The Sounds of Nature, THEY CALL US BACK…to the Wild

  • Is that the haunting howl of the wolf or the call of a loon?
  • Can you ever forget that buck grunt in a November woods or a turkey gobble on a spring morning?
  • The sounds of nature are everywhere in the wild if we just take the time to listen.
The sound of lightning can bring fright, but the sight of lightning can be beautiful in a night sky.

By Larry Whiteley

There are some sounds in the great outdoors that you hear and they touch your soul. You don’t have to see what made the sound because when you hear it, you instantly see it in your mind. You may even hear them and see them as you read these words.

To some, the bugle of an elk is like that and so is the haunting howl of the wolf or the call of a loon. It might even be a cougar’s throaty growl or the gruff huff of a grizzly or black bear. Those of us who don’t live where these animals live, rarely if ever, get to hear these sounds in the wild unless we travel to where they are but if we do, they linger in our memories. Can you hear them?

An elk bugle can linger forall time in our minds. Howard Communications Photo

Most of us have sounds in nature that stir us. A buck grunt in a November woods, the sound of a majestic eagle flying over a quiet lake or a turkey gobble on a spring morning. It could be the kingfisher’s rattling call as he flies up and down the creek or a coyote yelp.

Maybe it’s the quacking of ducks or honking of geese as they settle onto the water. The drumming sound of a woodpecker trying to attract a mate, the booming sounds of prairie chickens during their mating ritual and maybe the strange music of a woodcock doing his sky dance trying to impress the ladies too. Some of us hope that one day we will once again hear the sound of the bobwhite quail. Can you hear them?

Songbirds also add to nature’s chorus. Chickadee’s sing “chick-a-dee-dee-dee,” the cardinal’s join them with their “purdy-purdy-purdy” and the robin’s whistling “cheerup-cheery-cheerio-cheerup” are joined by the tweets and whistles of all their friends. The squeal of a hawk can silence the bird music and get the squirrels barking an alarm to their buddies.

Owls ask us “who, who, who cooks for you.” Crows, “caw-caw-caw,” and then caw some more. The sound of peeper frogs or a whip-poor-will means spring is finally here. The flapping sound of hummingbird wings and their distinctive chirp will soon follow. The rhythmic choruses of katydids can be so loud that they drown out nearly all other sounds. Tree Crickets are known as the thermometer cricket because you can count the number of its high-pitched musical chirps in 15 seconds and add 40 to calculate the outdoor temperature in Fahrenheit. Believe me, it works!

A beautiful painted bunting sings a patented song that is wonderful to hear. 

The sounds of nature are everywhere in the wild if we just take the time to listen and it’s not only from the animals and birds. A rush of wind through the treetops, the rattling of dried fall leaves in a breeze and the sound of crunching leaves as something nears your secret hiding place. Booming thunder, the crack of lightning and rain dripping on a tent or the popping and crackling of a campfire. A stream tumbling over rocks and the soothing sounds of a waterfall small or big are music to the ears. To some, it is the ocean waves crashing onto a sandy beach. To others it may be the “plip-plop, plip-plop” sound of a jitterbug gurgling across the water followed by the loud splash of a big bass rising out of the water to engulf it.

Nature sounds not only soothe our souls but they are also suitable for our mind and body. Researchers say there is a scientific explanation for why sounds from nature have such a restorative effect on us. According to a study, they physically alter the connections in our brains to keep other thoughts out and the sounds even lower our heart rate. The exercise we get going to and from our listening places is an added benefit.

A swiftly, silently, soaring eagle, singing a majestic tune in a bright blue sky.

You’re not likely to hear or for that matter see wildlife unless you force yourself to just sit still. We hike, we hunt, we fish, we camp, we canoe, we are continually on the move when in the great outdoors and not very quietly. We also carry with us the baggage of everyday worries, what’s on the news, bills to be paid and work to be done.

You have to block all that out. Remaining still and quiet and actually paying attention to the sounds of nature is what is essential. But that doesn’t come easy. You can’t just stop, listen for a few minutes and then move on. You have to settle down and tune into the sounds around you.

Those of us who sit in a treestand and a turkey or duck blind usually have no problem doing that because we have to if we want to be successful. If you wish to go out and listen to nature sounds though I suggest you find a fallen tree, a stump or a big rock. Make a comfortable cushion of leaves, pine needles or take along some kind of pad and sit down. Now, don’t do anything but relax. Don’t let restlessness or thoughts of other matters creep back into your mind. Stay relaxed and breathe slow and easy. If you remain still the wildlife around you will forget you are even there. Soon enough the sounds of the wild will return.

