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The New Era Paper
Sweet Home, Oregon
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September 5, 2012     The New Era Paper
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September 5, 2012
 

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Page 12 ~:l~e ~ ~r~ - September 5, 2012 Anyone who hangs out in the outdoors more than a few minutes will eventually have an encounter with an a~imal of some degree of wildness. The more memorable clashes with dangerous beasts generally involve on-coming grizzly bears, stubborn black bears, crouching cougars, territorial moose and an- gry humans. But even the smaller critters deserve some attention since they can startle even an expe- rienced outdoorsman. Lesson No. 1 for anyone new to the outdoors: Never throw a rock at a badger. First off, let me offer this dis- claimer, so as to not get reported to PETA. I never meant to hit it; I only wanted to get its attention and its photo. While working for the Forest Service in Wyoming in my younger and more na'fve days, my Scott Staats crew was driving up to the forest when we spotted a badger a little ways off the road. I got out for a closer look but it took off running. 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It's a good thing I ran the 100-yard dash in high school because it was necessary. It was also a good thing I had a 20-yard head start since I arrived at the truck just a few feet ahead of the badger. Disappointed and upset at finding no meat and bone to chew on, he began gnaw- ing at the truck's tires. I concluded that a good pun- ishment for rapists, murderers and lying politicians would be to strip them down and put them in a roomful of irate badgers. That was one of the meanest animals I've ever encountered, except maybe a hunter whose gun-misfired at the biggest bull elk of his life. Another time while camping in Wyoming, I headed off by myself to try my luck with the local cut- throat trout in a small stream. On the way back I decided to save time and cut across a boggy area. After taking a few steps, I jumped up and down and watched the whole area slowly undulate under my feet. Cool, I thought. On my next step the bottom dropped out. I quick!y threw my fishing rod out ahead of me and the next thing I knew things got hazy and it seemed a bit difficult to breathe. I then real- ized I was under the swampy water. I could feel weeds trying to pull me down like hungry monsters. Eventually, I swam through the gunk, got to shore, shook my- self off like a wet dog, grabbed my fishing rod and began catching my breath when, from around the back of a tree only two feet away and at face level, there appeared an angry pine marten. I pictured the crea- ture pouncing on me and wrapping around my face but he only hissed and ran off. When my heartbeat re- turned to normal, I made my way back to camp, thinking of ways to explain how I got soaked and shooed it away, raised the bag a mucked from head to toe in a small few feet higher and went back to creek, sleep. Animal encounters can also be These little creatures have a in the form of aerial assaults as I strange way of sounding like el- discovered during a solo campout ephants on rare occasions, namely in Wyoming while conducting big- just about every time I'm in the horn sheep surveys. Just before outdoors. One dark evening while dark, after finishing up some tasty my wife and I sat around a camp- elk steaks over an open fire, I heard fire, I suddenly heard the sound of some weird swooshing sounds heavy footfalls crashing in the dry overhead, brush only about 10 feet away. I What could possibly be attack- said to my wife with the calmest of ing from the sky? I thought. Me- voices, "Get in the car." teors? UFO's? The government? She didn't hear the noise and I finally determined that the noise asked, "What? Why? Why are you emanated from hungry nighthawks screaming?" I again replied in a dive-bombing on insects, protective tone, "Get in the car, Clasheswithsomeofthesmall- there's a bear right there in the est mammals can make for some brush." of the biggest problems. Mice, for We both headed for the car. I, example, have been responsible for of course, got there first so I could many a sleepless night for me in open the door for her, from the in- the outdoors. When my brother and side. I shined the light over at the I hiked the Appalachian Trail a few bushes and the largest raccoon I've decades ago, we stayed in some of ever seen waddled out into the site. the shelters along the way. On a The raccoon and my wife looked at rainy day, these wooden structures me and laughed. seemed like Hilton Hotels. Several animal encounters Howeverl with mice running I've experienced over the years over our faces at night and getting have occurred around the camp- into our food supply, we tried to fire. I recall a college trip when at avoid the shelters whereever pos- least a dozen of us sat around the sible, especially when they filled fire and four skunks marched arro- with snoring hikers, gantly into camp. In the two national parks along We all froze and they moseyed the trail (Great Smoky Mountains ~right up to us, rubbed hp against and Shenandoah), hikers are re- our legs and even walked between quired to stay in the shelters. It our legs like purring family cats. became a game trying to mouse- We all realized, of course, that proof our food. One night we put these critters possessed Very real our grub in a stuff sack and hung it chemical weapons and startling from the rafters so it dangled about them was the last thing we wanted a foot and a half off the ground. Let to do. Suddenly the fire would pop the critters outsmart us now, we and four tails raised to the hear- said to each other, ens. We held our breath, awaiting They did. We awoke in the the musky spray that, to our relief, middle of the night to the chewing never came. sounds of small teeth on granola. One animal encounter that I'm No way, we thought; that a mouse proud of (and actually made hap- could get in that bag. I shined a pen) took place in the southern Ap- flashlight in the direction of the palachians of North Carolina on a noise and spotlighted a big raccoon backpack trip. One morning, I was on its hind legs chewing through the bottom of the food sack. We See Staats, page 14 WE HAVE VIRTUALLY EVERYTHING YOU NEED| FISHING FOR ALL YOUR SPORTING NEEDS i 610 MAIN STREET, SWEET HOME I 541.367.5~ HOURS: MON.- SAT. 9 - 6 SUN. 10 - 4