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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…

Fisher (all photos today by Pam Boppel-Nankervis, KBIC Wildlife Biologist)

Fisher (all photos today by Pam Boppel-Nankervis, KBIC Wildlife Biologist)

OK, who wanted to see photos of wild animals instead of wildflower pictures?  Here’s your chance!  Time to view actual fisher, pine marten, bear and, yes! a moose.

At book club the other night we talked about the pictures of Nancy’s gardens.  Then I shared about that day’s whining and/or humorous blog about not seeing any wild animals.  Pam suddenly piped up with an interesting tidbit.  SHE has photos of several animals from our area, some from her personal camera and some from a remote viewing camera.  Would I like to see them? 

Pine marten up a tree

Pine marten about 30 feet up a tree

We would like to see them, wouldn’t we?  I begged for inclusion in a blog and she nicely agreed.  She even might write a guest blog one of these fair days, as she knows probably ten thousand times as much as I do about the Great Outdoors.  She’s an actual wildlife biologist. 

Bear with cub from remote view game camera

Bear with cub from remote view game camera

I did have a nightmare last night.  And it’s probably all the fault of this wish to see wild animals.  In the dream they materialized rather too close.  Specifically hyenas, mountain lions, tigers and lions.  I The rest of the details are too…frightening…to put in a blog.  The dream ended when I leaped into the lake from an out-of -control boat and swam a mile back to shore.   (Aren’t dreams sometimes so strange?)  Suffice it to say, it’s a good thing that Pam has supplied these photos and we can forget about running into any animals in the woods.  Unless they’re mild-mannered.



And this is not just ANY moose.  We are pretty darn sure this is the same moose that Barry spotted at the end of our road the other night.  The moose I missed seeing, being downstate.  Very strange to think one could be wandering aimlessly in the woods and bump into one of these fellows…

Finally, let’s see if it’s possible to embed a movie in a blog.  Don’t worry, it’s only ten seconds long!  But you can see the mama bear and two cubs cavorting a bit..   No, the message keeps announcing:  “This type of file is not allowed.”  Alas. 

Instead, we shall use our imaginations and imagine the mother and cubs playing together.  As they undoubtedly do every day in the woods, whether we see them or not.

Thank you, Pam, for these great photos! 

P.S.  I am posting this blog early, again, as we’re off to the airport to pick up our son and his girlfriend in Marquette.  I’ve been outside a bit today, but have mostly spent time inside cleaning.  Barry and I are planning a walk along the harbor in the city to fulfill today’s commitment.  And tomorrow will be six months!  Hurray!

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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