Over the Christmas holidays, we heard the wolf pack howling up on the Lookout hill. Katie, 11, who was with me at the time, has a book about wolves. She asked me if that was the song they sung before hunting. I'm not that good at translating wolf lyrics. Maybe. But when the biggest, deepest howl replied to them from farther to the north, we had to wonder if it was the call to the dinner table, instead. It's a fact of life: timber wolves eat deer. So it is not unusual to find 'kill sites' where the wolf pack has succeeded in securing take-away food.
Last Wednesday, David took himself off to shovel the rink. He returned to report that there were deer tracks across the rink. And wolf tracks. And, no, they weren't playing Pond Hockey. I took the camera down to get some shots of the tracks. It is always interesting in the winter to see who your neighbours are.
There were wolf tracks by the rink, indeed. They look a lot like a big dog, except for being a little more triangular in shape. There were also deer tracks, the sharply pointed toes pointing in the direction of travel. Interestingly, when the big deer start to move at speed, their 'ankles' drop down as they run, planting their "dew claws" (not the right term, but you can see them, at the back of the deer's ankle. In horses, they would be called an 'ergot', there would only be one, and if it ever hit the ground you would be calling the vet.)
This leaves a very different track, as the toes spread wide and the claws leave a double print behind, and we often get asked what made it. This particular track, if you were wondering, is headed to the right. Fast.
So, logically, if you find tracks, you follow them. That was easy, becase the Ravens were calling, and that's always a tell-tale sign. Ravens leave their own distinct 'tracks' -- either their footprints, or -- as here -- the imprint of their wings.
There were at least five sets of wolf tracks leading to the site, in the corner of the bay by the creek, just beyond the Cook-out beach. There was one set of deer tracks leading in. None leading out. And in the photo, one set of people tracks (those would be mine) coming away from the scene. I'm the one in the middle who who dragged my feet... There's two sets of wolf tracks to the right of mine, the deer track just to the left.
Now, some folks get upset to think that the wolves have killed one of the deer they may have seen on our lawns thsi year. We must remind again that this is the way it works, and that there are still too many deer in our woods for the forest to sustain. Twigs and buds have been eaten off the trees already, and it is just January. There will be deer who starve to death this winter, as deer do every winter -- it is one of the way's Nature (who is not always kind) balances numbers.
But for those who are on the verge of tears, let us point out that our single fawn and our twins that practically live in our pockets, our "personal deer", well they are all still here, fit and well. And somebody has to cheer for the wolves, whom we love to hear howling. People come from around the world for the chance to hear wolves howl in the wilderness in Algonquin Park in August. Wolves still howl on the hill. Deer still fill the woods. Ravens circle, and foxes leave their tracks single file, like a strand of pearls, in the snow. From Nature's point of view, all is well with the world.
And yesterday, Steve who is here with the Ancient Mariners Canoe Club, caught a glimpse of a hunt -- something that is very rare to see. In the other corner of the bay, way over beyond Blackberry cottage, he saw a deer running, with wolves in pursuit. So, a little conflicted, we wish the deer fleet of foot and full of luck, while at the same time we whisper to the wolves, 'good hunting.'