Indiana, PA - Indiana County

ZEKE WILSON: Turtle crossing ahead

on August 05, 2014 10:30 AM

Heavy rainfall in recent days displaced and distributed wildlife of all kinds throughout Indiana County.

Mammals, reptiles and amphibians alike sought higher ground. Often this pushes critters into dangers worse than the flood they left.

While brush hogging a property last week, I had a close encounter with a turtle. Luckily, I was able to stop the Kubota tractor despite mowing downhill just before the front tire reached the little fellow. The 15-inch shell was black, and its contrast is what grabbed my attention. Earlier this spring I learned my current choice of pants does not accommodate keeping a phone in them while mowing so sadly I was unable to photograph it.

Pennsylvania has a number of turtles, so I cannot say with certainty what it was, but I hope that’s as close as it ever gets to a tire.

Much of our landscape is now plowed or mowed, with the majority bisecting roads. Society’s decisions have all but doomed the slower-paced turtles. Sadly, the minority appreciates and enjoys nature, with more looking to amend and exploit it.

• Interestingly enough, snake populations appear to be on the rebound. The picture of Dusty Learn on the front page of this paper earlier this week with a legal rattler taken on the last day of the season is proof enough. While most readers would never dream of wanting to be within 10 feet of a venomous snake, those who pursue them are often the protectors.

I haven’t heard how that snake tasted, but after chasing them for a month, I’d imagine pretty sweet.

• The easy-access panfish ponds that allow harvest have given their bounty for the year. One must now look off the beaten path for a fish dinner, although with ATV popularity and acceptance, a beaten path is almost always present.

The debate on pond management varies greatly, but few can dispute the harvest being beneficial. In some instances, a blue heron, eagle, mink, otter or osprey might have already taken the cream off.

• Groundhog hunters also are now seeking out the back corners and gated fields in hopes of finding willing targets. While the migration of new groundhogs into the hunting area is all but inevitable, it takes time for the population to garner gunning again. Although groundhogs are prolific, killing dozens out of a field puts a good dent in the resident population. If others on adjacent farms also are waging war on the woodchuck, shots per hour will wane.

Our topography does not allow for much long-range gunning, with many of the better spots already spoken for. Still-hunting smaller field edges allows boot leather to compensate for lack of long-distance sight.

This style of hunting is more of what to expect in our area when pursuing other species. Rarely are deer shot at more than 100 yards, and I would rather practice quick, short shots on groundhogs than long-range shots. Less-appealing hunt sites requiring walking with minimal long-distance shot possibilities may still be crawling with whistle pigs.

Despite the now-common posted and leased ground, obtaining permission to hunt groundhogs or crows is still almost as easy as asking.

• The second round of doe licenses are being accepted by county treasurers, with Aug. 18 being the last chance at any left unsold. I have seen a great discrepancy in the size of fawns, possibly indicating either too many doe or too many buck killed prior to the rut.

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