grape trellis

Following animal tracks through the former grape trellis & into the woods, I pass between wire & shadows. The crusted snow tugs at my feet, as if to fix me in place like so many others.


I watch the way things surface & think of a snow-shark rearing a hammer head, or some other cryptozoological prodigy. It’s the shadows more than the sun that pull me uphill. The bright, still morning seems just right for a sighting.

Then on an unused game trail, I almost trip over a loop of new wire staked between two bushes. I freeze & stare.


This must be what the game laws call a cable restraint, as if it were simply a fancy kind of leash for recalcitrant canids. No wonder the songdogs here so rarely advertise their presence!

I reach down & pull it out by the roots, then spot the fresh bootprints on the other side. They are enormous.

I will track this creature to its den.

21 Replies to “Snare”

  1. …and in a manner of speaking, I guess I did. I followed the footprints far enough to verify which neighboring property they came from, then called the neighbor and had a cordial conversation in which we established that, while he and his friends were welcome to hate and persecute foxes and coyotes on his land, we were equally welcome to protect them on ours, and in any case that the property line (a meaningless concept to canids, I’m afraid) is clearly marked, and his friend was in the wrong and shall get an earful directly. I also heard tales of nesting bald eagles and families of five bears, and poor hungry rabbits and deer that need feeding to survive the winter. We were both very polite. You know what they say about a well-armed society…

  2. Yeah, I would have pulled it out by the roots too. Good for you for tracking the perpetrator down and making things clear. I’d much rather die by a gunshot than in one of those things – in fact I’ve heard too many stories of foxes caught by one leg instead…well, you know the rest.

    On a happier note, I really like these stark winter photos tending toward abstraction; the second one works especially well, for me, anyway.

  3. Hi, Beth. I don’t know whether my tracking skills are good enough that I could recognize a three-legged Reynard or Coyote, but I’ll keep my eyes out.

    I’m glad you like that second photo. I posted it to the queue at Visual Soma today, then had second thoughts and took it down again — mostly because it would mean too many winter abstraction shots in a row at that point (Feb 29). Maybe I’ll post it later on in March. It really does benefit from being viewed at a larger size.

  4. your shots remind me of the strolls through our woodlot when we lived in Canada. Deer tracks, hare, coyote abounded. And no snares, thankfully. Glad you pulled it. Glad you had the clear and polite conversation with the neighbor.

  5. Good for you for speaking to him, I hate that kind of cruelty.

    On another note, Dave, that second photo is absolutely amazing, it really sucked me in, there’s something beautiful yet very menacing about it, I could not stop staring at it. Wonderful.

  6. I am impressed that you had the clarity and control to have a polite conversation! I would have been so furious, I doubt I would have made much sense, or been able to do it quietly. What an awful, awful thing.

    This reads like a prose poem. Did you intend it to be?

  7. Good for you, but what a bone-chilling experience! Traps are right there with poison on my list of sneaky, underhanded, barbaric customs. I’m with Beth, if you’ve got to kill something (and why do you, anyway?), at least have the decency to make it clean.

    Coyotes, bless them, are beating everything we’ve thrown at them. They’ll be here, with the cockroaches, when we’re long gone.

  8. Lee’s River – snowshoe hare is the one critter you menton that we don’t have here, though they’re found farther north in the state. A few rabbits, though probably not the rarer Allegheny cottontail.

    Jo – I’m glad you also liked that photo (be sure to click through to view it larger). I’ll definitely have to put it back in the queue at my photoblog.

    jillypoet – Yeah, that’s why I put it in the “Poems and poem-like things” category. I went back and forth about the arrangement of lines but ultimately decided it worked best as prose.

    Sally and Crafty Green Poet – Why do you have to kill anything? Well, I’m actually a pretty big supporter of hunting, and not just for ecological reasons (to keep the white-tailed deer in check). I think it’s an important link with our hunter-gatherer origins… and I love venison! Trapping is a different kettle of fish, though. I don’t know enough about snare trapping to know whether it’s as cruel as the old-style leghold traps, but everything of course depends upon how often the trapper checks his traps and whether he keeps them in good condition. I do find it strange that although we as a society completely repudiated market hunting at the end of the 19th century, after we realized it was responsible for the extirpation of so many species, we still make an exception for fur trapping. I’m totally opposed to that sort of market influence over our game laws. I’m also opposed to hunting or trapping of predators in general (PA even has a bobcat season, for crying out loud). Our forest habitat is highly fragmented, creating an unnatural proportion of brushy edges to forest interiors, and this in turn has fueled an explosion of edge-dwelling species such as raccoons, skunks, and rabbits. We need coyotes, foxes and bobcats to help keep things in balance. Also, if people aren’t going to eat it, they shouldn’t be allowed to shoot or trap it, in my view.

  9. Our next-door neighbour had a large collection of geese, hens and turkeys (the latter only in the run-up to Christmas) and set snares in the boundary hedge for the inevitable predating foxes. One morning I found a fox in one which had almost, but not quite, eaten through the single leg caught in the wire. We phoned the neighbours in question. It was more than an hour before the son shambled out and pulped it with his shotgun.

  10. ” I think it’s an important link with our hunter-gatherer origins.”

    I can hardly kill a cockroach without guilt.

    Yet, I respect the tradition of hunting as the evolutionary legacy that made our survival possible.

    The picture of the snare reveals a facet of that legacy that is repellent to me and leaves me feeling so ‘other’. What tweak of chemical permits a human mind to prepare and place and patiently cull the mayhem of a cable restraint?

    I envy your ability to muzzle your snarl during that conversation.

    If we get sun again after the predicted snowfall, I’m going out for shadow shots such as these. Very nice.

  11. I envy your ability to muzzle your snarl during that conversation.

    Really, it’s just a combination of laziness – anger is very taxing, you know! – and a practical need to stay on good terms with one’s neighbors whenever possible. We may disagree with this particular neighbor on many things, but he does do a very good job of keeping renegade all-terrain vehicles off our shared portion of the mountain, and for that I’m grateful.

  12. Okay, that was clumsy of me… (of course we kill; all of us, hello!) I should have said the world, this world, on the whole, needs more predators!

  13. Traps are also part of our heritage — remember, we are the ultimate tool-users, and a trap is just another tool — a tool to catch and/or kill “whatever small critter takes this path”.

    But the days are long past when we’d be happy to eat whatever damn thing stumbled into our trap, and well past since we learned why not to kill everything that crosses our path.

    In modern times, hunting should be done mindfully, with due restraint and discretion. Traps are the exact opposite of that, and should be anathema.

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