Animal Tales

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Walkin’ Jim has been sharing his animal stories with his audiences for over 30 years.  Lately, he has been asking them to share their animal stories with him.  After hearing hundreds of great stories he has set up this page for you to share your stories with others.  Please tell us your favorite, most interesting, most exciting, or most inspiring experience with what Jim calls “our fellow Earthlings”, the wildlife we share this planet with. 

Share your animal tales… (to be added)…

The Stories
Name: Don Miller
From: Rockford, IL
Year and Location of the Experience: 1980? Oregon, IL
Animal Tale: It has been quite some time since this particular animal encounter of mine. Three dogs ago to be exact. My wife and I were walking our curled-tailed mutt named Tara at Castle Rock State Park near Oregon, Illinois. It was a gorgeous northern Illinois fall day; blue sky,
brisk temps, with red-brown oak and sun-yellow hickory leaves carpeting the ground, floating in the air and some still hanging on the trees.   We were following the path with Tara taking the lead on a leash. The leaves rustled off trail about 18 feet to our immediate right. The movement of fallen foliage sounded as though whatever was burrowing its way through was moving fast. I was clueless as to what was coming our way. I didn’t have long to think about it either because within seconds of hearing the scurrying, out pops a chipmunk on the trail in front of us. It froze on the path and locked eyes with ours.  The leaves off trail were still rustling while the stare down with the chipmunk continued. Before any of us could blink, a weasel bolted out of the leaf litter and struck this chippie with a locking grasp around its neck. The chipmunk rose into the air with a shimmer and a high screeching bark. The weasel was attached. The lanky long predator noticed us, released its grip, and focused its glare in our direction. Our dog (that had a long history of chasing chipmunks around our backyard) and my wife and I all went rigid. Why? Fear? Shock? Amazement? All of those and more! Then the weasel disappeared quicker than it had appeared. I don’t remember having the leaves sound out the weasel’s retreat or the slight silence before they began to rustle again. However it was returning our direction. Before our comatose trance could be broken, the weasel showed up again. It came back to claim its kill without giving us a look. It picked up the motionless chipmunk and raced off into the red-brown and sun-yellow leaves. This time for good. It was a truly amazing site to see the kill. As a kid watching “Marty Stouffer” and “Wild Kingdom”, I always pulled for the gazelle to escape the lion’s jaw and hoped that the rabbit would out fox the fox. I hated then and still do the violence that occurs in nature. (As well as in our world.) Yes, I know that is how it works in the universe of energy transfer. Eat and be eaten. I found myself thinking then as I do now, remembering the incident that our being on the trail that day gave the chipmunk the reason to pause and gave the advantage to the weasel. The weasel lived to hunt another day. The chipmunk wouldn’t see the rising sun again. The irony; death so that there can be life.  We were privileged to peer into a window and be a witness to an animal encounter so elemental, but yet so essential for life to exist.

Name: Martha Evans
From: State College, PA
Year and Location of the Experience:
Animal Tale:
A few years ago on a summer visit to my aunt’s cottage along Lake Huron just south of the Bruce Peninsula, I got up at dawn before anyone else stirred and sat out on the deck overlooking the lake.  It was quite foggy, but all of a sudden some forms flew one by one in  slow procession northward toward the Bruce.  They looked almost like ghosts out there.  Gradually the mist cleared and I went for a walk along the shore.Later, my cousins told me I had seen a flock of cormorants….   Perhaps I did!!  They will forever haunt me with their beauty.

Name: John Roberts
From: Richmond, VA
Year and Location of the Experience:  April 2005 …Gila Wilderness, NM
Animal Tale: On a five  night solo backpack through Gila Wilderness, I saw bear scat, listened for wolves, and wondered about mountain lions, all fellow creatures here. I went through five hailstorms, including one that decided for me that it was time to set tent. But the most compelling time came when I got lost. Seeking out a beautiful view, according to the guide book, I not only missed the view, but also the trail which had become overgrown in the years since the guide was published. Suddenly, I realized that I must have walked right over the trail, when I crossed it and I was heading down a different divide. What to do?…After a few minutes, I heard a wild turkey to my right. Now, I had heard a turkey the previous night, near my tent which was still set up. Was this the same bird? I headed down a ravine, came to a stream, which had to be my stream since it was the only one big enough to flow. I began to recognized the scenery.  And then, my campsite lay ahead. The turkey had led me back to my tent!

Name: Donna Dombrowski
From: Smithfield, Maine
Year and Location of the Experience: 2007 – at my home
Animal Tale: My husband and I live on a lake in the Belgrade Lakes region of Central Maine. We have lovely trails going through our 20 acres of preserved land. I love to walk these trails with my dog at night when the day’s noises are stilled and the night’s concert begins.  I use a headlamp and keep my dog on a leash to avoid sudden confrontations with raccoons,skunks and porcupines. One dark, spring night, under a brilliantly star studded sky, my headlamp picked up two large, round, green reflections that were obviously an animal’s eyes.  I thought briefly of bears for these were not the eyes of a small animal that I often see at night. However, my dog was not reacting at all, and I did not sense any danger, so I continued down the trail.  As it curved to the right, I could see the eyes blink off to the left. I directed my headlamp in that direction and caught a white tail fawn in the beam.  This beautiful, spotted baby froze in its reclining position, not daring to move a muscle.  Its mother had placed it in the middle of a slash area where the twigs and branches created a perfect nest for it. I held my breath for what seemed like an eternity.  The beauty of this moment was so incredible and so unexpected that I will never, ever forget it.  The image of that fawn is forever etched in my mind. I finally realized that my intrusion might be harmful and so I literally tiptoed away, praying that my dog would not create a ruckus.

