It was supposed to be just an ordinary everyday walk with the dog after work in a place where we’ve walked many times, but today ended up with two firsts. The first and biggest mystery happened shortly after we got into the woods. In this particular place I walk up an old grown in woods road, take a left into a growing up woods cut and loop around back to the old woods road in a big circle. It’s an interesting area with lots of wildlife sign. Except today, when I turned to go into the cut the dog did a weird jump. I called him back and he jumped weird on the way back too. It appeared that he didn’t want to touch a particular place on the ground. So, I tried to make him walk over the spot and he would have nothing of it, running in the opposite direction to the end of his leash and sitting. I coaxed him over asking him what it was and pointing to the ground. He slowly came over and did a big stretch to take a little sniff at the ground and again off in the other direction. So, I got down on all fours and had a sniff for myself – kind of something musky but I couldn’t get much else. Nose just isn’t good enough I guess. I think its the first time that I’ve seen a dog scared of a smell before. He was acting like a horse does when it smells a predator, all antsy and nervous. Here is the spot he wouldn’t cross;
So now I was a little nervous. I’ve seen bear sign up there but nothing recently and I’ve seen no evidence of bear baiters. The area does look very “catty” though – between the cuts are dense fir/spruce thickets that look like great travel ways for bobcat. Looking at the foreground of the picture you can see that the ground is scratched up a bit, here it is closer;
It kind of looks to me like a bobcat scrape. From the Bobcat trappers guide “Scrapes made with the hind feet in soil or ground litter serve as intentionally constructed visual markers and are normally made at important activity areas in the home range. These hind feet scrapes usually take the form of two parallel groves which together form a mark that is somewhat rectangular in shape. Scrapes are normally about 4-6 inches in width and 10-12 inches in length.” I’ll never know for sure what he smelled out there, but my best guess is it was a bobcat, and he didn’t like it.
So with that puzzling around my brain we headed up the trail a ways, and I was looking down thinking about what he smelled when an owl took off from a branch directly above my head and flew down the trail and into a big pine. I once came across a saw whet owl crossing a fir thicket to look up and see him staring at me with those big eyes, bobbing and weaving trying to figure out what I was, but this one was big, and completely silent flight. It was amazing. I only got a look at the rear end and wings and he had lots of barring. Scared the bejesus out of me. I tried to spy him in the pine but it was too thick to see.
Further up the trail the dog stopped and looked into the woods – I figured he was after another squirrel until a brace of partridges exploded from the underbrush. A bit rattled now we carried on and when we looped back I was looking for the owl in the pine and he was right back where he was the first time and we jumped him again. If only I’d seen him first to get a picture. He was overlooking two small trails – waiting to ambush something I guess. So, a simple after work dog walk turned into a pretty cool adventure. Just a short walk in Maine.