Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Two chases and a rescue
On Monday, my walk in the woods couldn’t have been more peaceful. The big event was watching a group of eight sliders hang out together in the middle of the lake. I love those little monsters, but nobody could accuse them of being exciting. They floated motionless in the water with their heads just above the surface. When they made a collective decision to dive, they did it slowly, reluctantly, as if it they were pretty sure the effort wouldn’t be worth it.
Tuesday was a different story. I wandered down a narrow trail I’d never been on before. I wasn’t sure where it would take me, but I had plenty of time and I like getting lost. I had just entered a pretty, dark hollow where the hummingbirds chattered in the trees when I was startled by a loud bleat from a buck. He was about 30 feet away, and his initial outburst was followed by a full-out hissy fit. He snorted and stomped and wheezed for all he was worth, and since I couldn’t see another buck around, I assumed all that aggression was directed at me. Chill out, buddy, nobody’s bothering you, I thought. But I was wrong, because a few seconds later two more deer came bounding out of nowhere, pursued by a hefty coyote. The buck ran off in another direction. The coyote seemed to hesitate, then resumed chasing his initial victims. I hollered at him—pointlessly—as they all disappeared through the trees. It’s very unlikely that a solitary coyote could make a meal of an adult deer. It’s possible that they had a fawn with them that I couldn’t see, or maybe they were trying to lead the predator away from one.
When I finally made it back up to the main road, I found another pursuit in progress. Some of the park rangers were in a huddle near the trailhead, talking to a group of sheriff’s deputies and some other species of cop in an unmarked car. As I walked up, one of the rangers stopped me to ask if I’d seen “a couple of teenage boys wearing black” wandering around. I said no, I’d seen no one except for a group of runners who are park regulars. I wondered what two teenage boys could have done to merit so much law enforcement attention. I decided I probably didn’t want to know the answer to that question, so I didn't ask it.
On my way home, there was a box turtle crossing the busy highway. The oncoming traffic prevented me from swerving to miss him. I had to straddle him with my car—a maneuver that always makes me hold my breath, for fear I’ll miscalculate and hit the little guy. He was fine when I looked in my rear view mirror, and the driver behind me succeeded in missing him, too. I usually leave the welfare of road-crossing turtles to the hands of fate, but not this time. Maybe it was my failure to stop the coyote, but I felt an urgent need to save him. He was crossing near a little restaurant, so I parked the car there and jumped out. Lucky for the turtle and me, there was enough of a lull in the traffic for me to run out and pick him up. He seemed like a surprisingly old turtle to be taking such a jaunt. His shell was worn and his skin markings were faded. I carried him to the side of the road and set him down in the grass. He was completely unperturbed, didn’t even withdraw into his shell. As I hurried back to my car, I realized there was a group of people standing outside the restaurant watching the whole thing. I’m sure they’re still laughing about the crazy lady who dodged morning traffic to rescue a box turtle.
Coyote photo from Wikimedia Commons