This bobcat was a frequent visitor to a birdfeeder located outside a local home, for most of the last winter. Notice the tufts of hair on the tip of the ears.
The landscape has begun to take on a decidedly winter-like cast, as a fresh covering of snow recently secured a white cap atop most of the peaks in the upper elevations.
Snow cover is a most welcome occurrence for big game hunters, as it serves to record the tracks, traffic and behavior patterns of numerous animals, especially whitetail deer.
Last week’s rain and high winds served to denude the hardwoods as it opened up the woods. The lingering leaf cover will likely fall soon, as cooler temperatures and additional snowfall combine to knock foliage to the ground.
The fresh snow cover is most welcome, as it records travel patterns and offers a contrasting background to highlight the natural brown camouflage of a whitetail.
As usual, heavy frosts will produce noisy ground cover and leaves will crunch loudly whether under boots, or hooves.
The annual rut appears to be in full swing, and scrapes and buck rubs are springing up nearly everywhere. Over the next two weeks, bucks will be chasing does as the look for love in all the wrong places. It is the peak of the season for deer hunters. DEC records indicate the majority of antlered deer are typically harvested during the timeframe of the first two weeks of November.
To date, I’ve also been getting reports from a lot of local hunters about a number of unexpected camp pests they’ve been encountering already this season.
Finding a mouse in the house, or a few at hunting camp is not unusual occurrence. It is to be expected especially during this time of year when mice populations are booming all over the North Country. Traditionally, such an explosion would not be cause for alarm, especially since colder weather drives the critters to seek shelter indoors.
However, mice are no longer to be considered just an annoying little nuisance. Typically they pilfer crackers or crumbs from under the picnic table, or chew up a few napkins to make a next. However, it turns out mice can actually be deadly!
Recently, DEC confirmed a hiker’s claim that he contracted the Hantavirus as a result of a mouse bite. Reportedly, he was bitten on the finger while camping during the summer months. The leanto where the incident occurred is located in the High Peaks
Mice are vectors for the transmission of Hantavirus, which was responsible for a number of fatalities in the Four Corners region of the Southwest. Center for Disease Control officials believe mouse urine, saliva and feces can spread the virus. It can be contracted through contact or simply by breathing the dust.
Deer mice are to be found all across the country, primarily in the woodlands. So it should come as no surprise that residents of rural areas account for over three quarters the infections nationwide.
Compounding the danger of the outdoors is the ever increasing threat of Lyme disease. There appears to be an unusually high incidence of deer ticks this season. I’ve already had to pluck a few ticks off myself.
Numerous hunters have complained about the problem, which appears to be much worse in the Champlain Valley than in the Tri Lakes region.
The apparent increase in tick populations has been attributed to the increasingly warmer weather, and the popularity of taking the family along on vacation.
Autumn is considered high season for adult deer ticks, since it is the season when nymphs begin to morph into adult ticks. Typically they require blood prior to the beginning of cold weather dormancy.
However, ticks do not hibernate and they are active as long as temperatures remain above freezing. There is a public misconception that they disappear in cool weather, but ticks are active when the weather stays above freezing. Adult ticks can emerge on warm days in autumn, winter or spring and can attach themselves to clothing or to fur at any time. Although the nymphs are believed to be responsible for a majority of Lyme disease cases, infected adult ticks can also pass on the disease.
However, ticks and mice aren’t the only pests hunters have had to deal with this season. Prior to the recent cold snap, it was not uncommon to battle swarms of mosquitoes while enjoying an afternoon watch. Of course, mosquitoes are known to carry the West Nile virus. It’s difficult to remain still and quiet while on watch when there are mosquitoes orbiting your head.
Be careful out there
With the peak of the whitetail deer breeding season set to occur over the next few weeks, it is an especially important time to keep an eye on the road.
According to claims data prepared by State Farm Auto Insurance, there are an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 deer-vehicle collisions that occur throughout New York State this year. Most of the accidents will occur between October and December. Deer are most active during the early evening hours, and with darkness now arriving before the afternoon commute, it is especially important to pay attention.
Although the number of miles driven by U.S. motorists over the past five years has increased by just 2 percent, the number of deer-vehicle collisions has grown by over 20 percent during that same timeframe.
While Adirondackers commonly joke about hitting a deer, jump-starting a truck or learning how run a chain saw before reaching puberty, in reality it is no joking matter. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, deer-vehicle collisions in the U.S. cause about 200 fatalities each year. The average damage to a car or truck is $3,103. If you observe a deer crossing the road, slow down. Deer tend to travel in groups., so pay heed to deer crossing signs. Signs are posted for good reason, typically along historic deer funnels.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.