Lions, Turtles, and Deer, Oh My!

And freshwater mussels, but that didn't really fit into my snappy title. Oh, look! A photo!

What would you say if I told you I spent a significant portion of the day researching freshwater mussels, bobcats, mountain lions, and turtles mostly out of pure curiosity but also for this blog post? I'll tell you what my sister Elizabeth would say: "You're such a nerd." I can't count the number of times she's said this to me (with a hint of amused affection perhaps) in my lifetime, but it's always been true. I have curiosity about a million random things, so the internet makes me very happy. Thankfully, I have a husband with a similarly curious and nerdy mind, who, when I asked him the same question, said, "I'd say you're awesome."

We aren't always curious about the same things though. For instance, when my curiosity was piqued by finding a ton of freshwater mussel shells in the dried up pond (second drought year in a row) on Grandma and Grandpa Sisson's property (A.K.A. "Papa's Country" or "The Farm," which you may recall from the previous post), I scoured the internet for information on these creatures; Ethan was less than thrilled when I excitedly shared the fruit of my search. I think that the way they reproduce is fascinating, gross, and amazing. He, however, said something like, "Why hasn't a horror movie been made about these things?! They're terrifying!"

In case you would share his feelings on the subject, I will refrain from writing about this and let you, if you share my curiosity, look it up for yourself. I will include only this tidbit: they have appendages (probably not the right word) that look like insects, fish, or worms which they use like bait to attract fish. Isn't that cool?

Moving on.
So, freshwater mussels, bobcats, mountain lions, and turtles: why am I researching and writing about these animals? Because they're all here!

Back in October, Ethan and I went to Papa's Country with various other members of the Sisson clan. We were out walking around some brush piles and spotted large tracks in the mud. It had been raining just an hour previous and the tracks were crisp and clean, so they had to been pretty darn fresh. Since they didn't have claw marks, we figured they had to have been made by a large cat because dogs and coyotes don't retract their claws as cats do, so you can see claw marks in their tracks. That left two possibilities: bobcat and mountain lion. Bobcats are common in Oklahoma, but even the largest couldn't have made tracks four times bigger than average. When we realized that we were looking at mountain lion tracks made within the last hour, we weren't so keen on wandering around outside by ourselves.

But how cool is that?

There have been occasional sightings of mountain lions in Norman in particular in the last few years. It seems that large populations of white tailed deer are drawing them into Oklahoma from neighboring states like Texas where they have such healthy populations that hunting them is allowed. Still, sightings are fairly rare, so the fact that we actually found tracks is pretty cool.

And I said deer, didn't I? Two of the times that we've visited Papa's Country, I've noticed brush areas that were clearly serving as bedding for deer at night. No wonder there was a mountain lion on the property.

And then there was the time that we pulled up and saw a turtle walking by the driveway, a cool turtle (I like the word "cool" today even though I'm currently proving myself to be a huge dork) with yellow stripes and red eyes. Ethan says that there used to be a lot of turtles on the property, mostly at the pond, which is large and used to stay filled all the time. I've always thought having a property with a pond with turtles would be awesome. I want to see it in all it's glory! I'd guess that the fact that there is possibly only one turtle left has to do with the drought, since there used to be, not only water, but fish and mussels in it for them to eat. Droughts stink.

I love that there's so much wildlife within reach! Have I mentioned that I love nature? Bring back the water! I want to see more of it!

Just not ticks. Ticks must die.

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