I don’t have any photos to post with my words today. Actually, I usually have words to post with my photos as this blog for me has always been meant to be about the photography. I enjoy reading other people’s stories, poems and inspirational writing but I have never felt like I wanted to write long posts or had much to say. Today I don’t have any photos but something to say.
I spend a lot of time visiting a beautiful natural area along the river east of town that the Nature Conservancy has spent millions of dollars restoring over the last 12 years. They have created a paradise for birds and animals. They restored the natural curves and bends to the river, planted thousands of trees, put in a bike path and generously opened this all to the public. There is almost 10 miles of river access that had been ruined by misguided attempts by the Corps of Engineers to control flooding and is now a stunning oasis for animals and humans. I joined the Conservancy after they opened it and I took my first walk through it marveling at my good fortune to live close to this beautiful place and the good work that had been done.
To say I love this place is an understatement. I spend countless hours there walking, thinking, not thinking, watching animals and birds, taking photographs and sitting quietly enjoying the solitude. I worried that when it opened that it would be flooded with people because I could not imagine that everyone would not want to be out there all the time. To my surprise I hardly ever see anyone else. It is a bit of a drive, there are only two access points and you have to hike in. I guess that is enough to dissuade most from visiting.
There are other visitors and I can read the signs of their activity. Footprints, bike tracks and in the fall the tell tale signs of those who think the rules do not apply to them. I find them where the ducks rest on the ponds that were created for them, and in the brush where the quail scurry to take shelter from walkers and bikers, the colorful spent shotgun shell casings litter the ground. I get angry when I see this disregard for the rules of this place. This is a no hunting preserve. This is a place where animals, birds and people can interact with each other without fear or could if it were not for the rule breakers.
I have asked myself what I would do if I encountered hunters on the property. I am often there in the early morning hours in the quiet before dawn and I am there alone. I told myself countless times that to confront anyone would be a mistake and that it would be dangerous. My husband told me the same thing when I expressed my disappointment and frustration with people who would hunt there against the posted rules. So I thought I had a plan, had prepared myself for the inevitable moment that I would run across someone hunting there. I would try to avoid them, take down a license plate number when leaving, report them to the game warden or the caretaker of the preserve but under no circumstances would I confront them.
I have not been out there in a few weeks as I have been waiting for the Mule deer rut to start to get good photos of bucks. I donned my camo, got out there before it was light and started walking through an area that ordinarily is full of deer at dawn. I did not see anything. The area seemed strangely quiet and empty. I circled back around through some sagebrush which in the past I have caught deer bedded down in. A coyote was peeking at me through the sage and I got excited about trying to take photos of it. It ran back and forth frantically and I could hear a chain clinking. My heart sank. Of course it was in a trap. I got a little closer and sure enough it was held there by a leg hold trap. It tried desperately to break free and I was sickened and felt helpless. There was no way I could free it. It sat down and barked at me in fear. As I was deciding that I needed to go I saw a man approaching over the hill.
At this point in the story all of my common sense left me. I shouted out at the man, “Hey are you running a trap line here?” He said, Yes he was.” I said you have a coyote in your trap.” He said good I will be right there.” I stopped in front of him and proceeded to tell him that he was breaking the law and that he could not run a trap line here. This was Nature Conservancy Land. He had all kinds of reasons that he said he could do exactly what he wanted to do here or anywhere else. I asked him for his name which he refused to give. All this time I can hear the coyote distressed behind us. I know that this man is going to either dispatch him with a gun or stomp him to death. He tells me to wait right here while he takes care of it. I blurted out I would not wait and that I would be reporting him and took off walking as fast as I could back to my car thinking what a fool I was to get into a confrontation with someone who most likely was armed.
I was lucky he didn’t follow me. I drove home with two overwhelming emotions; rage and relief. I immediately called the Conservancy office when I got home and reported this incident. They were grateful that I had taken the trouble to report it and assured me that they would deal with him. The man I spoke to was informative and helpful. He gave me the number of the steward who lives on the property to report any further such incidents to. I have that number in my phone now and should I see any hunters or trappers I will stick to the plan and just call that number.
It was very foolish of me to confront someone like that. I won’t do it again, I swear. I have promised my husband that I won’t though he understood why I got so passionate about it. Next time I will act like it is not something I am concerned about, take some photos of the offender or offenders and make that call.