Thursday, April 14, 2011


I've had dogs around for almost my entire life. They've always been mutts, but there's always been a good portion of sheepdog in the mix (i.e. Sheltie or Border Collie.)

Sheepdogs are very smart and active, and very attentive to their masters. In the bush, they'll stay pretty close, but they're bred to herd, so they will gladly chase any little creature that's willing to run away from them.

These hunting dogs I'm sitting are a whole different story in the bush. This is what they're bred for - to range in the distance and find shit.

It already feels like we're some kind of three-person organism scouting over the topography. It feels so amazing to be bouncing down a long slope with one dog on a far ridge, checking out what's happening in the next draw, and another dog far to the front. I don't know how to describe it. You can just tell they're naturally scanning, and I feel like the nerve-centre of the operation, dictating our direction and watching the two dogs for signs of something out of the ordinary. It feels very natural. Like dogs and men have evolved to co-operate for thousands of years. Which I guess we have.

Just over the first line of hills behind the house I'm sitting, I found a long gully that was covered in moose scat and old tracks. The moose tracks look like huge smooth-sided snowshoe tracks, because the original print has melted outward in the spring thaw.

Some big old bugger spent a while there this winter - sheltered out of the cold wind, munching on sapling-ends and rooting for ground plants and whatever else moose do. I'd like to find out how often moose shit, on average, and go back there and count the poo-piles to get an idea of how long he was there.

Near the tracks, about two feet off the ground, the the bark of a poplar was torn and scratched right to the wood underneath. I imagine the moose had an itchy scalp or leg and itched the crap out of it on that tree. Who knows.

I also found a few piles of old porcupine poo on the south side of a hill, where the snow is starting to melt. I wonder if he hung around longer on the warm south slope last fall, or if that whole hillside is marked with sign.

The wildlife up here is spread fairly widely because it's so hard to find enough to eat. Also, signs stay preserved for a long time because of the dry weather and relative lack of insects and microbes that break things down. For those reasons, you see animal signs far more often than you see animals. When I lived up here I learned to really enjoy finding signs like that. It's as rewarding as seeing wildlife, if not moreso. It's fun to follow signs and think and imagine the story behind them.

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