Nancy K. Woodard

We all know about the need to be super cautious when there is a Mama Bear with her cubs anywhere nearby.  She will protect those babies with all her fierce might, so, don’t get between Mama and cubs.  Of course, a bear has a lot of strength and few other animals are a match to tackle Mama Bear when she’s protecting her babies.  But I’ve seen much smaller animals successfully protecting their territory, each other, or their babies.

Even usually calm robins can ruffle their feathers and divebomb an animal that threatens their nest.  They aren’t always successful, but often they do ward off an enemy. 

In late 1999, as my first husband, Marlin, and I were leaving Clymer after having lunch at Dutch Village, we drove around the little lake in back of the restaurant.  It is actually a little stream that runs through there and has been dammed and has made a little lake there.  There is an island area in the center of it and at that time, there were hundreds of geese who lived there.  It is very picturesque.   

Marlin knew that I liked to see the geese there.  We paused to watch the geese for a few minutes, and I noticed a cat coming across the road toward a small cluster of about 15 to20 geese which had come up on the grass at the side of the road.  The cat, using the stealth mode, was trying to sneak across the road toward them without them noticing what was going on.  Fat chance! 

Of course the geese saw the cat approaching. It was sneaking across the road with no cover at all.  When the geese spotted the cat, (right away!), they jumped up and ran to the water and splashed right in.  And then all the geese in the whole body of water turned toward the cat!  All the geese started swimming toward the spot where the cat was approaching.  It was a magnificent sight!  It was like someone had made an announcement, “Calling all geese!  Can I have your attention?  Danger!  Danger!”   

The geese reacted as though they were filing into an amphitheater, circling in neat, orderly rows, to look at the cat.  All of the geese in area, about a hundred, maybe 150 of them started swimming toward the spot where the cat was approaching.  The cat came nearer, crouching low as cats do when they are stalking, and the geese continued to flock in.  Even the geese farthest away were facing the cat and swimming toward it.  The cat came to the other side of the road, near the water and crouched there.  Cats can wait a long time when they are hunting, and we did not wait to see the end of the drama, but I have no doubt that the cat did not catch a goose.  The whole goose army had prepared to do battle with the cat. 

Another time when I saw a flock of birds prepare to battle a deadly enemy was at the Wattsburg Fair, in the poultry barn.  The doors of the building were open and all of the prize poultry were in cages, well protected, well above ground level where no animal could get at them.  I was wandered through the aisles between the cages, looking at the beautiful feathered birds, when suddenly, every bird in the building began a loud clamor.  It was the bird’s version of the “Danger” cry.  I looked in the direction that the birds were looking to see what was happening.  Someone hadn’t kept their dog on leash and it was exploring.  A hapless beagle had entered the bird’s safety zone.  They were all safe, mind you!  But they knew that the dog did not belong in their building.  The dog calmly continued walking down the aisle, between their cages, and exited the building through another door.  I think that if the birds had not been in cages, the whole gang of them would have chased that dog out of their territory in no time at all.  It was their territory and no dog belonged there. 

My daughter’s husband’s Aunt Ruth had an experience with her dog and a duck.  Aunt Ruth was in a small boat, probably a row boat, on Lake George, near Ticonderoga, NY and had her dog with her.  While they were enjoying their time on the water, a lone duck swam near them.  The dog got very excited and seemed determined to get that duck.  The duck was not perturbed.  The dog jumped into the water and swam toward the duck.  When the dog got close to the duck, Aunt Ruth said, the duck opened her mouth and let out an enormously loud, “Quack!”  The startled, and frightened dog, turned and fled back to safety with Aunt Ruth.  From that time on, Aunt Ruth said, when she told the story, her dog never again saw a duck.  If there was a duck on the lake when they were out in their boat, the dog tuned his head and looked at something else. 

You have to admire the courage of the animals when they face their perceived danger for one of their babies or their own species.  I’ve even seen on Face Book a family’s cat attack and drive away a dog which seemed to be going to harm “the human’s child.”   

I love knowing about the protective instincts that animals have, for their young and sometimes even for us.

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