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Bear and Cub in the woods

I suppose you’ve all figured out I’m crazy about numbers.  Stats.  Useful information.  It’s kind of an obsession, as I explained to a friend this morning.  

We’ve covered the top search engine terms people have used to find this blog.  Now let’s look at the top blogs during the 365 day outdoor commitment. (Although, it seems to me that these top blog numbers are not really accurate.  If someone logs on to a blog and simply scrolls down the page without clicking on the actual title of the blog or the comments, no “hit” is registered in the statistics of a particular blog.)

#1 is Some Like It Funny and Some Like It Serious  (1,247 hits) and #3 is Repeating myself like a broken record, record, record (or CD, CD, CD) (393 hits).  Those two don’t really “count” as random top blogs because these were the blogs featured on the home page of  The #2 top blog isn’t really a blog at all.  It’s the “About”  (612 hits) story which explains what this blog is about. 

#4 is Fisher, Pine Marten, Bear and Moose  (326 hits) which features photographs by Pam Boppel-Nankervis, a local wildlife biologist.  The first photo (up above) was captured by a game camera. 

The mysterious inside of an oak gall

#5 is The gall of that oak tree! That was the exciting day when we discovered that oak trees often grow green balls known as “galls”.  Very educational…for all of us.  Apparently, many, many folks are interested in oak galls. 309 hits for this one. 


Raven’s claw


I am also delighted to tell you that I discovered one of the dead birds hidden within this blog!  At least part of a dead bird.  The above raven’s claw was featured in a post called Dead raven, deer hide, river and stones back in March.  Perhaps all the people searching for “dead bird” end up on this post.  It has had 284 hits. 

The first sucker I ever caught

#7 in the greatest hits series (ha ha, Barry made me use this title!) is A sucker for sucker fishing, written in May.  I’m sure many fishermen have visited this post, wanting to know the secret for catching suckers.  Bet they left not knowing much more than when they started.  Here’s what I remember about that day:  throw the fishing pole into the water and wait until the sucker bites.  Then jerk the pole up and hope that the hook caught the sucker.  End of my knowledge of sucker fishing. 237 hits here. 

Birch bark on snow

#8  An all-time favorite of blog visitors has been Let’s have a scavenger hunt!  (235 hits). The idea for it popped into this brain on the way to the mailbox one day and we had a few eager participants.  The rules:  find some pussy willows, sumac or wintergreen, birchbark, animal scat and an animal.  Photograph all five and email ’em to me.  Some folks opted to put them in their own blogs.  We had so much fun that Amy over at Flandrumhill decided to feature a follow-up contest. Hers was really classy and educational.  

Fisher near pond

(Photo credit for above goes to Pam Boppel-Nankervis.  And this was NOT from a game camera.  She actually got this close to the fisher.  Can you imagine?) 

I hope that you don’t consider this cheating.  Putting in all these old photos and doing wrap ups of the year.  The statistics just beg to be included, you understand.  Besides, I didn’t think you wanted yet another photo of me in that darn snowmobile suit from 1970 filling the wood room.  That’s what we did again today.

Almost forgot to tell you!  More excitement.  The temperature leaped back up into the 20’s.  Once again, we’re living in the banana belt…


The beaver pond

Just think how many things we don’t know about nature.  

For example, I just had to Google the Question “Do beavers hibernate?”  

You would think someone who lives in the North Woods would know the answer to this question.  I thought I knew; maybe, perhaps, yes they do, no they don’t, let’s just get it over with and Google.  

Google pointed its wise finger to several websites which provided the definitive answer:  You Silly Questioner.  Of course beavers do not hibernate.  Don’t you know they eat the inner bark of trees during the winter?  Don’t you know that because the surface of their ponds may freeze solid, making it difficult to get trees, the beaver will chew down extra ones for an underwater food cache located near the den or lodge?  Don’t you know that?  

Pretty impressive sky, eh?

So now you’re wondering about otter, I suppose.  You want to know if otter hibernate.  I am here to tell you “Facts you Otter Know“.  They are definitively active all year-round. Cold weather does not inhibit their behavior.  In fact the author of the hyperlinked article insists that the otter loves ice and snow.  You otter know that.  

Bears hibernate.  You knew that, right?  Well, I am going to rock your world view, because some scientists disagree that bears actually hibernate in the same way as other animals.  That’s because they wake up frequently and their metabolism does not slow to nearly the same degree as, say, a possum or badger.  Why some mama bears even give birth during the winter, requiring a degree of alertness to care for the new cubs.  These scientists prefer to call this behavior denning rather than hibernating.  (It IS amazing what a Google search will teach you.)  

