Yes, it was very cold and icy, but we also had great snowfalls, mostly light and fluffy. Shortly after the second to last storm I was out on my usual walk to check in on the whereabouts of the snowshoe hare like I had all winter. If you have been following my posts, I have been hopeful I would see that the hare was still alive after big storms and when I did not see any tracks for days. Especially when the hare seemed to not get a break from predators stalking, like the fox, coyote, fisher, and bobcat. My heart always felt lighter to see that it was still alive. I was relieved to find tracks in the snow and discover where the hare had been eating the buds and shoots of pine and red maple saplings.
The second to last storm I noticed another set of hare tracks moving into this habitat. Could the one I have been observing be a female and the tracks leading in be a male on the prowl for a receptive female? What a treat it would be to see tiny tracks in spring of baby hares.
Then, just before the last storm, my heart was in my throat. The forest edge of the hare track is also the same corridor that the bobcat had used all winter to traverse between locations. I nearly stepped on it — it was fresh and wet, there at the intersection between the hiking trail, the bobcat trail, and the hare habitat — a sad sign. Nothing else but the intestines of a hare and a few strands of hair. My heart sank. My little friend who I had enjoyed getting to know and worry about, was gone … no, wait. “She” had done this to me before. I needed to wait it out and see. Will I find tracks again in a day or two?
Another small storm fell and covered the discarded intestines from a few days ago. Nothing had come to scavenge on the by-product in those days. I walked another pass through the tract and not one single fresh sign of the hare. I started to realize that this really was it. I felt sad for a couple days. It’s not something you should do as a scientist/naturalist. This is how it works in nature. One must loose a life so another may survive. It is the circle of life.
I laughed at myself. Hunh, just like a domestic cat that leaves its owners a dead rodent on the front step, the bobcat had left me an offering at the exact location it knew I would cross.
Was it a peace offering? Again, that’s just not sane. Anthropomorphism has no place in science. And science is no place for art. Or so we have been taught. As we grow older we learn that the three can not coexist – real life doesn’t work that way. And, well, I have to agree on some levels when common sense gets thrown out the window. My winter journey with the snowshoe hare taught me many things. It was good to be out — walking, observing, documenting, and creating.
I mourned the passing of “my little buddy” for a few days.
I am persistent – have you figured that out? I just needed to check one more time. To be sure. It is a small area. Just a few acres. I know every spot to look: the forage trail, fallen log, thick pine tree cover, and stonewall. It wasn’t looking promising.
And, the very last place I looked. One single fresh snowshoe hare track. Alive!
Yes, it is, a very Happy Spring.
As always, please be mindful and respectful to property and wildlife.
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