The outdoors, to many people, is a pick-me-up for many things monotonous, including the weather and persistent winter conditions.
Treks, jaunts, strolls and excursions need not be all-day affairs. Sometimes a little dab will do ya. Other times thinking about animals, even those poorly equipped, will bring us back to the reality that spending an hour on the ice or open trout stream water is all it takes.
Now is not the time to crawl into a cave, go underground or shun dealing with extreme winter weather.
Take a clue from the Virginia opossum, an animal who really does not belong this far north, but they are here and handle winter in the best way they can.
This carrion feeder, certainly during winter, comes out and searches roadways for others who have given their lives to snowplows, vehicle tires and at snowmobile crossings.
Many characteristics of this marsupial’s life do not fit Wisconsin winters. Gestation is less than two weeks, so the underdeveloped, newborn embryos seek a pouch and attach to a food faucet for a couple of months before being “born again.”
The opossum’s tail and ears are hairless and get nipped during really cold days, forcing the animal to find some shelter for a few days. There is no hibernating, not even torpor.
It’s uplifting to see this animal venturing out, suggesting it is willing to chance becoming roadkill, frostbitten or bald eagle bait.
If opossums can be out, why not us? At least for a limited time.
Other critters “of spring” are appearing, too, albeit infrequently. Birds in particular fly about. Some of the early migrants are here (a few never leave). Listen for sandhill cranes and red-winged blackbirds. Look for a chipmunk at dawn. Listen for a gobble. See paired coyotes; of course deer and turkeys, too.
Long, snowy, cold winters test an animal’s will to survive, and white-tailed deer have become brave when out looking for forest and landscape evergreens. Any unprotected arborvitae is there for the taking.
We can deter that feeding on special trees, even now, by covering the shrub or tree base with sheets. Deer are tentative to approach and may have to go to white pines, deciduous shrubs and even more bristly pines and spruces, so sheet them all.
At least doing this will take one outside.
While not a preventive answer right now, if space permits next spring, plant some of these natural foods with the notion they will sometimes be taken by deer.
Plants have begun detecting longer and sunnier days. Sapcicles are now common on maple varieties. Tapping may wait, but not for everyone.
Other animals are attracted to these bits of sucrose, too, including deer, birds and squirrels. Just seeing them feed, even through a window, can bring a smile and suggest some like sucrose as much as we do.
Take a small bite out of winter whenever possible. Experience the evidence that many plants and animals are dealing with unseasonable happenings.
We can, too, using these outings as antidotes rather than take winter as poison and pessimism.
Jerry Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.