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© Copyright 1998, Jim Loy
It is sometimes very pleasant to see a wild animal. Sometimes it is unpleasant, when they run in front of your car. Here are a few wild animals that I have seen.
Back when I was a child, we used to see lots of black bear (sometimes called brown bear) in Glacier Park. People used to feed them by hand. I never saw anybody get chewed up. But, I suppose it happened.
I have seen a lot of deer. Every winter deer come into town, in the field behind my apartment. When I was young, I was driving down a hill, on a highway in Idaho, and several deer walked onto the road, ahead of us. I tried to stop, but couldn't stop in time. I was just able to steer between two of the deer. There were no injuries, except to my brother, who was hit by books from behind the back seat.
I was driving near Lincoln, MT, when I saw a herd of scrawny-looking cattle, in a farmer's field. Then I saw white tails. It was a herd of about 100 deer. I drove slowly for most of the way to Kalispell. I saw 3 or 4 more deer, on the road. Once, I saw a deer slip and fall on an icy road.
I nearly hit some prong horn antelope, near Townsend, MT. I have seen hundreds of them, in the same place, over the years. I have had to stop for bison, near West Yellowstone. Each bison is king (or queen) of the road. I have seen elk and moose, in the distance, while I was driving, mostly in Gallatin Canyon, in MT. I once saw a small bear, running across the road, near Sealey Lake, MT.
I have seen many bald eagles, as we once lived above the Flathead River. I photographed them through a window of your house, as they would fly away when I tried to photograph them from outside. I saw one of them catch a fish. I have seen a few golden eagles. One was flying lazily around my apartment building. Then it decided to leave. And it accelerated to about 50 m.p.h., in about 3 seconds. I was really impressed.
I have seen lots of hawks, including one that hovered in one place, without a head wind. People say that only a hummingbird can do that. When I used to ride a motorcycle (dirt bike), I was going about 70 m.p.h., on a paved road, and a hawk flew by, right in front of my face. I could see individual feathers.
One night, I stopped at a stop sign, on my way home from work. As I turned right, my motorcycle headlight shone on a white owl, on the road. It leaped up, spread its wings, and flew off. Its wing spread seemed like about 6 feet.
There are otters and beavers, in the streams that flow through town, here in Bozeman, MT. I saw a tiny beaver swimming along, leaving a little wake. He saw me, and dived.
I have seen many smaller, less impressive animals. One day, I was driving on the freeway, and there was a gopher in my lane, bending over something. I made my tires straddle it. I looked in my rear view mirror, to see if I had hit it. It stood on its hind feet, and looked all around, as if to say, "What was that?"
I have now seen a coyote (in Arizona) and a roadrunner (in Nevada).
I am currently watching five small (about 3 feet tall at the shoulder and smaller) deer, through my bedroom window. They are apparently mule deer, with big ears which swivel around to catch the neighborhood sounds. They have no antlers. Each is grayish brown with a white rear end. One of them made the most graceful possible leap over a barbed wire fence; it was beautiful, almost like slow motion. They were mildly concerned when a jet flew over. They were seriously concerned when a dog barked down the road; they stopped eating for that, and one of them disappeared over the fence and into the weeds. Off and on, they seemed to know that I was there, with my face against the window, which was partly open. Two of them came up to within a foot of me. They have big dark eyes. They tore the grass from of the lawn with their teeth; it actually sounded like taking a handful of grass and tearing it in half. I moved slightly, and they instantly and silently moved about fifteen feet farther away and watched me. I watched them for about an hour. Then I went to write this down. They are gone now, back over the fence.
People think of deer as timid, nervous, scared. I saw some of that, today. But I got an impression of a wonderful confidence (even cockiness) in their ability to deal with danger. They munched away apparently unconcerned, except that their ears pointing to one side, focused in on some noise, some car door slamming or phone ringing. These are animals who can instantly be gone, over the fence, across the field, into the hills. Alert, but not afraid, that was my impression.
Above I said that a bison is king of the road. They don't want to share the road with cars and trucks. I saw a confrontation between a semi and a big bison. The bison reluctantly gave in, and ran wildly, bucking up and down, away from the truck. I had the feeling that he had very nearly charged the truck.
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