Saturday, September 8, 2012

Into The Wild

Living in PEI was a tad strange because there are no large animals there. The largest land dwelling mammal is a coyote. No deer. No moose. No bears. Driving there is an experience that I never got used to because living in BC you have to constantly be on the lookout for deer and other animals on the roads. You're always driving in a state of tenseness because you're just waiting for something to pop out of the trees, stop dead in the centre of the road and stare wide-eyed at you while to either slam on the brakes or swerve. I was never able to fully relax while driving in PEI because I have lived my whole life being on high alert on animal inhabited highways. Sure there was the odd raccoon or skunk to worry about, but hitting one of those would never have the impact as a mule deer slamming over the hood of your Honda.

Whenever I talked about hiking in BC with people in PEI, I was always asked about the wild animals. Most of them assumed that animal attacks happened on a regular basis and that hiking up a mountain was incredibly dangerous. It seems lately that the most dangerous thing you can do around here is leave your door open for too long because a cougar might mosey on in. True story!

Splash in the woods!
This morning I was walking up the mountain behind Rivervale and even though there are tons of animal footprints (deer, elk, coyote and bears) plus their droppings to ensure their presence, I have never had a fear of running into a wild animal in the area. When I would tell people about this, they either didn't believe me or would think that I am crazy, but I don't think that I am either of the two. The mindset that I have always had about wild animals is that of the utmost respect. I am the one coming into their territory and I respect their space. I walk on through but never hang out too long. We grow up with these animals in our neighbourhoods and just kind of treat them as quick visitors who are nothing to get all excited about. There has never been a major animal attack in this area that I can remember. Plus I have always hiked with at least one dog with me so I feel secure knowing that she would give me some fair warning if something highly dangerous was lurking about in the bushes. Sure, once I had both Rizzo and Splash up the mountain with me and they walked right past a deer who was standing only 15 feet away from the trail, without even a twitch of their snouts...but I think they'd have my back if the time came. And I almost had heart failure this morning when a grouse came flying out from beside a tree when I was about 3 feet from it. Damn grouse. By far the most frightening things when hiking around here are the birds because they are so noisy and small! One tiny little bird in a twiggy tree can make such a ruckus that you assume that a giant bear is hiding in there.

Also, from the time we are little kids, we are also given so much information about what to do if you come across an animal that it is drilled into our brains for life. Like for example, if you come across a grizzly bear in the mountains, always curl up into a ball and cover your neck. No wait. Always try to become as large as you can and yell as loudly as possible. No that's no it either. When a grizzly bear approaches you, run as fast as you can in the opposite direction and try to make it uphill. No downhill. Hmmm. I'd better get a pamphlet on this subject.

And I take back what I said about not having fear of coming across a wild animal. If I ever came across a cougar I know that for about 4 seconds I would marvel in it's beauty, but then my heart would probably leap so high into my chest that I would lose consciousness from the lack of oxygen.

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