Soothing sounds of flowing water can bring us to new place in time in the hallows of our mind.

The real art in listening to nature is not so much hearing the sounds of life in the woods as it is in identifying them. Listening carefully to nature sounds and learning what makes that sound can help you begin to distinguish one sound from another and that gives you a greater appreciation for what you’re hearing. The digital age has made it easier than ever to school yourself in Nature Sounds. Although this and other aids may be able to help, there’s no substitute for firsthand experience. It’s not just an ability to identify sounds, but also an understanding of their meanings, that will come to you when you spend time listening carefully.

Yes, you can download and listen to nature sounds on your computer, tablet or smartphone. I listen to nature sounds accompanied by the melodic sounds of the Native American flute as I drive down the road in my truck. If it is a cold, nasty day not fit for man nor beast I will put my headphones on and drift off to sleep listening to the sounds of nature. That is all good too but it does not replace actually being out there in the great outdoors and being stirred by the sounds of nature that call us back to the wild.

Listen closely, can you hear them?

Musky, Steelhead, Bear & CWD-FREE Deer – the SEASON IS RIGHT in Chautauqua County, NY

  • Big Game Early Archery Season Started Oct. 1, ends Nov. 15, 2019
  • Crossbow Season Opens Nov. 2, runs through Nov. 15
  • Firearm Season (Shotgun, Handgun, Rifle, Crossbow, Bow) Opens Nov. 16, ends Dec. 8
  • Muzzleloader & Late Archery Season Opens Dec. 9, ends Dec. 17
Sweet white oak acorns and beech nuts help to grow big healthy deer in Chautauqua County, NY. Joe Forma Photo

By Forrest Fisher

Chautauqua County is the land of big game hunting opportunities for CWD-free whitetail deer and abundant black bear. There were 9,944 whitetail deer harvested in Chautauqua County last year, including 4,334 adult bucks greater than 1.5 years old – about 4.1 to 5.0 bucks per square mile. Approximately 20 percent of the deer were harvested with a bow. A review of bowhunter logbooks shows that hunters viewed 10 deer for every 10 hours of hunting. There was 28 black bear harvested, 11 during bow season and 17 with firearms. Out of State license cost for big game hunting is a mere $100! 

Nature’s organic health food mix for big strong deer in Chautauqua County includes apple orchards, cornfields, and vineyards. The rolling hills support forests of sweet white oak, beech, and hickory to provide sweet acorns and high protein nut stock for deer. Plentiful wild berry bushes and grape fields provide sweet mealtime for increasing numbers of black bears. High, straight, hardwood trees offer safe support for your ground level tree-mount chair, a fixed ladder stand or a climbing tree stand. Please wear a full-body harness if you are going vertical. The Hunter Safety Lifeline System works great and is inexpensive (under $40). Stay safe.

Chautauqua County is prime with public and private hunting land across more than 1,000 square miles of mostly undisturbed country land. Public access is free to hunt in our 14 State Forests that are specifically managed by the New York State Fish and Wildlife to provide free access to hunting, trapping, wildlife viewing and photography. Handicapped hunters have privileged access to 13,000 acres in eight of those 14 state forests here.

Add the aroma of fresh organic pancakes and hot maple syrup from local trees for breakfast before the hunt, you can understand the welcome feeling that hunters have who travel here from near and far. Big game hunting is very good in Chautauqua County. The deer and bear population is increasing, we need help from hunters in Chautauqua.

Hunters that repeatedly bag a deer with a bow, crossbow, firearm or muzzleloader are usually in the woods and in their stand about one hour before sunrise. The hunting day ends at sunset, by law. The deer and bear are abundant here. With archery or firearms, be sure of your target and beyond. Be safe.

There are SO MANY deer here. Wildlife Mangement Unit 9J.  Motorists here say they need hunter help.  Join in the adventure and excitement of big game hunting in Chautauqua County, NY.

Link to New York State hunting regulations: http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/28182.html. Link to Chautauqua County Forest Maps: http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/22556.html.

Visitors Bureau Travel/Accommodations Contact: R. Andrew Nixon, Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 1441, Chautauqua, NY, 14722; Office: 716-357-4569; email: nixon@tourchautauqua.com; web: http://www.tourchautauqua.com; Facebook.com/Tour.Chautauqua

 

NY Big Game and Small Game Seasons are Underway

Giant gray squirrels are not uncommon in the southern tier forest lands of New York State. Forrest Fisher Photo

Hunters and Trappers Favorite Time of Year…Open Season

Hunting seasons for big game like whitetail deer and black bear are underway with the archery season. Likewise, many small game species, like ruffed grouse, pheasant, rabbit, squirrel, and wild turkey, are also open and in progress.

