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January 25. 2014 7:44PM

John Harrigan: Of wandering dogs and deer and those rascal red squirrels


 

The other day, I came close to hitting a deer on my way downtown in my truck. One had just crossed the road in front of me, and as is often the case, another one followed. It was on a blind corner, but I was able to slow down just as the second deer crossed directly in front of my bumper.

These were clearly last spring's fawns, and I wondered where the mother was. She would normally emerge first, poking her head out of the roadside brush to make sure everything was okay, and cross first, her two young ones following.

But Mom was nowhere to be seen, so I figured she had gone into the Great Beyond.

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There hasn't been enough snow to compel the deer to yard up, meaning to come from miles around to clump up under cover of big softwoods with abundant food to forage for nearby. In the yards they create a network of trails in the snow, giving them a chance to escape predators, which they would not have floundering around in deep snow.

Bobcats are back to a healthy population, and they and coyotes are the deer's main competitors, but there's a third - the family dog.

Unlike wild predators, dogs are assured of food and a warm bed at home, and can burn up energy chasing deer with abandon. Wild predators have to calculate when the chase has to be called off, so it can rest for a bit and then seek easier prey. Dogs are not playing by the same rules.

Take a drive around the countryside and you'll see any number of free-running dogs. Their owners might think they know where their dogs are, but often they don't. The dogs might be off with other dogs to a nearby deer yard, killing deer.

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While I was doing dishes and listening to Click and Clack, the Tappit brothers on New Hampshire Public Radio, a woman called in to complain that her Miata (a low-slung sports car convertible) is lousy in snow. They quickly advised her to get the best snow tires she could buy.

Now there's a novel idea - snow tires. Many drivers think their all-season radials are adequate, even in several inches of snow.

They aren't - that's why they make snow tires. My truck wears four deep-treaded snow tires, with studs, and I hardly ever have to give any thought to the weather except to revel in it, whatever comes over the horizon.

But then I wondered whether studded tires are legal in Massachusetts.

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Red squirrels are neat little creatures, and I love to encounter them in the woods, even if their scolding alerts other animals that I'm there.

I scold back at them for a moment, and move on.

But red squirrels can make a mess of a house, and once in a while I find tracks in the snow into and out from the foundation, and hear squirrels racing around in the attic, emerging outside only to seek food.

Inevitably they'll find a way to get into the kitchen, and several times over the years they've made a real mess of bedroom closets, storage bins and drawers, so with me it's war.

And while I hate to do it, every now and then drivers passing by will see a .22 poking out the sink window.

John Harrigan's address: Box 39, Colebrook, NH 03576, or campguyhooligan@gmail.com







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