Spring at Last

Hello to Wild Turkeys and Pocket Gophers

By Marylyn Cork

It’s spring in the Panhandle. Finally.          

I don’t suppose anybody who has never lived in a country with four distinct seasons understands what the coming of spring means to us who do.

The past winter has not been particularly harsh, merely long and snowy. Boring. It either snowed or did nothing at all but glower, with sunshine a rare occurrence and temperatures averaging out a little below normal. The snow payoff was gorgeous scenery for picture-taking.

Robins are back, which most people regard as the first sign of spring. I tend to connect it to mud everywhere, but that’s probably because I’ve always lived in the country.[/private]

As I write this, nighttime temperatures are still dropping below freezing for the most part, but will be warming by the time this column is read. The big slough between my house and town is completely iced over yet, but the buds of trees and shrubbery are beginning to stir. Soon I’ll be picking wildflowers.

Some rain has fallen—not much, but crocuses in yards are beginning to bloom. My eldest son spent a day off recently from the Stimson lumber mill building electric fence around his gorgeous crocus bed. Deer love the blossoms, not to admire but to eat. I think the neighbors feed those deer, thus drawing them in.

Todd Springs Trail in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest in spring. USFS photo.
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The Panhandle is whitetail paradise and the deer are everywhere, more so than they ever used to be. For many years I grew a big vegetable garden without them ever breaching a five-foot fence around it. Now, a seven-foot fence is needed to protect my veggies. Wild turkeys can fly over it, but usually they don’t, unless they discover in the fall that my grapes are ripe.

Wild turkeys are a problem for just about everybody, whether one feeds them or not. The Idaho Fish and Game Department planted the buggers here, starting about thirty years ago. They reproduced like wildfire. I don’t think the agency quite expected that.

Nothing aside from a building with firmly closed doors and windows is safe from a wild turkey in the winter. Every spring when the snow leaves, I rake up the messy evidence of their visits to my yard and bird feeders. I have nothing good to say about wild turkeys.

Ditto for pocket gophers, another sign of spring. Rambo the cat has brought me one gopher already. The poor thing was blind in the sunshine and couldn’t get away. I had to kill it myself with a stick because the cat wanted only to play with it—torturing it, actually, drawing blood.

I draw the line at pocket gophers, so I put it out of its misery. They love spring bulbs, too. I figure I saved myself a tulip.

Ah, spring. Capricious. Captivating. Frustrating? Yes! But it’s such a pleasure to go to town these days. Every face is wreathed in smiles.[/private]

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