Another source just revealed that bears and raccoons torpor during the winter.  This source said that the raccoons sometimes go out to hunt before returning to their torpor-like state.  My husband can verify that.  He caught a big lake trout ice fishing and was saving the carcass in the snow and the raccoons stole it in the winter.  

Snowy tree, blue sky

Here is a partial list of animals hibernating around here this very minute according to wisegeek: chipmunks, ground squirrels (I beg to differ.  A red squirrel climbed the exterior wall, sat on the window and peered inside while I ‘denned’ at the computer this afternoon), hamsters (not any hamsters in these woods unless they escaped from someone’s house), skunks, bats, and badgers.   

Let us not forget our non-mammal friends, either.  The snakes that scared you last summer are sound asleep in a coma-like hibernation.  When we bring in our wood from the wood pile to wood room, we find shedded snake skins everywhere.  Sometimes we hang them up for decorations in the wood room.  I kid you not.  Back to our hibernation discussion.  Here are some more non-mammals:  lizards, frogs, toads, turtles and bees are all hibernating.   

One bird, the Western Poor Will, is considered a hibernating bird.  I can tell you what birds do NOT hibernate.  The chickadees, nuthatches, finches, blue jays, woodpeckers and juncos have all been seen near the bird feeder already this winter.  They are hard to photograph.  They flutter and swoop and dive so quickly all you can capture is a blurry whirr of wings.   

The chickadees at Catherine’s house yesterday were more relaxed.  You can see the non-hibernating bird here:  


Oh yes.  I would also like to add that I did not hibernate today.  Barry had to go to the Trading Post, so I hitched a ride.  Then he dropped me off about a mile or more from our house and I walked home.  It was cold, but not freezing cold.  Snowy, but not too snowy.  The only non-hibernating animals spotted were ravens lunching on a deer carcass.  (I decided to spare you the deer carcass photo.)

Red winter berries in snow

Red winter berries in snow


Let’s discuss “Danger in the Woods” right in the beginning.  Specifically, the chances of meeting some of our wilder friends, such as mountain lions, wolves and black bear.  How often would you be likely to encounter a snarling pair of slashing claws and hungry (or angry, or disturbed) appetite for humans while sauntering leisurely through the north woods of Upper Michigan?

Any guesses?  Well, my bet is one is much more likely to meet danger in human clothing in any city of the USA than wandering in the woods around here.  Don’t get me wrong; it does happen.  Animals can be unpredictable.  But in thirty years of exploring the backcountry around here, I’ve only encountered two somewhat-scary encounters.

In the first, a snarling pine marten or fisher (please google for pics) scolded  from atop a tall hemlock for at least five minutes before I had the grace and common sense to walk on.  My heart thumped wildly trying to imagine what kind of creature growled so ferociously. 

In the second instance, I almost walked into a black bear poking around in autumn foliage.  Fortunately for awareness, the sound of the snuffling and pawing alerted me.  Although they advise not running away abruptly, I turned tail and sailed out of there faster than fast.  The bear probably never looked up.

And that’s been the dangerous encounters.  If you add road-encounters it gets more interesting.  A moose galloped across the road halfway to Marquette about fifteen years ago.  I thought, “What kind of strange horse is that?” and then watched through the rear view mirror as even stranger photographers leaped from their cars with cameras in hand, chasing the moose for the photo opportunity.  (If I had been writing this blog, I might have been one of those crazy folks….)

Another time, maybe twenty years ago, a panther (also known as a black mountain lion) bounded across the Silver River Hill.  It left the woods, hit the middle of the road with its paws, and dove back into the woods on the other side of the road.  All I saw was a black blur and a long tail.  The tail measured the same size as the panther.  Once again the Mind was slower than the eyes.  “What was that?  Some humongous cat?” 

People have been meeting up with wolves more frequently in recent years, although I’ve only seen one in a field on the way to work.  It stared coolly at the slowing cars.  Some hunters have complained of competing with wolf packs for venison.  People don’t usually allow young children to roam too far in the woods without supervision.  One of my friend’s seven year old sons almost bumped into a coyote while playing down by the river earlier this fall.  He insisted it wasn’t a wolf.  Both he and the coyote took off in opposite directions, fast.

Today I wandered through unfamiliar woods out by where I work.  Now I have to admit something does scare me out there.  Makes me cautious, anyway.  The old-time settlers built shallow wells on their homesteads.  A hundred years later a deer will sometimes stumble into one of these unfilled wells.  There’s rumors of hunters almost falling in.  I walk very astutely in these areas, keeping aware of possible old wells.

Now that we’ve established a relative perimiter of safety in the woods, what do you think of those red berries?  I was SO excited to spot some color in the woods today.  Beautiful red!  It seemed like another Christmas present.  Anyone know what they are?

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