Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Boreal residents that you often see

Angler John Andrews caught on camera two of Northern Ontario's residents while fishing at Bow Narrows Camp.
His photo of the cow moose standing on the shore has a lot to say. Did you notice the cow is not alone? There is a newborn calf in the picture as well.
The light-coloured face of the moose is something only the cows have. Bulls have dark faces and muzzles.
You can see that the cow is shedding her wooly winter coat and replacing it with a sleek, darker one.
Cow moose often swim out to small islands to give birth in the spring, early-to-mid-May. This is believed to be a defense strategy against black bears which are on the prowl for moose calves at this time of year. Our guests often see the moose as well as the bears swimming to and from the islands.
John's other photo is of a raven. Anyone who spends time in the North appreciates the intelligence and toughness of this large bird. Ravens live for a long time, at least 50 years, and become exceedingly wise.
Indigenous people sometimes call them the wolf-bird because the raven seems to have a special relationship with that apex predator. They are known to yank the tail of sleeping wolves. Why? Apparently because they want the wolf to get to work and kill something so that they can scavenge the carcass. This behaviour must be learned by watching other ravens, one researcher has pointed out, because there is no margin for error. Approach the wolf from the wrong angle and you end up as the carcass.
Ravens can clearly reason. I have had them land in my boat when I have been moose hunting, find my packsack, open it and take out my lunch. They will follow fresh tracks in the snow of wolves or people.
A logger friend of ours who worked by himself once conducted this experiment. A raven would show up right at lunch time to see if Gilbert had anything to share. He would often give the bird part of his sandwich. Just for fun, Gilbert suspended his offering on a string three feet beneath a branch. He just wanted to see if the raven could hover long enough to grab it. Instead, the raven landed right on the branch and reaching down with its thick beak, grabbed the string and hooked it to a stubby branch higher on the tree. It then repeated the procedure until it had hoisted the sandwich up to where it could grab it.
One of my favourite sights in the winter is of a raven doing barrel rolls as it flies along. It cannot be anything but an expression of joy. And they seem to do it most often on days that are exceedingly bitter. It's as if the raven is saying, "Isn't this great! What a wonderful life!"
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