Norway Rats are one of the most destructive creatures known to man. Fortunately, the Province of Alberta is one of the few place in the world that does NOT have any rats. What it does have are Magpies (Pica hudsonia), which some people refer to as Rats with Wings. A member of the crow family, they are scavengers that will eat just about anything. But much can be forgiven of them because they do not come close to being as despicable as a Rat, no matter what the movie Ratatouille might have you think.
Magpies are both beautiful and comical birds with their black and white tuxedo like coat and long iridescent tails. But their raucous voice and irritating habit of harassing me when I walk in the woods – they make me less than thrilled to have them live nearby.
They don’t migrate either. All winter long they leave their little forked foot prints all over the snow – reminders that they are still in town, and will be arriving any moment to scold me for being present in their world.
This past winter a new set of tracks appeared on the edge of our woods – Moose. These tracks were made by several moose, likely traveling together.
Exciting, but moose can be very dangerous during certain times of the year. One of them has already challenged a car on the road out front, I hear.
I’m not too concerned about my personal safely, however. I have an early warning system – the chatty Magpies. I’m not the only creature they harass! Owls, deer, coyotes, crows, fox, skunks – nothing slinks through these woods without being vocally assaulted by the magpies. All I have to do is listen carefully and I’ll know in advance if there is something I should be aware of.
Just how big is a moose? This is a close up shot of one of the tracks in the snow. The two little holes on the right side of the track are left by the animals dew claws which are two small extra toes that are situated a bit higher up the back of the leg. This track would be about 5 inches long.
The moose in the photo below is standing next to a fence that is 4 feet tall (and I am just over 5 feet tall) so you can understand why I would not want to be near a moose if it was having a bad day! I feel much safer with my trusty Magpies on full alert!
More Moose Stories: Moose on Parade