The wildlife on Cedar Ridge never ceases to amaze me. When I recount my interactions with wildlife, I come up with a long list of marvelous personalities. Each bringing back special memories from different seasons of the year. The white tail deer are at the top of this list.
Firearm deer season ends the week before Thanksgiving; November and December pass, along with the bow and black powder deer seasons. The white tails finally get a respite in the woodlands and I always wonder if any of our local deer will return.
Most of the ridge returnees and survivors come back in January. Cold, snow and predators, bring them from the deep inland forest to the ridges overlooking Lake Superior. They gather in the white cedars and yard up in our area for the duration of the winter.
I think the most beautiful deer, was a three year returnee we called Spotty (original, at best). We watched him grow from a six point buck into a majestic ten pointer. He was not the largest buck in the forest, but when he walked up the ridge from the valley, he had a presence of royalty.
Spotty had a series of three white spots above his nose and below his eyes. His markings and antlers were distinct, plus he exhibited a special personality. He would spend time in our yard drinking out of the heated bird bath and licking the salt block in the front yard.
This year we have three returnees. One, two year veteran and two that have been coming back since 2005. The two year buck came back in December and the other two this January.
The two most intriguing survivors returned in January. One we call Black Buck and the other we named Blinky. Black Buck was a twin fawn on the ridge in the winter of 2005, he stayed here until the end of March when I took in the salt block and heated bird bath. At that time, I give them the "time to disappear deep into the forest speech". In a few days as the weather warms and the snow disappears, the deer are gone for another year. We seldom see them until October or after the deer hunting seasons end on December 31. The Black Buck and Blinky returned in 2006, missed 2007, but they came back in 2008. I was really surprised this year when on January 24, they both returned.
I was standing in the patio window, when the black one walked up through the two feet of snow on the front lawn. His coloring, ears and markings are unmistakable. I opened the door and called him, he walked up to the patio and stood looking at me in the window. I put on my coat and went to the garage to get some corn. When I came out the garage door, he immediately stuck his head in the corn bucket. As he ate his corn, I scratched him behind the ears and petted his black forehead.
The Black Buck is like an enigma. He is skinny, his fur is short and not thick like the other bucks. I humorously tell people that he must have returned from the Bahamas....... he does not look like a typical northeastern Minnesota white tail. Last year he would meet me in the forest, way up on the ridge and follow me home for a handful of corn and a scratch behind the ears.
This morning I walked up the ridge to fill the trail bird feeder. I put this feeder up a few weeks ago at the height of the subzero outbreak. When I got there, I turned and saw Blinky standing off to my side browsing in the alders and moose maple. She followed me up the trail because she knows the sunflower seeds are littered around the bird feeder. She won't let me feed her by hand or pet her, but she will browse within feet of me.
The Black Buck will not come close to other people. Mary tried to feed him one day when I was gone and he wouldn't come close to her. I suspect that this has kept him alive through the past deer hunting seasons. When the other big bucks are fighting for domination of the ridge, the Black Buck stands off in the distance. His ears are usually cupped forward and he is watching down into the valley for any danger signs. I suspect that he may have more "Intelligence and Luck" than many of his white tailed companions.
"To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle. Perhaps the wilderness we fear is the pause within our own heartbeats, the silent space that says we live only by grace. Wilderness lives by this same grace." Terry Tempest Williams