Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Winter wonderland... and how elks prepare

The setting: The forecast last night said we could expect 7" to 13" of snow overnight and another 8" to 11" of snow today. The changing weather had brought the elk down from the higher elevations and there were herds totaling somewhere around 80 elk in the neighborhood by late afternoon.

The background: I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago that the berries on the Virginia Creeper were large and copious this year and I noted that deer like these berries but I didn't expect any deer to find them since they were inside the fenced part of the yard. The elk had been grazing fast and furious the past two days but I've not had an elk inside the fenced yard in the past.

The scarey part: I was sitting in my chair in the family room around 6:30 pm, knitting and enjoying an episode of Bones when I started hearing a bumping sound against the house right near me. The bumping grew louder and turned into rapid banging with a swishy sound thrown in. I got up and went to look out the door and discovered a large bull elk, sporting a tall 5x5 rack, ripping the trellis of Virginia Creeper off the side of the house. I'm guessing he had enjoyed all the berries on the front and decided to see if there might be a few more behind it. The elk was using his majestic antler prongs to sway and pull on the trellis. He spotted me looking out the door and immediately turned and moved toward me as if to make sure I didn't get any of his berries. Thankfully, the door was closed and he didn't try to push it in. We had a bit of a stand-off for a couple minutes, just staring at each other. Finally, I broke the staring contest first and went to fetch my camera. I was only gone a couple minutes but he had the trellis on the ground by the time I got back. He had either discovered there were no berries on the back side or had already dispatched them and started grazing on the grass again.

 Here's another shot where you can see his antlers a bit better. It was nearly dark when I took the photos so it's hard to see but it is a beautiful rack! It is very symmetrical when the camera isn't wobbling in low light :-)

I hope the elk had a good feeding the past couple days because here's what we woke up to today:

and this:

and my birds only have thistle seed for eating. I hope someone else in the neighborhood has a feeder out with millet and sunflower seed.

So I'm hunkered down to see if we really get another 11" today. I carried in wood yesterday so I can have a toasty warm fire in the family room after I finish my work. I've got my knitting and my Kindle. The only thing that would make it more cozy would be to fill the room with family!

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