Hunting and trapping seasons for bobcat, raccoon and fox, and trapping seasons for fisher and mink began in some regions of the state on October 25th. Be sure to check the New York State Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide for the season dates and regulations for your hunting or trapping area.

Wild turkey hunting in the Southern Zone began October 20th and runs through Nov. 2nd. Hunters are required to have a turkey permit, and the statewide season bag limit is one bird of either sex.

Remember, harvest reporting is critical to wildlife management, and by regulation, hunters must report their harvest of a turkey within seven days of taking the animal. DEC encourages hunters to, “Take it, tag it, and then report it.

Trappers should note special permit requirements are required for fisher and marten trapping seasons. Fisher season began on October 25th in many WMUs and fisher and marten season began today in the Adirondacks. All fisher and marten trappers must obtain a special, free permit from their regional wildlife office, submit a trapping activity log, and submit the skull or jaw from harvested fishers and martens.

Giant gray squirrels are not uncommon in the southern tier state forest lands of New York State. Forrest Fisher Photo

DEC’s wildlife managers rely on the information supplied by trappers to help manage populations of these popular furbearers. To obtain a free fisher or fisher/marten permit, trappers should contact their regional wildlife office or apply by e-mail at wildlife@dec.ny.gov.

Only one fisher or fisher/marten permit is needed to trap these species anywhere in New York where the season is open. For more information, see page 54 in the Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide. 

As always, please follow the basic rules of hunter safety to protect yourself and other hunters this season.

Statewide Survey of New York Landowners about Black Bears is Underway

Bear

DEC is partnering with the Center for Conservation Social Sciences (CCSS) at Cornell University on a survey of roughly 11,000 randomly-selected New York landowners to better understand public perceptions of and preferences for black bear population levels. The survey is being sent out this fall to owners of both large and small residential properties, and covers both rural and urban areas.

The questionnaire asks about positive and negative experiences people have had with bears, their perception of population trends, and their views on the potential benefits of and detriments to living among bears. The information from this survey will be used in conjunction with biological data about bear abundance and information on conflicts between people and bears to set population objectives for various parts of the state.

People who receive the survey are encouraged to respond. Collecting information from the public on their view of appropriate wildlife population levels and the potential impact of wildlife on people is an important part of decision-making in wildlife management.

Questions about the survey can be directed to CCSS at 607-255-2828 or wfs1@cornell.edu. For more information, visit the DEC website on Black Bear and read the “New York State Black Bear Management Plan”. Questions about the black bear management program can be directed to 518-402-8883 or: wildlife@dec.ny.gov.

Injured Black Bear draws attention in Wellsville, New York

  • Bear struck by car, scared, climbed tree
  • Bear was tranquilized and examined
  • Released to Coyle Hill State Forest, Allegany County
    For many, black bears symbolize wilderness and wildness, but increasingly, bears can be found in semi-rural environments, agricultural areas and occasionally, in urban centers. NYSDEC Photo

    On July 5, Environmental Conservation Officer’s Russ Calanni and Jason Powers, and Lt. Don Pleakis and Division of Wildlife staff, worked to safely remove a black bear that had climbed a tree in a residential neighborhood in the village of Wellsville after being hit by a car. Although it was not seriously injured, the bear jumped a fence and took cover in a tree. It started to draw attention from the neighbors and the decision was made to tranquilize the bear and remove it from the village. ECO’s Calanni and Powers, members of DLE’s Chemical Immobilization Team (CIT), darted the bear and safely removed it from the tree.
    The Wellsville Police Department stopped traffic along busy State Route 417 while the tranquilization and removal took place.
    After loading the bear into a trap, it was transported to Coyle Hill State Forest, where the bear was examined, tagged, monitored, and then released.

