Some animals are so regular in their habits you could set your clock to their activities, including birds migrating or groundhogs checking their shadows.
Of course Punxsutawney Phil is not given a vote: he is physically lifted out and set down in public to check his shadow, like it or not. And his cousin groundhog at the Bronx Zoo so resented being disturbed one year that he actually bit the New York City mayor through his fancy leather glove in protest when hizzhonor removed him from his cute little den for predicting purposes one Groundhog Day. Groundhogs, apparently, value their privacy and do not do well on ceremonial occasions.
With other animals, however, things are not so black and white. They might migrate on a predictable day or they might not, depending on the weather or their personal whims.
Hibernation, I am told, depends in part on temperature. When it gets cold, bears and other critters find that lack of movement requires less expenditure of energy, meaning their energy supplies decrease pretty slowly.
So after a big long feast in the fall, they snooze away the winter. Their metabolism slows. In some cases, their energy consumption in seven months of hibernation is said to equal only 17 percent of their annual usage, if Internet sources are telling the truth.
So maybe you can’t exactly set your watch to them, but Wapiti’s “Five O’Clock Deer Herd” is full of pretty on-time guys and gals.
Deer, naturally, do not hibernate. Our winter driving would be much safer if only they would.
I first noticed the Five O’Clock Deer Herd a couple of weeks ago. That was because, well, the whole herd of about 25 deer was running straight toward me.
Yes, it’s true. I was driving past an open gate in the fence lining the north side of US 14-16-20, which we all know as the North Fork Highway.
The deer were headed for the open gate at a dead run. And “dead” would have been the operative word, had my brakes not been functioning quite so well.
The herd of deer paid me no never-mind. They seemed to want to get to the river, pronto. I checked my clock and, yep, it was 5 p.m., which must be Deer Happy Hour.
I thought they might be a tad too lazy to jump the fence, so they favored crossing where the gate was open. But they were not too lazy to run.
I drove on home and forgot about the incident.
The next day it was deja deer, headed once again for the open gate at a rapid pace. It was a Friday and I did not go past the gate - which is located near the old Broken H Ranch property on the far side of Trout Creek - again until the following Monday.
And sure enough, they were there again. This time they were hanging out and grazing closer to Trout Creek, but glancing toward their favorite crossing spot now and then, as if they were measuring how much daylight they still had before they should cross the road and get drinks at the river. Happy Hour drinks.
I’ve since seen the Five O’Clock Deer Herd several times, always around 5 p.m., and usually near the open gate.
It all breeds speculation about what they find, down by the North Fork of the Shoshone, that makes them want to hurry.
Wouldn’t you know that a bunch of deer from the Wild West which has that special boozy reputation to uphold, would be the ones to celebrate Happy Hour?
I wonder if they are serving special alfalfa hors d’ouvres as well, down there on the riverside.
Originally Published in The Cody Enterprise. March 10, 2010.