Whitesburg KY
Mostly cloudy
Mostly cloudy

Critters preparing to hiberate for winter

In the fall of the year when the trees start to weep and shed their leaves, I have always enjoyed strolling through the woods and looking at the beautiful colors of the leaves.

Black gum, sourwood, maple and sumac are my favorite because their colors are so bright. Some trees are not so pretty because they begin to look lifeless as soon as they start to drop their leaves.

I always enjoyed all the activity of the squirrels as they raced to and fro in search of their winter’s supply of food, which they must have to survive through the cold winter months ahead. There wasn’t very much mast last year and I suspect that unfortunately, many of them starved and died during the winter because it is the latter part of October and I haven’t seen the first gray squirrel and only a few ground squirrels. Normally I would have seen lots of them by now.

A lot of trees are planted by squirrels simply because they bury mast and forget where it is, especially if the area is changed in some way such as trees falling or being cut down during a logging operation. Normally, squirrels are able to find what they bury unless the area is disturbed.

The lazy old whistle pig (groundhog) doesn’t have to worry too much about finding enough food to put on enough fat to tide it over through the winter because it is strictly vegetarian and there is always food aplenty for the taking. Snakes will usually invade burrows made by other critters and feast on the unlucky occupants before hibernating also. Bears must do the same thing to survive the winter.

And by the way, I have seen two bears this fall. One was fitted with a tracking collar. It really seems strange to see a bear in these parts, but by the same token it seemed strange to see deer around here until a few years ago.

The same goes for turkeys and the destruction machine, the coyote. If there is no carrion to feast on, the coyote will make his own.

Sometimes I envy hibernating critters because they can crawl into a hole and get away from the cares of the world until springtime, unless a dozer digs them out beforehand in which case it would be a major catastrophe for them.

I would venture to say that a snake’s worst enemy besides man is a badger, and I never heard of any in these parts.

It’s not only coyotes that are destructive. Crows wreak havoc on nests of other critters. They destroy the eggs and devour the young as well. But they are helpful also by cleaning up road kill. The ugly old possum also helps in this situation, but many times they, too, end up as road casualties.

We ate a lot of possum and groundhog when I was a youngster. A groundhog is one of the cleanest critters there is to eat, but not so for the ugly old possum because it will eat about anything that doesn’t eat it first.

Well, that’s all from the funny farm till next time.

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