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Margaret Hartley's Greenpoint
by Margaret Hartley


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Ideas on greener living

Animals emerge, leave telltale footprints

The yard and gardens are still under 2 feet of snow. We’re still collecting maple sap on snowshoes.

Still, the mud along the sides of the driveway, where the snow has pulled back a bit, gives the illusion of a spring thaw. I know it’s just a little surface melting. The top 2 inches of ground might be soft, but under that there’s a foot or more of solid frost.

Along the road, the shoulders have softened enough that we see tracks again. Looks like the animals are tired of life deep in the snowy forests and are coming out to see if anything is growing yet.

Now that it’s lighter in the mornings, the dog and I can see our surroundings again on our walks. We see all kinds of tracks — my son’s sneakers from his last run around the lake, my husband’s boots walking alongside the big ox, from the day they finally decided it was warm enough to take a walk along the road. Deer prints, running back and forth along the road and across it.

The cloven pairings of enormous ox hoofs and delicate deer prints are the funniest. The prints lined up as if the deer and ox had been walking together instead of hours apart, and it took lots of dog sniffing to sort out that confusion.

Then she moved on to examine rabbit prints in the snow.

The rabbits are out in force right now, and unfortunately the clearest evidence of spring is the carnage on the roads. Rabbits, skunks, squirrels, possums — for all of them spring means waking up and wandering across the road.

It doesn’t help them that there’s still so much snow up our way. I’ve seen squirrels and foxes running along the roadside, unable or unwilling to scale the still frozen snowbank between the road and the woods. I’ve seen deer standing by front doors, the only place where grass is emerging, or walking along the roads on the clear side of the snow banks, children in tow. It’s not safe.

The chickens are no better. When we let them out of the coop, they move up the driveway looking for clear ground and, soon enough, they are heading for the road. We have to shoo them back with a broom.

The crows and blue jays are also pecking along the side of the road, but at least they are wise enough to fly away when danger approaches.

In a week or so, most of the snow will be gone from the fields and yards and the animals can get off the roads. Soon enough, the trees will be budding, and the deer and rabbits will have food, even in the woods.

Until then, keep your eyes open for wildlife out in the open. And drive carefully.

Margaret Hartley is the Gazette’s Sunday and features editor. Greenpoint appears in the Gazette’s print edition Sundays on the Environment page.

Have a question or a topic you’d like addressed on Greenpoint? Contact or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter.

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