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Adventures on the Ranch
Nature at it's best !
-----The last several months I have seen 1 bull moose, 6 cow elk, a cow elk and calf a GIANT mountain lion track, baby bear marks, our resident mother deer and her twins as well as the goofiest little spike deer I have ever seen – all less than a mile from our house.
About 5 AM the dogs just started barking like crazy. I knew something was out there and jumped out of bed to see what was going on. A big solid black bull moose was walking up the road. He was right in front of the arena by the agility equipment and just kept walking up the road. He came about 20 feet below the downstairs door and turned around and walked back down the road!! He stopped to check out the A frame and I was scared he was going to hit it with his horns. But he didn't – he just sniffed it and kept on going. WHEW! But he was an awesome animal – so huge and clumsy looking – yet graceful in a way as he effortlessly jumped over the gate on the road. You truly cannot appreciate the size of these animals until you're that close.
-----Then I went to Park Lake and did some fishing, hung out with family, had dinner and then we headed home. I was driving and it was about 8:30 PM – a good time to see animals so everyone was keeping their eyes open when my mom yells MOOSE! I slammed on the breaks and backed up since no one was behind me. We all piled out with our cameras, which of course spooked him. He slowly took off into the woods but didn't go far. I walked along the road – and called to him. He stopped just long enough to get this picture. Not the greatest photo in the world because it was getting too dark . He was much smaller than the one I saw by our arena – but still you can't pass up the opportunity to see one of them up close. I never forget though, they are extremely dangerous animals and not very afraid of people. They are quick to attack and slow to run away from trouble. They are not something to be messed with!
-----About ¾ of a mile from our house there is a huge mountain lion living there. I am sure his territory comes up much closer to the house than that though. 2 weeks ago I was out working on the road – filling in ditches, etc. when we saw his track in the sand on the road. It was huge – bigger than my hand. It has to be a male cat. Think about that – a paw print bigger than my hand. That is a scarily huge cat!! We haven't seen him – and don't want to, but I know he lives there and wasn't just passing through because over the winter with every fresh snow we see his tracks cross the road right in the same area. And where there is a male you can be sure there is a female with kittens not to far away.
-----We have always known there are mountain lions around – but haven't ever seen one this close. There is so much building – new houses going up in the whole area between Clancy and Helena that it pushes all these animals our way. Because we are in their territory really, this is one of the few safe places they can go..... not that I like having cats or bull moose that close, it is one of the facts of living here and people pushing them out of their old territories. So we know he is there now – luckily cats are afraid of dogs and since I am always out with at least 2 dogs I know they would keep a cat away from me so I feel pretty safe. Cautious, but safe.
-----I have also seen baby bear tracks on the road several times. We saw both mom and baby this spring up in a meadow 5-600 yards off the road. They didn't know we were there and we were able to sit and watch them graze in the meadow for awhile. They are coming down now to check out our choke cherry bushes – they love those berries and strip the bushes clean most every fall.
-----5 nights ago I was taking Rhett out to go to the bathroom – it was dusk. Light enough to see images but not much more. I was talking to Rhett and getting ready to take care of Scarlett, so I was being noisy and certainly wasn't thinking about seeing elk! Rhett froze – looked back at me, looked forward again and sat down as if to say to me – Check this out mom! I looked down the road and saw something walking up the road. The horses walk there all the time but I saw immediately they didn't walk like horses – it was ELK! I ran back in the house – ran up the stairs calling my mom – there are elk by the arena ! Grabbed my binoculars and ran back downstairs. We both sat there quietly watching the elk just outside the arena. There were 6 cows, I don't know where their calves were but it was getting dark so maybe they were just out of sight. We watched them until it was to dark to see at all.
-----Well, just before I came busting up the stairs yelling ELK – my mom had stuck brownies in the oven. And Yep, she forgot about them with all the excitement of the elk. We both came back inside and she was working with Sleepy Doo – our cockatiel when all of a sudden she jumped up and ran out of the room – she just remembered the brownies. Amazingly – the brownies were ok. -----A bit crisp on the edges – but still edible!! Another 5 minutes though and they would have been bird food. Alls well that ends well I guess!
-----The day after we saw them I went down to the mail box on the 4 wheeler and was buzzing along at a good clip when I rounded a corner and an Elk cow and calf had been laying on the road. The 4 wheeler scared them and they both trotted off up the hill – I watched them until they trotted out of sight.
-----My final elk story for this time...... yesterday morning I was done with chores and got a cup of coffee and went to sit out on the front porch swing. Sitting right there I heard a cow elk call several times!! I grabbed my elk call and slowly walked into the woods where I heard her – but never got to see her. She was probably just calling her calf – or wanted to see where the rest of the herd was. But they were close – very close!
-----We also have a resident mother deer with twins. It was fun – this spring we saw her and she was very very fat. She disappeared for several days and the next time we saw her she was thin! About a week after that we saw her twins for the first time and now every time I go down the road I see all 3 of them. They aren't very afraid of us and usually just stand on the side of the road as we go by. Even with dogs – they aren't to afraid. I guess they are just our wild – pet – deer!
-----Well, I will bring this to a close. I am off to train dogs and I just never know what I might see when I step outside!
-----Till Next Time,
-----Leah and Everyone at Omega Shepherds-

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