Animals in the neighbourhood

Some things are very consistent, the same every year. That doesn’t mean that people notice, of course. When one has nowhere else to turn, there’s always the sky & the planet we inhabit. The manifestations of our celestial journey, the regular movements of earth & sun, signal the changes of our seasons, triggering responses among humans, animals, and the trees.

It can be dark outside, but every day is a little longer. The shortest of the year almost exactly two months ago in December wasn’t as cold as we’ve had recently in February. While you hear about a polar vortex, the winter only started to get serious about a month ago. Yet there’s more sun, and it will gradually warm us. As the sun gets closer to being overhead and spending a slightly longer day its rays are more direct, brighter and warmer. This week the split is getting closer to even with the day just short of 11 hours, the night just over 13 hours. We’ll get to 12 & 12 on the equinox (which is what the word means) one month from today.

The animals here in Scarborough have noticed the changes even if the humans have not.

We’re having reports of coyotes on local streets. While they probably don’t pose any danger to humans there have been reports of small pets getting taken. Apparently it’s mating season, so they’ll sometimes be seen in pairs. I suppose the solo animals are looking for a mate.

A little over a year ago a neighbour posted this photo taken near our home

Even with a dog as big as our Sam (roughly 50 pounds and fiercely territorial), I won’t let her off the leash when it’s close to sun-up or sun-down. While she likely could protect herself, a bite from a sick animal could mean her death, so I’m very careful attentive to the changing lengths of day. Today for instance we were out a few minutes after 7:00 just around sun-up: although the sun wasn’t visible in the overcast sky.

The snow seems to excite Sam, not just because it’s harder work moving through it when it gets deep. She’s very playful, zipping around in circles as you see in this looped gif I made, or when she lies on her back rolling in the snow.

While she may have come from the southern USA she seems to love the Canadian winter. When she’s romping in the snow she’s often snuffling around for traces of animals who have passed. It must be a bit confusing for a creature that relies on their nose, when the cold weather of winter shuts down or reduces many of their nasal stimuli. Sam stopped yesterday to snuffle about with her face into animal tracks, possibly with faint traces of a rabbit or a squirrel.

Skunks are another reason to be careful with the leash. While they’re supposedly nocturnal, they too depart from that schedule when they’re mating. Earlier this week I freaked out when I spotted a skunk in the neighbour’s yard while Sam was off the leash and far from me. The encounter was at 1:00 in the afternoon. I was worried Sam would get through the fence; she has her ways when she’s excited & pursuing prey. Luckily I caught her before she caught wind of the skunk: who once s/he heard us in the yard, sprayed and ran.

A few minutes later (after Sam & I were inside) I saw the skunk emerge in the front, but across the street.

It looks almost like a black cat, and bad luck if you get too close

This is the best picture I could manage. Gee…The animals never stop and let you take their picture.

Domesticated animals not only keep us company, but they mug for the camera.

But if the animals choose to come out during the day is it a sign of anything beyond their desire to mate? Hunger? curiosity? Whether or not they see their shadow, spring is getting closer & closer.

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