Forest Friends

Three Bears at EEC

The trail-cams here at EEC Forest Stewardship show us glimpses of a rich and thriving habitat for our wild forest friends. This Fall, during the slaughter season (we process our domestic animals on site), we do not waste any part of the carcass, placing awful and bones not used out in a safe place on the land for wild creatures to partake of. By safe, I mean a place away from our livestock and living space, down by the creek in the wildlife corridor. There we know cougar, bobcat, bear, coyote, opossum, raccoon, and more thrive and jive. Here are some recent images of the greater community of animals EEC calls neighbors and friends. For some, these wild animals might seem like a threat or danger, but the animals were here long before us, and we have great respect for them on the landscape. Our hope is to work in harmony with all living things in the forest, creating safe space for all things to live in peace.

We do not over-romanticize our relationship with wild things- they are wild, unpredictable, and a potential threat to our livestock. They are also playing an important role in nature, deeply woven into the fabric of this land. The carnivores among them have predated stock on the farm in the past, but I don’t begrudge them, I understand it’s my responsibility to protect my stock and keep them out of harm’s way. We now have strong fencing, a good Livestock Guardian Dog, and have prevented further loss of domestic life with strong boundaries. That also means keeping our livetock out of the wild places on our land. The sheep and dogs do not hang out in the wildlife corridor, allowing wildness to have space of its own on the land too.

Coyotes attacking an Opossum

Our trail cameras allow us to view the wildlife without disrupting it. We’ve been lucky to see a variety of different species, as well as behavioral action that shows us an intimate way of life few people are privy to. By observing the activity of nature all around, we form a closer relationship to the natural world and our own place in it. If you have access to land and the opportunity to set up a trail camera, I highly recommend it- you’ll learn so much about your area and wild neighbors. You might be surprised to discover some of the animals living close, or you might be a little freaked out. Even in urban places, wildlife thrives- or at least, survives right under our noses (or apartment buildings). Here in the temperate rainforest, we’ve got apex predators and flying squirrels, coyotes and beetles, an elaborate collection of living things which make up a complex ecosystem we rely on to survive.

As the season changes from abundance to dark, wet, cold times of challenge, we recognize that wildlife is feeling the pressure of the changing season and taking in the last of the good life before winter’s lean times set in. It’s important to recognize these changes and embrace them too. People today are far less connected to seasonal change, nature’s rhythm of boom and bust, and the cause and effect these cycles create in our living world. Bears are filling up on a feast before the last berries are fallen from the bush. Coyotes are moving closer to the barn, hoping to catch a chicken that strayed too far from the coop and away from the watchful eye of the guarding dog. The opportunistic opossum creeps along the edges sniffing out food scraps and fallen grain, they have also eaten chickens in the past and will again if the coop door is not tightly closed. These are good challenges to work with as a farmer and land steward. When I loos track of these changes, the wildlife will teach me the folly of my ignorance. If only more people would embrace that learning, rather than blaming the predators and seeking revenge.

Raven feeding on sheep rib bones

Every friend in the forest has a special place in our world, and though we are often blind to the full picture, we have an important place in that world too. Every time an animal shows its self, there is information to take in. I am grateful to have a chance with each of these encounters, to reflect on what mother nature is allowing me to see. It is also a pleasure to share these images with you reader. In this time of giving thanks for all our gifts in this life, I am humbled by all the opportunity this land offers, my place in it, and the stories to share.

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