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Pennsylvania Wildlife

My month in Pennsylvania was different this summer. Last summer it was black bears on our deck, hot summer sunshine, kayaking the Delaware, and a river canoe trip over beaver dams which angered the beavers. This summer it was cold, rainy, no bears, and no beaver dams. I did visit with a pair of bald eagles and saw six water snakes.

The one garter snake we saw was trailing a teeny frog no bigger than my little fingernail. The frog lived; the snake went hungry. Those of you fearful of God’s legless creatures may not appreciate the snake’s beauty, but I felt sorry for this little one with pretty stripes down its back. A Gathering of Garter Snakes tells how one town has taken the snakes to their hearts. Totally harmless and great for ecology and the environment, garters congregate to hibernate all winter. When they emerge in spring, there are so many that people sweep them off the steps with brooms. One woman has the same garter returning each spring and watching her cook. This is a great book to learn about the positive aspects of our non-venomous slithering neighbors.

One odd thing that happened in July was the duel between my seven pound cat Vivian and a doe named Willow. Willow is so tame that she gets aggressive if one doesn’t feed her fast enough. While I sat on the deck steps, she straddled my body to get at the bread in my raised hands. Her fawn and buck are not so tame, but come pretty close. When Willow the deer saw Vivian the cat, she snorted and stomped. Her hair stood on end as she charged the cat. Vivi just rolled on the ground and ignored the doe. If Vivi moved, the doe freaked and ran off. She was especially fearful of my seventeen pound cat Luke who totally ignored her. Now why would a large deer fear little cats, or fat ones, for that matter? She couldn’t possibly equate them with cougars or bobcats, could she? Both wild felines do live in our surrounding forest. Perhaps I should read some of our nonfiction books on deer, like Our Little Deer or Getting to Know Nature’s Children. Or maybe novels like Bambi or The Yearling, except that those two make me cry.

We also have some colorful, interesting books on eagles. Our Lake caretaker told me that he got too close to the eagles’ nest and was attacked. He had to run into the swamp to escape. My sister and I paddled slowly into the inlet area where the eagles hang out but never saw the nest. Since we didn’t get attacked, we assume their eaglets had fledged. Maybe we should read about eagles.

Our summer programs were successful as usual. We had such fun building wooden toolboxes with supplies and workers donated by Home Depot. Another highlight was the cork boats we built, thanks to volunteer Victoria who drilled holes in more than 300 wine bottle corks. The boats had no trouble floating, but the sails got soggy very quickly. Now it’s back to school. Keep those children reading!

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