Saturday, October 17, 2009

Can't Miss Them

Although the rain has abated, the overcast, cool day has kept down the number of visitors seeking to explore the old-growth swamp at Audubon's Francis Beidler Forest. However few, almost all of the visitors made note of one animal in the swamp. They simply could not escape detecting this species and humans were not the only ones taking notice!

The ears of the White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in the image are up for good reason. Although there is no hunting or fishing allowed in the sanctuary, hunting occurs on nearby properties. The sound the deer and our visitors could not avoid hearing eminates from the dogs set free to chase deer towards waiting hunters. The deer understand where they are safe from gunfire and settle down in the sanctuary. Unfortunately, for both the staff and visitors, the hunting dogs cannot read the signs posted at the sanctuary's boundary and follow the scent trail even as it leads them under the boardwalk and deeper into the swamp.

There is little that we can do beyond holding the dogs until the owners finish hunting and retrieve them. The swamp, however, does have a control mechanism and it too has made an association to the constant barking. Did someone mention dinner?

Images by Mark Musselman

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