A recent discussion was about some aggressive wildlife encountered.
In my years of backpacking, I’ve only had one truly aggressive encounter with wildlife.
The encounter was not in Montana, Wyoming or even Maine.
The wildlife encounter was in the second most densely populated state in the country. Where the “wilds” are often third growth forest and suburban homes can often be seen.
It was in my home state of Rhode Island.
My one and only truly scary encounter with an animal was with a Northern Goshawk.
An elegant raptor that occasionally makes the northwest corner of Rhode Island home.
In April of 1999, I was in the George Washington Management Area.
Truthfully, a very pretty area with tall pines, hemlocks and has the feel of the further reaches of New England. An occasional birch tree is even spotted. A delightful hike of eight miles can be had in this (very) slightly off the beaten path area.
With a nearby covered bridge, the area is reminiscent of Vermont.
On that hike so many years ago, I remember walking along the quiet woods. I heard “Kih! Kih! Kih!“.
I looked over my shoulder and saw these two birds I have never seen before in my life.
The birds were gray and majestic looking. They were perched on the branches of the hemlocks that towered above.
I remember looking at t them for a bit, admiring these unique birds I had not seen before, and then continuing along.
As I hiked along, I heard a WHOOSH! sound behind me.
An unexpected sound in this otherwise quiet woods.
I looked over my shoulder and saw a branch bouncing up and down behind me. One of the birds was flying away. The other bird was making the KIH! KIH! KIH! sounds, but not noticeably louder than before.
My pace was picked up. I heard the WHOOSH! sound again behind me. The same bird as before flew towards me and then fly back. Again, more KIH! KIH! KIH! sounds from the other bird.
At this point I am RUNNING with my hiking stick being waved over my head. I heard another WHOOSH! sound that seemed to be mere inches from my head.
I did not look back that last time.
If I has been a bit slower in my running or took more time observing, I suspect that some talons would have become more noticeable. To put it mildly…
I remember going back to my Dad’s house later that day. The Audubon Guide he had on hand had a section on raptors. The description of a Northern Goshawk was found and it fit what I saw to a “T”.
Where I saw the Northern Goshawk in the George Washington Management Area was shown to be at the extreme edge of their range.
Today in 2016, with more powerful internet tools versus 1999, various online sources confirm that while Northern Goshawks are not overly common in Rhode Island, they are still present. My suspicion is that I came upon a pair of goshawks defending their nest that day.
And that is my wildlife encounter story. A near miss with a Northern Goshawk.
The one time I was truly concerned about a wildlife encounter was in an obscure corner of the not-so-remote state of Rhode Island.
More info on Northern Goshawks may be found here at All About Birds.