Wildness in the neighborhood

On Monday Phil and I took a leisurely morning loop through the lower canyon here, up to the knolls for an overview of  the Lamy and Canoncito valleys, continuing down past the old grandfather oak tree (who may have seen the Civil War troops hustling by one night to join the 2nd day of the battle a few miles away on Glorieta Pass), then heading up the slot canyon that lies directly below the knolls.  Partway through there were some large, shallow pools of standing water with wide muddy borders.

Almost right away, big prints: bear!!  That’s a first, in over 20 years here.  Fingery racoons, too.  And look, cat-like prints: bobcat or cougar? (how big are cougar feet?)  More coons, plus dogs or coyotes.  Then: woah….HUGE cat prints, cougar for sure!

The next day I called Ann, a friend way into tracking and primitive skills, and we spent a couple hours peering at the crazy accumulation of prints alongside three of these pools, confirming my original hunches with the careful questions and comparisons of true tracking.  There was a wild tangle of prints stretching along fifty feet of canyon floor, including an enlongated smoosh-print where the bear came down from the steep rocky slopes above. As we prepared to leave, Ann paused and turned our attention to imagining the print-makers wandering along the water…..

I heard a cougar scream five or six years ago in the arroyo just behind the house, and Barb saw one walk by her studio in the first week she was here, four years ago.  But never before have I seen such pristine tracks, and to have bear and cougar and bobcat all in one magnificent experience, well, that was a major blessing and treat!

It seems that wildlife is more present in recent months: a bobcat loping through the yard three different times, a fox in the hills not far behind the house, deer along the road, coyotes way close many times in the night, a bear ransacking my birdfeeders several times.  We share this home with so many others.

Click through for some more footprints-out-of-time

First cat prints, about 2 inches each direction....bobcat? (YES) cougar? (NOPE)

Cougar! These are about 3 inches from heel to toe, almost 4 inches across...a LOT bigger than the others!

Cute little racoon hands! Lots of these, too.

These were the first prints I saw when arriving with Phil; no doubt at all about who this is! Notice the bobcat under the bear print, and the fainter front bear paw on the left.

Bear at the edge, 'coon strolling through the water

The big picture; pools in the slot canyon with tracks all around!

About Jim

Night sky watcher; a mobile bit of earth's body. One foot lingering in Lower Cañoncito's piñon-juniper foothills at the southern tip of the Rockies, the edge of the Great Plains stretching away from the mouth of our little valley a couple miles downstream. The other foot re-rooting into the Land of the White Pines, home of my blood and bones, amidst the coastal plain and glacial hills and ponds of southern Maine, between the North Atlantic and the bones of the ancient Appalachian Mountains.

Posted on 2011/09/22, in Earth, Jimwords. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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