One of my hunting buddies from the Poconos calls me several times a year to keep me apprised of what is happening on his farm where we hunt together.
Charlie works for a company which has been hired to assist in the bat research project.
Yes, the bat-trapping effort. Not to transfer the bats but to test them for White Nose Disease which threatens bat colonies statewide.
If you wonder why anyone would care about bats let me remind you they have their place in the scheme of things.
Bats eat thousands upon thousands of insects yearly, ones that would prevent you from sitting on your patio or eating dinner outside.
Of course bats are notorious carriers of the rabies virus too so before Charlie and his associates could participate in this study, they had to get the rabies shots.
Then when trapping the bats out of trees and other outside roosts, they have to wear special disposable suits and special gloves. After handling a bat, the gloves must be changed before the next bat can be handled, to prevent spreading the disease.
That is a lot of gloves!
After he had helped his parents do the farm chores one evening, Charlie decided to take a walk on the farm just to see what he could see. He told me that about 10 minutes into his stroll, he heard a couple deer snorting.
Since he knew the deer could neither see nor smell him something else had to be bothering them. He stood very still and soon, one deer ran one way and the second deer ran the opposite way. Charlie waited, determined to find out what was going on.
Out of the dusk a bobcat emerged from a small island of grass and vines. He watched the cat crouch and then pounce into some adjoining grass and it came up with a flapping turkey hen in its jaws. The hen got away and feebly flapped into the air for a short ways and then ran, missing over half the feathers on its body.
When the hen did not return after awhile, Charlie crept up to look and there was a nest with 10 eggs in it. Each day Charlie checked the nest.
It was obvious the hen did not return to it and he does not know at this time whether or not the hen even survived this encounter. He said he will be watching during the fall season for a hen with half its feathers missing. But each day there would be 2 or 3 fewer eggs left in that nest until one day there were none. Predators - perhaps foxes, crows, bobcats or snakes - found the unguarded nest and had their lunch.
Charlie told me he later saw a second bobcat on the farm, the second one a much larger one. He also saw on one of his trail cams that the 12-point buck he was watching last season, survived hunting season and the winter and is back in its old haunts.
The current heat wave does not lend itself to a lot of hiking in the woods. Grass and brush is high and dense and often harbor rattlesnakes and very possibly some rabid animal or another.
But you can learn a lot about animal habits and habitat by just tramping around the edges and watching. I like to drive on the gamelands during the summer, at dusk, observing long-distance through my binoculars at what deer are feeding in fields at dusk. Turkeys are looking in grassy plots for insects and watching through glasses, from a distance often reveals the dance between predators and prey.
Disney has helped to portray wildlife as tame and helpless creatures, that all love each other and dance around mushrooms while holding hands and spending time talking to butterflies. I've often said that I hate the story "Bambi" for the total misrepresentations of wildlife that I believe it portrays.
But the fact is that every creature in the woods beside black bears perhaps, are on the lookout all day, every day for what it can sneak up on to kill and eat for its lunch.
The other half of their time is spent being alert to the creatures that are trying to sneak up on it to have for its lunch. Watching this drama in the wild is a real education of the way life in the wild really is.
When nature gets out of balance - too many of some species for available food and cover, for instance - Mother Nature sends in her solution: disease and predators.
This year, incidents of rabies are much more frequent than usual and animals such as beavers showing up rabid and attacking people are on the rise.
Therefore summer jaunts to the woods, to pick berries, to scout for turkeys, to set up a trail cam or just to try to catch a cool breeze are more fraught than usual with danger for humans. Wherever you happen to be, do not allow any wild animal to get close enough to bite or scratch you no matter how "cute" they appear to be.
A wild animal that lets a human get close to them is sick since their natural instinct is to flee when the "enemy" gets too close.
Ticks and other biting insects pose their own hazards so a walk in the woods right now requires alertness, and a lot of insect repellent.