    Black Bear distribution in New York. Primary range refers to areas where breeding bears were known to occur. Secondary range includes areas with routine bear sightings. Transient and dispersing bears may be found in all of upstate New York, including areas generally considered unoccupied by bears. Courtesy NYSDEC

    New York’s black bear population is currently estimated at a minimum of 6,000-8,000 bears in areas open to hunting, with roughly 50-60% of the bears inhabiting the Adirondack region, about 30-35% in the Catskill region and about 10-15% in the central-western region. In addition, bears are now well established in many other areas, including the Tug Hill, Hudson Valley and across the Southern Tier of New York, and transient bears are routinely encountered throughout the Lake Ontario Plains, Mohawk Valley, and St. Lawrence Valley. With the exception of Tug Hill, these other areas include a greater proportion of agriculture or have higher human densities, making them less suitable for bears due to the higher likelihood of human-bear conflicts.
    Black bears are an important and natural component of New York’s ecosystem. Whether you live or recreate in the bear country, please help maintain and protect the bears, and at the same time protect yourself and your property by not feeding bears and by reducing bear attractants.
    If you witness an environmental crime or believe a violation of environmental law occurred please call the DEC Division of Law Enforcement hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).

Bear Awareness Dawning in Missouri

The Largest Wild Mammal in the “Show-Me State” Should Not Be a Source of Fear, but Deserves Respect

Hundreds of bears like this healthy adult male roam Missouri’s Ozarks. A few have ventured as far as the Iowa border.

Eugene Gerve was awakened by the furious barking of his dog one May night.  When he shined a spotlight into his yard in Webster County, Missouri, he was startled to find a 300-pound black bear a scant 15 feet away, rapidly emptying a cat food dispenser.

Gerve is one of a growing number of Missourians who have learned to take bears into account, whether they are at home or at play.  The new awareness results from a black bear restoration program conducted by the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission in the 1950s and 1960s.  The program’s success guaranteed that bears – who can’t read signs – would eventually cross the state line and repopulate their historic range in Missouri.

They began doing that at least as early as the 1980s and more likely in the ‘70s.  Interestingly, Missouri probably would have gotten its own bear population without Arkansas’ help.  DNA studies strongly suggest that bears in Webster and Douglas counties, which has Missouri’s highest-density population of the animals – are genetically distinct from Arkansas bears who probably stem from a remnant population that survived near-extermination in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Wherever they came from, the Show-Me State has an estimated population of several hundred black bears.  Although they are much more common south of I-44 than in the northern two-thirds of the state, there have been confirmed sightings all the way from the Arkansas border to the Iowa State line.  So no matter where you live, hunt, fish or camp, you might encounter a bear.

Bears are least likely to run afoul of humans in the fall, when “hard mast” food items – mostly acorns, are abundant.  Spring and early summer are another matter.  Bears are lean and hungry after their winter fast, and there’s little for them to eat besides grass and tender young vegetation.  Things ease up a bit as summer progresses and berries and other “soft mast” become available.  So the time you need to be most concerned about bears is from now until nuts start falling.

With that in mind, here are some thoughts about living with bears.

AROUND HOME 

Gerve’s experience illustrates the main point to remember for preventing bear problems at home.  Bears are not finicky eaters.  Berries, roots, small animals, carrion, pet food, grain bins, bird seed, garbage and barbecue grills all are equally enticing to their sensitive nose.  So it’s important not to leave these where bears can get at them.  If you live north of the Missouri River, you probably don’t have to invest in bear-proof garbage cans, but it would be wise to keep containers of bird seed, pet or livestock food in locked buildings.

IN CAMP

You need to adjust your attitude if you travel south of the Missouri River to float, fish, backpack, camp, hunt or picnic.  If possible, keep coolers and other food containers locked in vehicles when unattended, along with trash.

When float-camping, bring along bear-proof containers, such as sturdy coolers with sturdy latches.  Army-surplus ammunition cans are available in sizes large enough to accommodate all the non-perishable food you need for a couple of days.  Never bring these containers or anything that smells like food into a tent or soft-sided camper at night.  Hunger sometimes overwhelms the natural shyness of black bears enough to try to snatch food from under the nose of sleeping people.  A slight miscalculation can result in a bear grabbing a camper’s foot instead of a hot dog.

When you are fortunate enough to bring fish or game back to camp, show the same caution with the harvest as you would with store-bought food stuffs or garbage.  Don’t leave gut piles or other offal lying around camp or in the water nearby.  Keep them far from camp or put them in trash bags and keep it where foraging bears can’t smell or reach them.

BRUIN FACE-OFFS

Even if you observe the foregoing cautions, you might end up face-to-face with a bear.  I incurred such an event!

It’s important to remember that black bears are naturally afraid of people.  Thousands of years of fighting losing battles with humans have removed most of the aggressive black bears from the gene pool, so when confronted by a human, 99.99 percent of black bears run away (unlike grizzly bears, which don’t live in Missouri).  We will get back to that 0.01 percent of black bears in a minute.

