Into the Outdoors: Winter Dilemmas for Animals/Birds


This winter has been nothing short of bizarre. One day, you are wearing a Woolrich, and the next you can go out with a sweater. As this is being written, it is in the low forties.  The weather forecast is calling for possible heavy snow this weekend.  It is a real roller coaster ride, to say the least.

It almost goes without saying that things have not been good for the ice anglers out there.  I know of no safe ice anywhere in this area. Of course, there is still a lot of winter left. While I gave up on ice fishing years ago, I know that there are many folks who love it.

The Allegheny has remained open all winter, which means eagles can still fish. Last week, I saw an eagle circling above the East Brady bridge. A few days later, I saw two perched in a tree. All three were mature birds, complete with snow white heads and tails. I can’t help but think that the two in the tree constituted a nesting pair. For some reason, I always get excited when I see these magnificent birds.

Here is something rather depressing. About this time, a lot of dogs and cats that were Christmas gifts are getting dumped along both highways and rural roads. Apparently, the novelty wears off, and it becomes an out of sight out of mind thing. Some of these animals die, some are rescued and some become wild, often producing totally feral puppies and kittens.  My son and I put out food for stray cats, and a couple of new ones have shown up lately.  

At his time of year, wild critters have a harder time finding food. Two different opossums show up from time to time to dine on the cat food. The really surprising thing is that the cats and possums get along quite well together. Personally, I am very fond of possums. For one thing, I find them rather cute. Also, they eat huge quantities of ticks. In fact, I once saw a photo of a possum eating ticks off the face of a deer. I tried to find it to show you, but I failed.

Raccoons are also frequent winter visitors. The biggest issue with them is their tendency to rip up bags of garbage. They are also notorious carriers of rabies

Birds are also attracted to cat food. This is especially true of bluejays. One would think that the jays are living dangerously by hanging around the cats’ food dish, but that does not seem to be the case. The cats don’t seem all that interested in them, although you do find a pile of blue feathers in the morning once in awhile.

I recently watched a You Tube video dealing with lampreys, a parasitic organism that preys on fish, especially salmonids, such as salmon and lake trout. I once saw one up close, as it was attached to a salmon I caught in Lake Ontario. The guide pulled it off and showed it to my son and me. It was one of the most disgusting creatures I have ever seen, especially its mouth. The guide cut it in half and tossed it back into the lake. We also caught other salmon with circular scars from lampreys. There was a cheap horror movie made about lampreys.  They made for good material.

On a more positive note, the Game Commission has announced that their seedling program will resume this year. Check out their website for more info on the program.


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