Last Cow In The Woods

An old wagon road begins in our apple orchard, drops down into the woods, and parallels our field. Like many old roads, it’s bordered by stonewalls and old sugar maples, and it’s a common thoroughfare for deer and other creatures. It’s also a good site for our family game cameras – just far enough away from the house to justify a walk to the kids, just close enough that we don’t have to carry our younger child home.  

On a recent trip out to switch memory cards, we were excited to discover moose tracks in front of one of the cameras. The prints looked a little odd – unmistakably moose-sized, but a little rounder than they should have been.

Here’s what the camera revealed.

It turns out that our woods have been harboring a town outlaw, a steer that escaped this past August, along with another steer, from a local farm and has been on the lam ever since. I first learned about this duo from the town’s listserv, in which the police noted the escape, and then in all-points-bulletin fashion gave a description of each animal’s appearance. The thought being, I imagined, that there was a need to distinguish these steers from other forest bovines. “Officer, I’ve found the…oh wait, false alarm. Belted Galloway.”

The not-so-funny part of the story is that the game cam steer’s buddy was killed by a car this autumn (hit and run), and it’s saddening to think of this herd animal out there alone: a 600-pound tan beefalo-angus cross, wandering a forest of snow and no grass. I’ve searched for fresh tracks. No luck.  

One other game camera surprise I’ll mention, although not as recent: until we started monitoring the woods road, I hadn’t considered how stonewalls themselves served as elevated pathways. It makes sense; a stonewall offers a silent route through the woods, and perhaps also offers an advantage for seeing or scenting purposes.

Or maybe the stones just feel nice on the paws. Whatever the reason, check out two favorite images below.

Photo Gallery

  1. Woody Meristem → in Northcentral Pennsylvania
    Feb 17, 2017

    Your photos demonstrate what many of those of us who spend a lot of time on old abandoned farms have observed - that stone walls and stone rows serve as wildlife travelways. Between the prey species (mice and chipmunks) and the fact that the walls are frequently on the ecotone where two different habitats meet it’s no wonder that they’re frequented by many species.

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