Black bears and people end up face-to-face in two ways.  One is when a bear is lured close to people by the promise of food.  A bear that is rummaging in garbage, raiding a cooler, or guzzling nectar from a hummingbird feeder generally heads for the high timber when a human shouts at them, honks a horn or bangs pots and pans – all from indoors and at a safe distance, of course.

If a bear ever fails to hightail it when humans appear, call the nearest Missouri Department of Conservation office, conservation agent or law-enforcement agency for help.  Bears are protected in Missouri and shooting one just because it showed its face where it isn’t welcome can earn you a hefty fine.  If imminent loss of safety is involved, that’s another story.

The other way that bears and people end up in confrontations is surprise encounters.  A bear foraging for berries might not hear a hiker walking silently along the Ozark Trail.  Similarly, a bear has no way of knowing that it is approaching a deer hunter sitting in a tree stand.  In cases like these, it’s up to the human to defuse a potentially dangerous situation.  This is very important.  Please heed.

Missouri Department of Conservation Resource Scientist Jeff Beringer places a GPS tracking collar on a sedated bear. Information from the collar, along with genetic data from blood samples, will help the Missouri Department of Conservation determine how many bears Missouri has, where they live and where they came from.

Proximity is a very important consideration in handing bear confrontations.   Just like people, bears have a personal space inside of which they feel threatened.  Spying a bear 50 yards away, before it sees you, is a very different situation than looking up and seeing a bear that has just seen you 15 feet away.

In the first instance, the thing to do is to quietly leave the area.  If the bear notices you as you are leaving, it might stand up on its hind legs.  This is not a threat.  The bear is simply trying to get a better look at you and figure out what you are.  Don’t make eye contact, which bears perceive as aggressive.  Instead, speak in a calm, conversational voice (letting the bear know that you are a human) and slowly back away until the bear is out of sight.  Then quietly leave the area.

If you are uncomfortably close to a bear when you first see it, don’t turn and run or make any other sudden moves that might startle the bear.  Again avoiding eye contact, back away.  When surprised at close distance, a bear may feel threatened whatever you do.  In such cases, black bears often snap their jaws and stamp their feet.  This is the bear trying to intimidate you.  It is not a sign that it is about to attack.  If you back away without eye contact, the bear almost certainly will leave the area once it is sure you are not a threat.

It is not uncommon for black bears to make bluff charges to scare off a perceived threat.  This is incredibly frightening.  I have been bluff charged by a bear that I knew was restrained by a foot snare and I still fell over backwards in absolute terror.  The good news is that bluff charges are just that – bluffs.  If you do not react aggressively, the bear will leave after having given you a good scare.  If you are made of sterner stuff than I was, the best way to react to a bluff charge is to look away and stand still.  When the bear backs off, take your cue and back away slowly.

GOING TO EXTREMES 

Now we get to that troublesome 0.01 percent of cases where a bear turns aggressive.  These usually result when a female bear perceives a threat to her cubs.  Contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually have to get between the sow and her cubs to trigger a protective attack.  Just being too close for her comfort can be enough.

The best way to avoid this scenario is to make noise wherever you go.  A sow that knows you are coming will get her cubs out of your way.  If you see a bear cub, immediately leave the area the way you came.

A far less likely scenario is an encounter with that rare black bear that has lost its natural fear of people.  Such bears do attack people on very rare occasions.  However a bear attack begins, do not try to run away.  The best track-and-field athletes in the world could not outrun a bear on level ground, let alone in the woods.

The black bear experts I have interviewed over the years advocate fighting back if you are attacked.  Unlike grizzlies, which are not deterred by resistance, black bears have been repelled by small adults using nothing more than bare fists, rocks, sticks or whatever other weapons were at hand.

While I understand this, I also know that not everyone has the mental makeup to put up a fight in the face of an angry bear.  I honestly don’t know if I could.  If you find yourself unable to fight, then wrap your hands and arms around your neck and head and curl up in a fetal position.  In all likelihood, the bear will stop when you no longer seem like a threat.

If the attack continues for more than a few seconds, the bear might actually be trying to kill you.  At that point, you have no choice, but to screw up your courage and convince the bear that it will have to pay a high price for your life.

Having said all this scary stuff, I want to emphasize that more people die of bee stings, drowning, bicycle accidents, falls at home and infected hangnails than die of black bear attacks.

If you scour news media and historic records going back 200 years, you will be lucky to find a dozen cases of fatal black bear attacks.  These are wild animals that deserve tremendous respect, but they do not pose a significant threat to people.

Don’t let overblown fears provoked by Hollywood horror flicks keep you away from Missouri’s outdoors!