Barred Owl

The barred owl recently recovered following a nighttime collision with a pick-up awaits transport to wildlife rehabilitator Beverly Grage of Lindale. The owl was reportedly hit when it dove in front of the truck while in pursuit of a frog. Grage said the owl died about 12 hours after arrival, likely due to internal injuries.

Not much epitomizes the rogue ways of Mother Nature any better than the vicious circle of life that frequently plays out in the wild. Making a living off the land is a constant fight for survival where guarantees of seeing another tomorrow simply don’t exist.

Things can go south in a hurry in environments where predators live as they were born to. Even those at the top of the food chain will eventually meet their match and perish. The only unknowns are how it will happen and when, for death is imminent in all living things.

A grim reminder of nature’s callous character recently surfaced in a short YouTube video posted on the Boone and Crockett Club’s Facebook page. Captured by B.E. Judson, the dramatic footage depicts a bull elk as it meets its fate in the jaws of a large grizzly bear at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

The elk, which appeared to have an injured rear leg, died a violent death after the grizzly chased it into the Yellowstone River. The big bull made one attempt to fend off the bear with its large antlers, but was unsuccessful.

The bear quickly latched onto the elk’s back, possibly crushing its spine, before eventually forcing its head and body beneath the water’s surface. The animal appears to have drowned in short order.

The video clearly depicts Mother Nature in one of its rawest forms. Tough as it was to watch, tourists and other onlookers who saw the take down on the crisp September day bore witness to something most never will as the flesh of one big game animal became valuable nutrition to sustain the life of another.

“The grizzly was successful in taking down the bull elk after only a few minutes, but it worked for around a half an hour to redirect it to the far side of the river and secure it on the east bank, about 100 yards downstream from the north end of Hayden Valley,” wrote Judson.

Not every clash between predator and prey ends in death.

Last month, Conroe bowhunter A.J. Downs was mule deer hunting with friends near Lindreth, N.M. One of the hunters in the group, Tony Bell of Kansas, arrowed a mature 4X4 that was wearing some serious battle scars.

The buck had dozens of claw marks on its shoulders, back and belly where the hair and hide had been torn away during an apparent mountain lion attack. Downs said some of the scratch marks were more than two feet in length. The deer also had several bite marks on its neck and back.

“There’s no doubt it was a cat,” Downs said. “The marks weren’t fresh. They looked like they were just beginning scab over.”

It’s anybody’s guess exactly what went down when the cat pounced on the buck, but you can bet things got dicey. There is a good chance it happened under the cover of darkness or during the dim light of dawn or dusk, when deer are most active and big cats do most of their dirty work.

The attack likely happened unexpectedly, too. Sort of like a recent Saturday night collision between a barred owl and Chevrolet pick-up that occurred on CR 542 near Mineola in Wood County. It was a classic example of how quickly the tables can turn on a crafty predator when caution is thrown to the wind.

My good friend Chester Williams is a neighbor of the man who was driving the truck. Williams got up close and personal with the incident during the days that followed.

“He said was driving along and saw a frog hopping across the road in his headlights,” said Williams. “About that time this owl swooped down in front of the truck trying to catch the frog. That’s when he hit it.”

There was no sign of the owl until Williams discovered it in his yard the following night, still alive. When he approached, the owl hopped on top of a fence post and disappeared on the opposite side.

“I couldn’t tell what was wrong with it, but it acted like its wing was broken or something,” Williams recalled.

Two days later Williams discovered the owl in his yard again, this time during the daylight. He contacted a local game warden, who suggested he reach out to Beverly Grage of Lindale.

Grage is a Smith County wildlife rehabilitator permitted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Grage has been caring for small mammals and raptors, including owls, eagles, hawks, falcons and vultures for 30 years. She calls her outfit “Wild and Free Again.”

Grage agreed to take bird, but told Williams he would need to capture it first. He enlisted his wife, Lana, to help tackle the task.

“It was just standing on the ground looking at us,” he said. “Lana approached from the front to keep it distracted and I slipped up from behind and threw towel over it. The owl didn’t do much, but I wore oven mitts just in case. I didn’t want it to bite me or get me with those claws.”

The couple placed the owl in a portable dog kennel and turned it over to Grage. Sadly, the bird died roughly 12 hours after the transfer.

In addition to a busted wing, Grage said she believes the owl had internal injuries from colliding with the truck. Trauma and stress associated with the necessary handling of the bird likely pushed the process along.

“It happens,” Grage said. “Sometimes there just isn’t anything that can be done.”

It might seem odd to hear about such a graceful bird of prey getting pummeled by a pick-up, but Grage says it happens more frequently than some might think.

