Cabin CountryTop Story

Lack of snow in the woods a mixed blessing

The Shoreline - January 16, 2019 Edition (Vol. 32 No. 44)

It’s been a great few days, mild and just nice for walking, whether that be in the country or in a municipality.

Up in the country around Brigus Junction, Mahers and Ocean Pond, there is very little snow in the woods. The roads are almost all gravel with some patches of ice. I guess avid skidooers aren’t too happy. But a lot of snow machine enthusiasts take some time off work and head west to get the snow in central and western Newfoundland.

Many people I have spoken with are looking forward to wetting a line come February 1st. But some ponds still have open areas and sections of ice look poorly formed.

Speaking of ice, I was driving along a country road the other day and was just approaching a wooden bridge. The water from the run out had kept ice from forming right to the shoreline. The edge of the ice was probably about thirty or forty feet from the fast flowing water.

I got a pleasant surprise when I saw a mink sitting on the edge of the ice. At first, I just spotted the black clump on the edge of the ice but then it dove in the water, and some seconds later resurfaced and got back on the ice. It walked along the edge with its long tail stretched behind it. The little furbearer was obviously fishing because I watched it for about five minutes and it kept up the cycle of diving underwater and then getting back on the ice. I finally drove away much brighter for having witnessed this small predator at work.

I was out for a walk in Bowring Park the other day with my brother Jim. The duck pond was full of birds of all sizes and shapes, there were swans, ducks of every description, pigeons galore along the beach and there were several “shags” or cormorants fishing in the pond.

The pond was approximately two-thirds ice-covered and Jim and I watched one of the cormorants fishing near the edge of the ice. It used to dive and stay under for some time and then resurface. The white on the throat and upper chest stood out against the black back. The bird has a long, hooked bill and holds its head slightly upright when swimming.

The nice thing about going for a stroll in Bowring Park is the fact you never know what type of bird you’re liable to see in the duck pond, or the brook, or in the many trees.

It’s a good time to get in the country and cut some firewood. The lack of snow makes it easy to get around and you don’t have to worry about obstacles hidden by the snow such as holes in the ground. Also, you don’t leave a big stump buried in the snow. Actually, domestic cutters are supposed to leave a short stump even if there is deep snow. I remember cutting firewood some years ago with Mr. Gord Cooper. There was a nice bit of snow down and we had to wear snowshoes and we took a shovel with us to dig down to the base of the tree to avoid leaving a high stump which is wasting wood.

Speaking of wildlife being right in the heart of an urban area, have you heard about the seals that have become residents in the town of Roddickton on the Great Northern Peninsula? It seems that the seals moved in and the sea ice froze behind them trapping them in the town. I heard one news report that indicated at least two of the seals had been crawling along the roads in town and had been struck by cars.

This seal story out of Roddickton generated much hype and Town Officials contacted DFO in the hopes they would perhaps return the seals to open water. As of Sunday, January 13th, several of the seals had been captured and returned to open water.

The story got me thinking about how much Newfoundland has changed. If a small herd of seals showed up in a town a generation ago, they would have been clubbed and pelted, and the flippers and carcass would have been shared amongst the residents. The seal meat would have been a welcome addition to the winter diet.

Now in the 21st century more people are concerned about the welfare of the seals. Of course, there are many rules and regulations governing the harvest of seals, and a person could get in hot water for disobeying the rules regarding harp seals.

I can remember when I was a young child (about 45 years ago) seeing my mother out in the back garden with a small axe and a knife cleaning up flippers and carcass dad had bought on the St. John’s waterfront. Mom used to say when she was a child in Outer Cover-Logy Bay the men returned from the ice and shared the seal flippers around to all.

But times are changing. If you ever look through magazines such as Canadian Geographic, or National Geographic, you’ll often see pictures of seals and you’ll often see ads for cruises into the Canadian Arctic where observing icebergs, whales, polar bears and seals is the main drawing card.
Today many churches of various faiths have seal flipper dinners as a fund-raiser. But I think as the older generation passes the number of Newfoundlanders eating seal will diminish.

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