately stopped and watched a family of little skunks slip through the grass. They'd go a few feet and then turn around to see what was happening.

The little critters didn't seem too scared as they peered out at me. One hunched up his back and displayed his natural protection pose with his fluffy, little tail bobbing back and forth, but he didn't spray. At that point, I backed up the tractor a little and let them wander off.

Nature has provided animals with great ways to protect themselves.

Out in the farther meadow, a doe deer gave birth to a little fawn a few weeks ago. She returned to the same spot several times a day. Using binoculars, we could see her little, spotted fawn get up out of the tall grass and feed. A few minutes would pass and mom would disappear back into the woods, leaving the little one quietly hiding in the grass, waiting for her return. She knew her baby was far safer in the meadow than in the forest.

Fawns are born with little or no scent and lie quietly in the open until their mother returns to feed them. After several days, they are strong enough to travel with their mother. Now, mother and fawn both return to the meadow to feed. The fawn runs and jumps in the meadow every day while mom eats the green grasses.

Even though there are a number of foxes and coyotes in the area, a doe will give birth in that same area year after year.

Skunks use their horrific scent to protect themselves. Porcupines have that wonderful layer of spiny quills that keeps them safe from predators, while other animals such as the deer use their natural habitat for protection.

I watched a pair of beaver pups swimming in a flooded pond one morning while trout fishing many years ago. The adult beaver had dammed up a small creek full of nice brook trout in the Adirondacks. The two youngsters were totally unconcerned with my presence as I threw a spinner and worm out into the water, but their mother had other ideas.

The silence of the morning was shattered as she slapped her tail on the water. The little fellows then disappeared into the depths of the pond for protection. I caught a few fish and left the pond, never seeing the young beavers again that day.

Animals know how to survive. But even with the constant changing of their habitats, they learn to adapt and live among us. Right here in this area, we are seeing animals that have never lived here before. Fishers, coyotes and bears are common, and there are more deer and turkeys than ever. Certainly, Mother Nature takes care of her own.

What's Happening?

The Otschedela Council of the Boy Scouts of America will hold its sixth annual Sporting Clay Target Tournament from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. July 21 at the Crumhorn Rod and Gun Club. An awards banquet with Brooks BBQ will immediately follow. For more information, call Tom Wright at 607-432-6491 or email

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at

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