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Forty years ago the black bear was nearly extinct and coyotes were unheard of in Massachusetts. Today the census for both species numbers in the thousands. Hardly a day goes by without some news report of one these critters wandering out of the wilderness and into a city or suburban neighborhood.

Coyotes have been a problem mostly with people’s pets, though there have been a few attacks on people in the region. Interactions with bears have been a little more benign. Take the Cape Cod bear for example.

A couple of weeks ago, a young male black bear was spotted on the Cape, where there had never been one before, at least not since colonial times. It was mostly marauding bird feeders and rubbish cans, and tracking it became a kind of game. As long as it wasn’t posing any serious threat, authorities decided to let it be.

And then they changed their minds. And herein lies the problem.

They decided that there were just too many people around, and if a situation came up where the bear felt cornered or threatened, it could hurt someone. So the decision was made to tranquilize it, and move it back to a more remote area in the western part of the state.

That’s been the standard practice for decades. Euthanizing an animal has always been a last resort, as it should be.

In today’s news, that same bear had made it back east to Chestnut Hill. And again, it was tranquilized and it will apparently be released once again.

At the same time that the populations of these animals has been increasing – in the case of bears, something like 8% per year – so has the human population, and so has the amount of land under development, cutting into their natural habitat – more bears, less space, more people.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that humans and large animals like moose, bear, and coyote, are on a collision course.

As yet, there’s no indication as to what measures the state Div. of Fisheries and Wildlife might be contemplating. Their website is silent on the matter. There is some information under “Living with Wildlife,” which is somewhat useful – don’t go near them, don’t leave food out, etc.

 These animals are here to stay, they’re part of our landscape, and that’s good.

But steps need to be taken now to control their numbers, for their sake and ours, before a minor problem becomes something more serious.

Connecticut, which has been experiencing the same trouble as Massachusetts, has instituted a bear-hunting season for the first time in a century. Massachusetts has a bear season, but there doesn’t seem to be any movement toward expanding it.

 

When I went out the other morning to do a little weeding in my vegetable garden, I was surprised to find an egg nestled in among the lettuce.

It was just sitting there, on top of the dirt, perfectly intact. It’s fairly small, about 1.5” long, and completely white. No other color or markings. No sign of a nest or attempt to dig one or build one.

I’m puzzled.

 It couldn’t have fallen from a nest in any of the nearby trees. It’s also unlikely that it could have been carried there, only to be left. So it had to have been laid there.

There are ground-nesting birds in the fields nearby – killdeer, bobolinks, meadowlarks, and others, but all their eggs look quite different, but their nests are usually tucked away in the tall grass.

My first reaction was that it was a bird’s egg. But could it be a turtle egg? The size is about right, but I didn’t see signs of any attempt at digging. Turtles bury their eggs. They don’t just leave them out in the open. And the soil is all wrong – as far as I know, turtles tend to look for lighter, sandier soils. The soil in my garden is dark and heavy, with a lot of clay mixed in.

When I got back in I did a bit of research, trying to find out what the differences are between turtle eggs and bird’s eggs. Not much, as it turns out. And in a few of the question-and-answer websites people had found eggs in similar situations and had the same question. None of the answers were satisfying.

So for the time being I left it sitting there out by the lettuce. It won’t hatch because there’s nothing to incubate it. In another day or so I may break it open to see if that’ll shed any light on things.

 

One of the strawberry patches at Barrett Hill Farm

Strawberry season is here, a little early this year because of the mild winter and early spring. For me this means a ride up Route 31 to Mason, NH, and Barrett Hill Farm, a wonderful place for pick-your-own strawberries. The fields are on a hilltop with great views; the varieties they have are sweet and tasty.

I heard they were open for picking. Saturday morning was bright and sunny, so I grabbed a pail and off I went.

I like everything about strawberries. I like picking them. I like the way they smell. I like to eat them – with ice cream, with milk, with cream, with whipped cream, dipped in chocolate (I’m sure I have a fondue pot somewhere) or just by themselves.

I picked a pailful. It came to 10 pounds. That may seem excessive, considering there are only two of us living here. My Dad likes strawberries even more than I do, and when there’s a bowl of them in the refrigerator he eats them pretty much non-stop.

Between the two of us, it’s likely I‘ll be back there next weekend to get more. Strawberry shortcake for Fathers Day is a family must.

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RSS The Ecocryptic

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RSS Martin Laine – Digital Journal

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