“Barred owls are probably the most common bird I get, but I also get quite few great horned owls, screech owls and gobs of Red-tailed hawks,” she said. “The most common cause of injury with the barred owls is getting hit by automobiles. Momma doesn’t do a very good job of teaching them to look both ways before crossing the road. When they are so focused on their prey and get whacked by a car it’s usually a full-body slam. What we see on the outside is usually just a small portion of the injuries they sustain when they get broad-sided by a car.”

Grage shared a compelling tale about an adult Red-tailed hawk she’s been tending at her facility over the last week. The bird was recovered by a motorist who found it in the ditch beside an area highway.

It was originally believed that the bird had been hit by a car, but Grage doesn’t think so.

“The lady who found it said it was standing in the road and the car in front of her ran right over the top of it,” Grage said. “I don’t think the car actually hit the bird. My thought is the turbulence of the car passing over the top of the bird tumbled it to the side of the road. It seemed pretty rattled when I first saw it. You’ve got to remember we’re talking about a two-pound bird getting passed over by a car running 60 m.p.h.”

Grage found no apparent injuries to the bird until she discovered blood on her hand. Closer inspection revealed a small puncture wound on one of its wings. The hole didn’t make full penetration. She believes the bird had been shot, possibly by a pellet gun.

“Wild animals have a truly hard life out there,” Grage said. “Sometimes I think people and the automobiles can be worse enemies than their natural predators.”

Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by email, mattwillwrite4u@yahoo.com.

Outdoors Briefs

Waterfowl program leader calls coastal teal season the best ever

By Matt Williams

Outdoors Writer

Texas waterfowlers could be in for some banner shoots later this fall and winter if the upcoming duck season turns out half as good as the early teal season did.

The 16-day teal season that rolled to a close on Sept. 27 was one for the record books, particularly for hunters along middle Texas coast. That’s the word from Kevin Kraai, waterfowl program leader with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

“The middle coast saw probably the best teal season ever,” Kraai said. “Many of the clubs and leases in the rice prairies had record breaking seasons. Our mid-coast wildlife management areas saw record participation along with record numbers of birds harvested. Other parts of the state were more hit and miss, but had good shooting where there was suitable habitat.”

Kraai attributes the remarkable season to several factors. A banner nesting season witnessed this spring and summer across the birds’ northern breeding grounds is at the top of the list.

“Couple that with some great timed cool fronts and even a bona fide cold front and we had the perfect scenario for the excellent season we had,” he said.

Kraai said public lands hunters who visited the Justin Hurst WMA near Freeport and the Mad Island WMA near Collegeport enjoyed some outstanding shoots. Together the two WMAs had 1,496 hunters that harvested 3,709 teal.

“Over crowding is becoming a real issue for us on the few WMAs where we offer teal hunts,” he said. “We had to turn hunters away for the first time ever this year.”

Texas’ upcoming duck season runs Nov. 14-29 and Dec. 5-Jan. 31 in the North Zone; Youth Only Nov. 7-8. The South Zone season is set for Nov. 7-29 and Dec. 12-31; Youth Only, Oct. 31-Nov. 1.

Texan Talley grabs Elite Series win

Texas bass pro Frank Talley of Temple won the Bassmaster Elite Series event held Sept. 30-Oct. 3 on Alabama’s Lake Guntersville with a three-day total of 64 pounds, 3 ounces.  It’s Talley’s first win on the big league tour. He earned a $100,000 pay day.

Talley, 46, has been competing on the pro tour for two seasons. He qualified for the league through the Bassmaster Opens, winning the Central division Angler of the Year title on the heels of banner rookie season in 2018.

He is currently in good position to qualify for his second consecutive Bassmaster Classic. Talley was 26th in the Elite Series AOY points race headed into last week’s event on Santee Cooper.

The 2021 ‘Classic is set for March 19-21 on Lake Ray Roberts near Denton with daily weigh-ins at Dickies Arena in downtown Ft. Worth.

“I’ll never forget that first morning of the 2019 Classic, and I want that feeling again,” Talley said. “Plus, with it being in Texas, I really want to be there in front of all of my family and friends; that would be really cool.”

Current Elite Series AOY points leader Clark Wendlandt of Leander finished 21st at Guntersville, while Fort Worth’s Chris Zaldain finished 22nd.

Iles, Shook rally for Outlaw championship win

Danny Iles of Lufkin and Brian Shook of Lumberton rallied from behind to win the 2020 Outlaw Outdoors Team Championship held Oct. 3-4 on Sam Rayburn.

The anglers weighed in a two-day total of 42.87 pounds, including a massive Day 2 limit weighing 31.52 pounds. The catch was anchored by a 8.56 pounder. Iles/Shook won $20,000.

Rounding out the Top 5 were Clayton Boulware/Albert Collins, 35.68; Clay Phillip/David Shaw, 30.19; Dustin Gunstream/Daniel Bynum, 29.21; and Bryan Lohr/Harold Moore, 28.65.

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