The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

March 14, 2014

It's funny how animals can adapt to almost any wild situation

The Daily Star

---- — My wife was coming home from work the other morning. She travels across Gun House Hill Road, which runs from Hobart to Harpersfield. It’s not unusual to see a dozen deer or so on any given day. They’re in the fields and crossing the road, making the trip more or less like an obstacle course.

But the other day, a large coyote sat up on top of a farmer’s round bale not far from the road. He sat there like a king on his throne with his ears up, surveying his territory. I guess he could hunt for breakfast from that high perch easier than traveling through the belly-deep snow.

Animals easily adapt and often take advantage of things like that. There’s a large bobcat that has lived on my hill for several years. I’ve seen him a couple of times. It’s fun to follow his tracks as he hunts through the swamps and woodlands. He’ll wander through the underbrush looking for a rabbit and walk up every downed tree that comes along. Like a bow hunter in a tree stand, you can see better from above.

I leased an old log cabin in the Adirondacks for many years on International Paper Company land. One winter, a huge bear decided to hibernate underneath the cabin. In the evening while we sat around and played cards, we would sometimes hear him moan and snore. He didn’t bother us, and we didn’t think we bothered him. Come spring, he disappeared and didn’t return the next year. I guess our partying disturbed him a little, so he probably decided to find a quieter place to spend his winter.

One of the funniest stories I’ve come across over the years takes place on the Barkaboon Creek down near the Pepacton Reservoir. An older woman has lived along that brook all of her life. She had a dog, a few cats and one old horse.

She would put cat food out on her screened-in porch for the outside cats every day. It wasn’t unusual for an occasional raccoon or skunk to wander in for a quick meal, but Gladys didn’t care. She would watch them come by and share the dish with an old tom cat.

One morning while she was having breakfast, she heard the screen door squeak. Gladys got up to see who was there since she didn’t hear a car approach. Lo and behold, a young black bear had opened the door with his paw and walked right in. The 150-pound black ball of fur strolled right over to the bowl and licked it clean. He finished his snack, looked around for a moment and then casually walked back out.

This went on for several days until the cat decided to make a fuss. Gladys finally put her foot down, though, grabbing her broom to settle the dispute. She wound up and took a swing. The broom caught the bear on the butt, and he high-tailed it off the porch. She chased him away several times over the next few weeks, too. So she stopped feeding the cats on the porch and the bear moved on.

I asked her: “Weren’t you afraid he might have attacked you?”

“Heck no,” she replied. “Been living around these critters all my life. He knew he didn’t belong in here. I just had to show him who’s boss.”

Now I don’t want you PETA people getting all upset. That old corn broom didn’t hurt that bear in the least. Well, maybe that swat on the butt stung for a minute, but it’s a lot like raising kids. Sometimes you just have to get their attention.

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