Name: Craig Wright
From: Helena, MT
Year and Location of the Experience:   Spring 2002, Glacier National Park
Animal Tale:   My brother and I were hiking along St. Mary’s Lake and looking down the trail we saw a mule deer coming towards us but she stopped when she realized we were on the trail. She glanced around looked like she was going to go up the steep hill and off the trail. I said to my brother,”This is her home, let’s give her the trail and see if she keeps coming.” So we stepped off the trail on the downhill side, and she tentatively decided to keep coming on the trail but started to show signs of nervousness as she got closer. I started talking to her softly, saying things like, “There is no harm in us. We’re just enjoying the beauty of your home and you.” She decided to keep coming, and as she passed me, I was only a few feet away, resting my arms on my walking stick. She suddenly stepped toward me and licked my forearm and then continued on her way. I know she was probably attracted to the taste of salt on my skin, but all the same it was a remarkable bit of trust on her part, and I believe this also came out of her desire to respond back to the flood of good wishes we were sending to her.

Name: Jerry
From: Omaha, NE
Year and Location of the Experience: Hebgen Lake, MT – Summer 1995
Animal Tale: I was working at Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky that summer.  (I stayed that winter and had the pleasure of meeting and sharing a few meals with Jim.)  After work, I headed south to Hebgen Lake to try my luck with the trout in the day’s remaining hours.  Finding a spot near where the old house was destroyed in the earthquake of 1959, I set up.  The fishing was good, and at one point I turned back to get something from my tackle box.  My heart nearly stopped when I saw that a moose and her calf were standing about 10-12′ behind me.  Wow, I thought, how does something that big sneak up on a guy like that on a calm day when the grass wasn’t even rustling???  Keeping her in my peripheral vision, I slowly turned back to appear nonthreatening.  At that moment all I could think about was a tidbit of information a Montana local had given me.  It was, “The only thing as protective as a sow grizzly is of her cubs, is a cow moose of her calf.”  ‘Great’, I thought.  I also thought, ‘This water is really going to be cold if she gets agitated and I have to take a swim!’  But, I figured, why would she be agitated?  After all, I was standing here fishing and minding my own business.  She’s the one that came up to me! 
Looking back again, I calmly talked to her while she and her calf just stared at me.  I told her I only had one rod, and she’d have to get her own.  As if she understood me and became disappointed, she and her calf slowly wandered off.

Name: Jim Cunningham
From:  Army Brat ( conceived in Japan)
Year and Location of the Experience: July 1973 – Yosemite N.P. – Elizabeth Lake                       Animal Tale: In the spring of 1973 I had decided to join the USAF, but I wanted to spend a week backpacking in Yosemite before I went for basic training. I had to leave for basic training on the 13th of July. I had fallen in love with Yosemite, and this trip would be my second backpacking experience. My first backpacking trip had been on the Appalacian Trail in south western Virginia. Anyway, I made it to Yosemite in early July 1973. I arrived at Tuolumne Meadows in the middle of the afternoon, but I decided to make a little side trip to Elizabeth Lake. It was only a 3 mile hike and I thought it would be a great place to spend my first night. I’d never been there before. It was a beautiful day and I arrived at the lake early in the evening. I found a great spot to make camp on the east side of the lake. I had the lake all to myself.  I set up my camp, had dinner and enjoyed the scenery until it started getting dark. It was such a beautiful evening that I decided to sleep under the stars and didn’t set up a tent. It didn’t take long to fall asleep, but I think I must have been asleep for an hour or two when something woke me up. I found my flashlight and shined it over toward my pack, which was about 5 yards away. I was very surprized to see Momma Bear and her 2 cubs eating the food from my pack. I had almost no knowledge concerning bears. However I knew that a momma bear could be very dangereous if she thought her cubs were in anyway threatened. I made a quick decision to allow them to have as much of my food as they wanted. I decided that I would stay in my sleeping bag and stay quiet. After a few minutes the bears left. I checked my pack. Most of my food was gone but not all. I went back to bed but it took a while to calm myself. After about a half hour to an hour, I started to fall asleep, but again I heard something coming near to my camp. I never saw this animal, but I know it was a bear and I was wide awake again. The bear left after a minute or two. It was a starry starry night, and that was what I started to focus on. I started counting shooting stars, and the number 31 to this day is what sticks in my mind. I was asleep again. It must have been about 3 or 4 in the morning when I woke up again. I don’t know why I woke up, but the first thing I became aware of was I couldn’t see any stars. After a couple of seconds I realized that the reason I couldn’t see any stars was a bears head was blocking my view. I could now see the silouette of the bear’s head against the starry sky. The bears nose was about 5 or 6 inches from my face. I remember thinking, if you touch me, I’m going to scream, go insane, and run and jump in the lake. That was my plan. The bear never touched me. I stayed still and quiet (exscept for my heart). The bear smelled me, walked around me and left. It took a while but I fell asleep again. When I woke up, the sun was up and it was another beautiful day. I walked over to the lake and I screamed as loud as I could ” BEARS, I’M NOT LEAVING THE MOUNTAINS!” After this I packed up my gear and headed to the Tuolumne Meadows store and bought some granola bars. I had a great backpacking experience, in one of the most beautiful places on the earth. I thank God for this experience and that I wasn’t hurt or attacked. Since this experience I’ve had a love for bears and I know that I could never hunt bears for sport. I also have a respect for bears and the wilderness.  Be full of care and Hang your food high.

