Black Bears, a skunk species (maybe) where it shouldn’t be, and a beaver.
It has been an interesting summer with several unexpected encounters with wild life. Maybe you’ve had some too.
First up is several encounters with black bears.
Maybe not as rare as it was only a few years ago. The cover for the most recent issue of WV Magazine is a close up picture of a black bear’s face. The article states that in 1979 they estimated there were 500 bears in WV. Today they estimate there are 14,000 black bears.
I often take 2 - 6 miles hikes on the grounds of the Green Bank Radio Observatory, which is about five miles from our vacation house.
I had my first on foot meet up with black bear on the “reflector trail” a couple of years ago. At a distance of about 40 yards.
One evening this summer when walking past the GBT [Green Bank (radio) Telescope], suddenly an adult black bear popped up on the road from a ravine about 40 feet from me. We both froze looking at each other. Me waiting to see if bear cubs would soon appear. If they had I was going to back away. But after about 40 seconds and they didn’t two steps sideways sent Mr Bruin running into the woods toward the 140 foot telescope. Saw what I assume was the same bear four days later at a location about .4 mile from the first introduction, but this time at a distance.
Two weeks later a cousin spotted a bear behind our house. I didn’t see it but there was plenty of bear poo in the back yard of the adjacent residence a bit south and behind our house. Along the road between our house and the radio observatory a bear has raked the bark off both sides of a tree up about 6 feet high. And I had a black bear run across the road ahead of me during a drive home.
Hog Nosed Skunk ?
Last summer one evening just before dark when I pulled into the yard an unusual looking skunk was in the yard. Perhaps 4x larger than most skunks I have seen before. The interesting thing about this skunk was not only was it bigger, it was completely white on top. Long white fur. It looked completely white until it turned to look back at me as it headed for the woods. When I could see it has a black face and belly.
It was seen in the back yard late at night about 3 weeks ago. This time I was more curious about what kind of skunk it is, and did a bit more research.
According to an internet search there are only two species of skunks in WV - Striped Skunks and Spotted Skunks. I’ve never seen a spotted skunk. The intriguing thing is the only species of skunk I found that is both larger than striped skunks and completely white on top are Hog Nosed Skunk. There are several species of them, but they are not supposed to be here. Their range is listed as mostly in south Texas and Az, and south to the southern tip of S. America.
However, He isn’t alone.
Two weeks later I did a night hike at the radio observatory. Where in a field near the 20 m telescope I saw another large all white skunk of the same species. So the one in my yard is not the only one in the area.
Another thing I learned this summer – Skunks seem to abide by the "stand your ground rule."They don’t run off when they see you and bears “usually” do. A month or so earlier during a late afternoon hike a small striped skunk blocked my path. Would he let me pass or would I have to do an about face?
Fortunately it paid no attention to me. Didn’t even look up when I clapped my hand or yelled at it. Just kept browsing. No fear at all. And no aggression. After waiting to see what they’d do, and waiting till he moved to the down wind side of the path. I walked past at a distance of about 25 feet.
Two different species of skunk neither of which seemed to take any notice of me. Just carried on with their activity as though I wasn’t there. I guess that is good to know, that they’re not out to spray ya on sight!
A Beaver took over my fishing spot.
A favorite spot I go to fish on the Green Brier River one evening was invaded by a beaver. Stopping my fishing as I didn’t want to cast over him, and it was more interesting to watch him. And keep an eye on whether he might decide I had invaded his land without his permission. And desired to deliver an eviction notice.
Just down stream of spot with riffles, where it seems it oxygenates the water attracting fish, the stream widens and deepens into a shallow pool.
just before dark I suddenly noticed something moving back and forth in the pool. What the heck is it? Oh, it’s some kind of critter. Otter or Beaver? It was too dark to see his tail. He finally climbed up on some stones on the far side of the stream, where I thought I would be about to see his tail. But he only only sat down in the shallow water washing his face and preening his fur for a few minutes before going back to swimming.
I finally decided from the shape of his head and body shape he was a beaver. A lure fisherman 40 yards down stream also thought it was a beaver. He was a local resident who said many years ago beavers were often seen in the area. But it was my first time having one invade my fishing spot.
While it was fascinating watching him swim around, he also seemed to show no awareness of me, no fear of humans at all, which made me a bit nervous when he swan into the shallow part of the water on my side of the river, because of the news reports a couple of years back about people being attacked by beavers. Not being sure how fast they can move on the ground and it getting dark enough to make it difficult to see him, or see the path to higher ground, I left the stream to him. A fun event. It’s not only about fishing.
Anyone else have unexpected and entertaining encounters with wild critters this summer?
If yes. Let’s read your story.