Monday, February 11, 2008

February 11, 2008

It's always about the weather, these days. Today started out with a windchill of minus 29C so I dressed for it. Strategic layers, leg warmers, warmest mitts, a headband under the hat. I didn't carry my camera thinking, what's the use, the batteries would get too cold to work. As I turned onto the bike path and into the wind, I shielded my face from its sting with my hand. My eyes teared up and I closed them to narrow slits. Then I noticed a small brown puff of fuzz beside the path. I thought it must be a pompon fallen off something and took a step past it. Then I stopped and turned back, because I had seen the fur move in the wind, without the object itself being moved.

It was right in the junction of the vertical wall of snow and the path, as sheltered as it could be from the wind, without being really sheltered. I stooped to look more closely at it and realized it was a vole. I couldn't see the tail or evidence of the nose but that's what it was. I thought it must have frozen to death in the cold and felt a pang of sympathy for the poor, wee thing. I reached down to pick it up and it came to life! The creature tried to escape away from the snow bank and toward my feet, burrowing under the arch of one boot. I steered him back to the bank and he tried burrowing in there, little bare pink feet scrabbling. Bare feet!

I could see he wasn't going to make much headway, so I took my foot and stepped a hole in the snow about a foot off the path. The snow was about a foot deep there and I wiggled my foot at the bottom to try to get near the grass. Then I scooped the vole up against the snow bank wall and steered him toward the hole I had formed. He plopped down into the hole and began digging down at the bottom of it. I have hopes that he made himself a better shelter and can chew on some stems of grass until it warms up a little.

7 comments:

bikerider said...

You, Julia, are the patron saint of wee furry things. Good for you :)

JuliaR said...

Thanks Babe. You would have done the same, I know, had you seen him shivering like that.

8675309 said...

The sweet little thing! What an excellent good deed for the day.

zoom said...

I love you for doing that.

JuliaR said...

Jenny and Zoom, I have to figure it's good for my karma. I didn't really want to put him in my bag and take him home so I figured a snow shelter would be best, given the circumstances. I'm heading past the same spot now, so I hope I don't see him again!

Granny J said...

One wonders how all those little fellows survive winter! You are one answer...

JuliaR said...

Granny J, the answer is "they don't"! At Wikipedia they say: "A vole is a small rodent resembling a mouse but with a stouter body, a shorter hairy tail, a slightly rounder head, and smaller ears and eyes. There are approximately 70 species of voles; they are sometimes known as meadow mice or field mice in America." And the poor things have a life span of only 3 to 6 months! Mostly, I think they are eaten, as opposed to dying of old age.