Name: Matt
From: Missoula, Montana
Year and Location of the Experience: 2008–West of Missoula
Animal Tale: The last week of the hunting season of 2008 I was to the west of town hunting with some friends.I was working my way up a ridge when I came to a small group of trees,a good stop to take a rest and watch for elk and deer.I was there about a hour when I heard a low growl to my right,I turned my head and there was a mountain lion about 35 feet away standing there looking at me.There was some brush between us,so I stood up so the lion could see what I was,it just stood there,so I then held up my arm and yelled at the lion thinking it would run off,well when I yelled the lion dropped to it’s front paws stuck it’s tail out straight and came at me,I then shot right in front of it’s paws again thinking it would run off,whatit did was to jump back about two feet and stand there looking at me for a few sec’s and then slowly turned keeping it’s eyes on me and slowly walked up the ridge,when it got to the bench about 100 feet above me it turned and stared at me for a min or two and turned and was gone.I have run into lions before in the hills but that was the first time any thing like that happened.
Name: Joey Carmosino
From: Winnemucca, NV
Year and Location of Experience: 1980’s….Owens Valley, CA
Animal Tale:  Its a little bit of a stretch, but I will ask you all to think of hang gliding as kind of like hiking with wings. This is a story of a flight that ranks right up there with my top two. Number one was my first 100 miler. That flight was like hitting you first home run in the big leagues. The story you’re about to read reminded me of my real position as I dared to ‘tread where eagles dare”.
It was back in the 80s.The Owens Valley California was the Hawaii of hang gliding.  Just as surfers dreamed of traveling to Hawaii to catch the biggest wave they ever surfed,back then hang glider pilots dreamed of testing there skills in the Owens. Mountain flying at its best or worst – ‘shear’ ecstasy or ‘shear’ terror. At that time the Owens was the home of the record distance flight of 200 miles.It was not out  of the ordinary that regardless of pilot’s skill, their first flight in hang gilding’s Mecca was their all time best.

On this particular flight,after an hour of bobbing up and down and generally getting trashed in the turbulence, I was gradually flushed out of the White Mountains and resigned to the fact that a landing was emanate out on the flats. As I was heading for Highway 6 and about 2000 feet above the ground I saw a young eagle – a yearling? – working a thermal. What the heck, with a safe landing area assured I had the luxury of moving in on top.  Watching his progress,knowing the direction of the prevailing wind and being a student of the intricacies of soaring I found the core of the thermal. With my vertical airspeed indicator confirming a climb rate of about 500 feet/minute, I watched him catch up to me.  I don’t think it is in eagles DNA to worry about what might being above them.  They are the lions of the sky.  When he finally realized he had company, he initiated a quick evasive maneuver and put himself a few feet off my right wing tip.  

    There we were soaring wing tip to wing tip with eye to eye contact.  After a minute or so I expected him to just pass me by and get on with his business of being an eagle, but then with just with a flick of a feather he made a pass less than 10 feet directly beneath me and took a position on my left wing tip.  Now I had never flown with eagles before, but I was aware of the fally had chased hang glider pilots to the ground defending their territory. As tact that mature eagles literhe lore of eagle vs.hang glider went, the first move of engagement was a pass beneath you and as they approach closest contact they would go inverted and flash their talons as if they were going to rip your guts out.

    I was not quiet ready to give up the thermal andseveral more passes beneath me with no flash of talons, we settled into just sharing a ther after mal. For several minutes I watched this eagle in flight – close enough to discern damn near every little movement of feather and muscle and all the while maintaining eye contact. As much as I was captivated with his mastery of flight, I could not help but think he was looking at me as being a complete novice – wondering how I could be up there with him.  At about 6000 feet above the valley floor he turned away and headed back for the Whites.  As I watched him fly away I was thinking I should follow him.  You can tell when you get to the top of a thermal, the smooth lift starts to diminish and there is more turbulence. About the time I was thinking I blew my chance to get more air time he showed back up with a mate – I would like to think it was a femee or more turns with me and then flew back towards their aerie. After I landed, I could not help but think the only logical reason for the eagle’s return with a mateale, but who knows. So there I was flying with two eagles now, and they made a couple or thr was the thought that he had somehow communicated to his cohort ‘You got to see this!’