City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

December 5, 2016

December 5th

Filed under: Avenues, Mule Deer, Weather — canopus56 @ 6:13 pm

December 5th

Refugees in the City

2:00 a.m. Near my residence in the Avenues south of the City Creek ridgeline, a herd of twelve mule deer is grazing on neglected fruit trees at a nearby home. The deer treat the neighborhood like a smörgåsbord; they travel from house to house sampling the bushes and grasses provided by each owner. But no one minds, and the deer are a welcomed asset in this human community. A front followed by a pocket of freezing arctic air has reached the city, and the deer have been driven off the City Creek ridgelines and out of nearby Red Butte Canyon and into the city cemetery. The cemetery is a block away and this is where they take refuge when the even the low hills that surround the city become too severe for their survival. They do not do this lightly. Outside of the cemetery, the rest of the neighborhood is a densely populated urban city, but this is also the deer’s historical winter feeding grounds. It is where the deer over-wintered for ten-thousand years before Euro-Americans arrived one-hundred and fifty years ago.

A herd of twelve deer at once is unusual. Early morning deer are common around the city cemetery during the coldest days of winter, but they usually travel in groups of three to five. Twelve is the largest herd that I have seen, and I am inspired to pop into the car and to try and take a photograph. But the herd is uncooperative, and all twelve refuse to stand still in my headlights at one time. At best, I get a bad picture of three or four.

1:00 p.m. The predicted severe snow storm only partially grazes the city overnight but brings light freezing rain. By the afternoon, the canyon is lit by clear sunlight, but behind the front is cold arctic wind. Even with the Sun, the air is biting, but all the trees are sharply illuminated by the yellow long angle light. People are moving slower.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on December 5th, 1856, he expresses his appreciation for the “imprisonment” of winter. Winter’s cold forces one to put away occupations and hobbies of the other seasons, and then to try new things. On December 5th, 1853, Thoreau notes a brief burst of yellow diffuse reflected-light from the Sun after it set below the horizon. On December 5th, 1858, Thoreau observes a salamander.

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