February 25th, 2018
In the early history of the Americas, to the Chippewa Indians when the drifts of snow lay piled high and temperatures plummeted it was the month of the dreaded Hunger Moon. Scarce food drove men, women and children to harsh extremes. One source relates that among the Cree and Ojibwa cannibalism sometimes manifested itself to the degree that a “wiitiko monster” bewitched hungry men to eat human flesh. Early history has an ugly side.
But enough of that for now. It is the present and hunger of that sort has been largely eradicated in the United States, at least for humans. Deer though are another subject. In the Upper Peninsula deer often starve late in winter, especially in harsh winters like we had in 2013-2014. A walk through a deer yard often brings you to an emaciated carcass. Ravens hang in nearby trees and swoop down on the dead, and sometimes on the dying. Deer yards are common among thick conifer stands and white cedar swamps are that often the only refuge for miles. It is not unusual for a deer to migrate ten to fifty miles to these winter stands. Although deer need winter browse, many of the former yards, that in the past held salvation for deer, have been cut. In the woods now second and third growth deciduous trees now take their place. A sad testament to poor logging practices of our forebears. Though logging has it’s up side for deer too, as the wastage of limbs and tops make for excellent browse and sustain many deer through the long days and nights of the Hungry Moon.
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