Our family is very familiar with wild animals. We lived in a rural area and our ancestors homesteaded in the vicinity. There were a number of things we were taught as children that most “city folks” don’t understand. Here are a few stories and an explanation afterwards.
The Bear, Episode One: This involves one of the women I was named after; my great, great grandmother. It was fall and time to go big game hunting for the winter. My great, great grandfather was out doing just that. One of her children told her that there was a great big bear in the tree in the backyard. My great, great grandmother took a chair out and sat under the tree until her husband came home and shot it…problem solved. Plenty of meat, a warm fur and fuel for the lamps. That was a brave thing for her to do.
The Bear, Episode Two: This is why I was taken off outside chores before I am certifiably awake. I think I was 15 when this happened. It was 5:30 a.m. on a cold winter morning. It had just started to snow, and I stumbled out to feed the chickens. When I came back inside, they announced that school would be closed that day so I went back to bed. At daybreak, my father came in and asked me if I’d seen anything unusual. I replied that I hadn’t. He took me out and showed me bear tracks right next to mine. Apparently the bear had been frightened of me and left. That wasn’t bravery, it was dumb luck.
Deer on Mount Baldy: A few years ago, my husband, father and I went up to Mount Baldy on the Cass Railroad. At the top, many people broke out picnics. A deer came wandering out, and a lot of people hand fed it. Some even tried to pet it. When it went into the woods, they followed it. They were also lucky. The worst they probably got was poison ivy (which there was quite a bit of in the area).
The Coyote: Our elder and her next door neighbor befriended a coyote. They named her, bought her dog food and put out table scraps. The animal came like clockwork for these handouts. No matter how we tried to get them to stop, we couldn’t. It only stopped when the coyote (unfortunately) didn’t survive a run in with a car.
Why am I telling you these stories? *None* of them were safe. Most of them were really bad ideas. I leave my great, great grandmother out of the “bad idea” arena simply because her actions were a necessity for the family, but even she could have been badly injured or killed.
That is one of the lessons we learned as children. Don’t feed the wildlife. They will become dependent on that food and if they don’t get it, they will look at you as food. If that deer had felt threatened, it could have bit or kicked…and some of those who would have been in its path were small children.
Wildlife is just that; wild. Feeding them doesn’t make them tame. Feeding them doesn’t really help them. Feeding them isn’t safe for you; you could be attacked. It isn’t safe for them. The poor coyote died because it became dependent enough on humans to cross roadways. Take pictures, not chances.