What a Difference a Hind Leg Can Make

Cougar Track (photo not mine!)

I set out to walk Anna the Dog in the 1-degree morning.  The previous evening, I had seen some very large roundish tracks leading into the woods at the end of our field.  The tracks were not very fresh and the wind plays such tricks on tracks in the snow, so I thought it could either be a large dog track that had been enlarged or a boot track that had been shrunk.  The boot track would have most likely been someone stopping by the road to take a quick piss, nothing I would worry about. True, the tracks didn’t come back out again, but the wind could have explained that too.

This morning Anna danced like a puppy in the frigid air, eager to check out anything that might have changed in the last twelve hours.  About a half-mile into our walk, she disappeared into the woods. My ears, muffled by hat and scarf, picked up some kind of unusual sound from the direction she had last been seen, but I didn’t think anything of it. Then, about twenty yards down the road, I again saw the large round tracks.  I looked closely and found one that left a clear imprint.  This was no trick of the snow, the print at my feet was nearly the size of my open hand.

It’s the sixth of December. According to the Wisconsin DNR, bears usually begin hibernating in October or November at the latest.  I didn’t think this track could belong to a bear.  I wondered if this track could be a cougar.  Cougars are believed to be rare here, though a few confirmed sightings in the region have occurred in the last 24 months.  A woman I know who is not prone to exaggeration told me she once got a good long look at one as it slowly crossed the road in front of her about five miles from my home, and other people have claimed to have seen one in this specific area.

I remembered the noise I had heard.  Could the cougar even now be stalking Anna the Dog?  Or eating her?  I knew the odds were greatly against this.  The road was littered with tracks of rabbits, voles, grouse, and other creatures (like me?) that would be better eats than my skinny pooch. I kept on walking.  As I reached the mile mark, Anna came barreling down the road.  She always does that when she emerges from the road, and every time I look to see if something is chasing her. There never is.  I guess that’s just the difference in our natures: I’m not going to take off like a shot unless there’s darn good reason.  Nothing was chasing her this time either.

Front Paw of Bear

We turned around in our usual spot and followed my boot tracks from yesterday towards home.  J once said you can tell they are my tracks because I have a duck-like gait. Now every time I see them I have to admit that it’s true. As usual, when faced with my duck walk etched in the snow, I try to stride normally for a little bit and check behind me to see how I am doing.  Today, I also checked behind me to see if perhaps a large feline predator was about to pounce.

I hadn’t gone more than a quarter of a mile when I again had a very clear view of the animal’s paw prints.  This time, I could see not only the large round track I beheld earlier, but an oblong mark approximating a slightly misshapen small bare foot.  That’s the hind leg of a bear.  In this case, a pretty large bear, ambling down the road just as I had. To look at the tracks, you would think that a duck-gaited person had simply been out walking her bear. My sense of relief was nearly matched by a feeling of deflation. I hadn’t wanted to have to worry about cougars on my daily walk, but I love the idea of being somewhere wild enough to support them.  Plus, I’ve never seen one of these magnificent animals outside of captivity. On balance, I guess I would rather put up with a little fear as a trade-off for maybe seeing one someday.  Of course, Anna the Dog may have a different opinion.

Some of you may be wondering why I felt relief knowing that it was a large bear and not a cougar.  The answer is that a bear will rarely attack a human and is even less likely to actively stalk one.  I do find it a little troublesome that it isn’t yet in hibernation and I hope it is okay.

Hind Paw of Bear

I set out to walk Anna the Dog in the 1-degree morning.  The previous evening, I had seen some very large roundish tracks leading into the woods at the end of our field.  The tracks were not very fresh and the wind plays such tricks on tracks in the snow, so I thought it could either be a large dog track that had been enlarged or a boot track that had been shrunk.  The boot track would have most likely been someone stopping by the road to take a quick piss, nothing I would worry about. True, the tracks didn’t come back out again, but the wind could have explained that too.

This morning Anna danced like a puppy in the frigid air, eager to check out anything that might have changed in the last twelve hours.  About a half-mile into our walk, she disappeared into the woods. My ears–muffled by hat and scarf–picked up some kind of unusual sound from the direction she had last been seen, but I didn’t think anything of it. Then, about twenty yards down the road, I again saw the large round tracks.  I looked closely and found one that left a clear imprint.  This was no trick ofhttps://gmfranci.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/cougar_track-in-snow.jpg?w=300 the snow, the print at my feet was nearly the size of my open hand.

It’s the sixth of December.

This a cougar track

According to the Wisconsin DNR, bears usually begin hibernating in October or November at the latest.  I didn’t think this track could belong to a bear.  I wondered if this track could be a cougar.  Cougars are believed to be rare here, though a few confirmed sightings in the region have occured in the last 24 months.  A woman I know who is not prone to exaggeration told me she once got a good long look at one as it slowly crossed the road in front of her about five miles from my home, and other people have claimed to have seen one in this specific area.

I remembered the noise I had heard.  Could the cougar even now be stalking Anna the Dog?  Or eating her?  I knew the odds were greatly against this.  The road was littlered with tracks of rabbits, voles, grouse, and other creatures (like me?) that would be better eats than my skinny pooch. I kept on walking.  As I reached the mile mark, Anna came barrelling down the road.  She always does that when she emerges from the road, and every time I look to see if something is chasing herThere never is.  I guess that’s just the difference in our natures: I’m not going to take off like a shot unless there’s darn good reason.  Nothing was chasing her this time either.

We turned around in our usual spot and followed my boot tracks from yesterday towards home.  J once said you can tell they are my tracks because I have a duck-like gait. Now every time I see them I have to admit that it’s true. As usual, when faced with my duck walk etched in the snow, I try to stride normally for a little bit and check behind me to see how I am doing.  Today, I also checked behind me to see if perhaps a large canine predator was about to pounce.

I hadn’t gone more than a quarter of a mile when I again had a very clear view of the animal’s paw prints.  This time, I could see not only the large round track I beheld earlier, but an oblong mark approximating a slightly misshapen small bare foot.  That’s the hind leg of a bear.  In this case, a pretty large bear.  My sense of relief was nearlyl matched by a feeling of deflation. I hadn’t wanted to have to worry about cougars on my daily walk, but I love the idea of being somewhere wild enough to support them.  Plus, I’ve never seen one of these magnificent animals outside of captivity. On balance, I guess I would rather put up with a little fear as a trade-off for maybe seeing one someday.  Of course, Anna the Dog may have a different opinion.

Some of you may be wondering why I felt relief knowing that it was a large bear and not a cougar.  The answer is that a bear will rarely attack a human and is even less likely to actively stalk one.  I do find it a little troublesome that it isn’t yet in hibernation and I hope it is okay.

Advertisements

2 Responses to “What a Difference a Hind Leg Can Make”

  1. jl Says:

    I can confirm that on today’s morning walk with the skinny dog, I saw tracks indicating that someone with a duck gait has been out walking her bear since the last snow.

  2. g Says:

    I can confirm that on today’s morning walk, saw a bear walking like a duck!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: