Monday, April 18, 2011
This morning on my guided hike I nearly stepped on, but managed to barely step over, a large Bullsnake blending perfectly with winter grasses and autumn’s shed leaves. Perfect camouflage, I thought, as my heart pounded in my chest and as my eyes provided the visual information for my brain to fire neurons allowing my body to swiftly leap away from the snake. I needed a moment to determine that I was not about to step on a Western Diamondback rattlesnake. The harmless Bullsnake was the first snake I had seen this season. Safe, I continued with my program.
Snakes are not the only creatures to rise from their winter naps. For the fifth consecutive season the historic district of Frijoles Canyon has been home to a female black bear. Last spring the small shaggy blonde bear emerged from her winter lodging with two cubs. This year with a coat of cinnamon, momma and the cubs roam the canyon in search of delectable ants, tender shoots, buds, and roots to grow fat upon. As spring progresses the bears will add berries and acorns and possibly an apple or two from the old orchard to their menu. Omnivorous in their dining habits the bears would relish a dinner of dear meat if the opportunity arose. This type of meal occurs by being in the right place at the right time and having a little help from “friends.” Swift and stealthy mountain lions routinely stalk and take down deer in the Monument. A mountain lion will eat its fill and then bury or cache the leftovers for later. With an exceptional sense of smell, bears often find what the cat has left behind.
I delight in the opportunity to watch the bears from a safe distance. The bears, snakes, mountain lions and all the creatures of Frijoles Canyon are a reminder of how wonderful it is to roam within this protected landscape. This week is National Park Week. A time to celebrate our national treasures as we wake to the beauty of Spring.
Posted by Ranger Theresa at 4:14 PM