Sunday, December 5, 2010

Horses and Wildlife

In the comment thread of the previous post, Kris made the statement "Can't imagine the closeness you must experience on a horse."

That comment highlights something that I've noticed while riding horseback. I've experienced more, and closer, encounters with wildlife traveling on a horse, as opposed to hiking on foot. Deer, elk, and black bears seem to react differently to the horses . I've stared a blacktail deer down on the trail not 20 feet in front, while we both waited for the other to get off the trail. I watched a young bull elk parallel us on the trail. When riding in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness last September, we got closer to Mule Deer does and fawns than I would have ever imagined. Rather than getting spooked and hightailing it out of there, they would just watch us pass by. I did try to take several photos, but was rather amazed at how well they blend into there surroundings, as few off the photos turned out very well.

The black bear encounter was a bit unique. My nephew and I were riding on a logging road. Coming around a bend, we spotted a bear in the road, about 50 yds away. It was just watching us. As black bears can run very fast for a short distances, we stopped, dismounted, and unholstered our sidearms. After a few moments, the bear turned and ambled off the road. We waited a bit, and chose to walk past the area, leading the horses on a foot. Not two minutes past this sighting, we found another bear walking towards us. It initially showed no sign of stopping, which, I'm here to tell you, can get the adrenalin running. Suddenly he stopped, as if just noticing us, and twirling in a cloud of dust jumped off the trail. Encounter over.

Later on we were kicking ourselves for not getting photos. However, the cameras in our saddle bags were not in the forefront of our minds at the time.

Do wild animals react differently to the presence of horses than they do to lone humans? Or is it my imagination? Despite the fact that two legged varmints are still present, my experience, albeit it limited, leads to believe it is the former.

The other noteworthy fact is the reaction of my horse. He has never batted an eye during any of these encounters. This is the same horse that will jump sideways 10 feet sideways at the sight of a blue tarp or orange traffic cone. But he's not afraid of a bear? Go figure.


Lexa said...

I don't even know what I would've done if I encountered a black bear on the trail. I'd be too scared to do anything!
Horses are so funny. It figures that they wouldn't get scared of nature, which is full of things that could potentially hurt them, and instead get scared of harmless things like cones and tarps.

Buck said...

But he's not afraid of a bear? Go figure.

My EXACT thoughts when reading about the bear encounters. I hope your sidearm is some flavor of .44.

Kipp said...

1st off - My dad was home for lunch about a month in the lower portion of Alabama. He looked out the window to see a black bear in his drive way. My mom sent him out with the camera to take a picture. (Guess she was figuring on the life insurance) Dad got about three pictures before the bear took off.
If I could load the image in here I would. Maybe I will email it.
2nd off - no matter why the animals react differently it must be amazing to get that close to wild animals. Some people are sooo lucky.

Buckskins Rule said...

Lexa: fortunately, black bears generally prefer to avoid conflict, unless protecting their cubs. Although, there is no guarantees.

Buck: I currently pack a .357, but have become aware that if forced to face down a bear, it might come up short. I'm shopping around for a sidearm that makes a larger hole, either 44 mag, or 45 long colt. I do have a Winchester carbine in .44 mag, but worry that I wouldn't be able to draw it out of a scabbard fast enough if push came to shove.

Kipp: I got the picture you sent me. I think I'd have been a bit unnerved to, if I was only armed with a camera.

positive affirmation said...

I trust in the process of life
There is a rhythm and flow to Life, and I am part of it. Life supports me and brings to me only goods and positive experiences. I trust the process of life to bring me the highest good.

Jill Iversen said...

I have had similar experiences here riding in Carnation. We live behind Remlinger Farms, where in the winter LOTS of geese and swans stay on Lake Langlois. I can ride up to the birds with no reaction from them till I am 15 feet away, but on foot they keep about 50 yards between us. I figured they thought on my pony I was just a funny-looking animal.

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