Into The Outdoors: Predators

This week, we are going to look a bit at predators, and the hunting of same. Last week’s column focused on coyotes, and I think that we should look at some final thoughts on them. Coyotes are not especially likable critters. Recently, I read a survey in an outdoor magazine which included a reader poll. The question was whether or not Pennsylvania should ban coyote hunting contests. I would like to weigh in a little on this topic. I don’t hunt coyotes. The reason for this is that, over the years, I have become more into the idea of if it dies, it fries. I would not want to eat a coyote. Therefore, I don’t hunt them. That said, I do not see anything morally wrong with hunting them. As far as the contests go, I have never looked at hunting or fishing as competitive sports, but I have absolutely no quarrel with those who do. Coyotes are somewhat of a nuisance, as they prey on wildlife and pets, especially cats. (see photo).

As far as predator hunting goes, I vehemently disagree with those who believe that birds of prey should become legal to kill. I can’t imagine killing a creature as magnificent as a hawk, owl or eagle. They do, indeed, prey on small game animals, song birds and pets. I guess I just have a soft spot in my heart for them.

Speaking of owls, despite the horrible weather we’ve been having, I still heard a great horned owl calling the other night. These are the largest and probably the best known of our owls. They measure from twenty-one to twenty-three inches in length. Due to the size and structure of their wings, they are able to successfully carry large prey. The birds have a wide variety of vocalizations, but are best known for their trademark deep hoot. Being a tree-oriented bird, these owls nest above the ground. They sometimes use the abandoned nests of other birds, or nest in cavities in trees. If all else fails, they will build a scanty nest in a tree fork. They normally lay three or four roundish eggs. They are among the earliest of birds to mate, often incubating their eggs in February and March. That means that they will have hungry babies to feed, so they will become more bold in their hunting habits. Chickens, ducks and cats beware. One of my friends witnessed a great horned owl taking an adult cat.

I am especially anxious for spring this year. Last year, I was still feeling the effects of Covid. This year, I find myself feeling pretty good, and I’m anxious to engage in outdoor activities. I spent a lot of time this winter reading about foraging for edible wild plants. I have done it before on a very small scale, but I plan to ramp it up this year. A lot of edible plants can be found in most backyards, but I think it will be fun to venture a bit further afield.

The ice is still holding fast on the Allegheny. Hopefully, when it goes out, it will do so peacefully, without any flooding problems. When the ice is gone, I plan to scratch my itch for magnet fishing. It’s hard to predict weather patterns. As I am writing this, it is warm and raining, but some forecasts are calling for snow overnight.

Well, by the time you read this, we will be less than a month away from the arrival of spring, and even closer to the beginning of Daylight Saving Time. The long wait is almost over.

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