East End Animal Memories

Written By: Kathy Caruana

It was a sunny April morning. The lilacs were in full bloom on the horse farm in Riverhead. The perfume of the flowers and the stalls made you feel as though it was a long time ago. Before TV’s, computers and everyone having instant answers and access to everything.
The horses were being ridden and making their typical noises. We brought cut up carrots and apples a-plenty. The pot-belly pig made it’s low toned oinking sounds. Green was everywhere. The bison across the road attracted passing motorists.
In the early morning and early evening, we’d see whitetail deer in the fields. In the morning, they seem to rise from the mist. At dusk, they could run right in front of your car as you take a back road. So quickly, in the fading light of day, sometimes cars and deer have not been so lucky. Hawks flying overhead, on the old airplane runways, in search of small field mice or wild, brown rabbits. Turkeys are roadside in the summer and fall. They can fly into the nearby trees and usually travel in small groups.
Garbages are frequently overturned and rummaged through on damp, rainy nights by the raccoons. Squirrels and birds feed early in the morning, on the freshly watered lawns for nuts, seeds, and insects. Even the chipmunks scurry past sometimes. Blue jays, robins, sparrows, cardinals, and mourning doves are seen and heard in spring, summer, and fall.
The nest outside by the motion sensor light had two babies, now gone.
Some creatures are housed at the game farm and petting zoo. They have their meals provided and shelter ensured. Birds of all kinds are protected in enclosures and on display for curious children and adults. Big cats and giraffes, not native to Long island, attract eager admirers. It’s not a zoo but a more natural habitat to view, study and wonder over such diversity on a smaller scale.
Farms in the area might have llamas and goats too. Goat’s milk cheese is a prized commodity. Horses, chickens, and barn cats are on many a small homestead property. Fresh chicken eggs are varying shades of brown, orange, and beige; never plain white. The yokes are richer in taste and yellow to orange in color. There is an rescue ranch for unwanted and abused farm animals. So not to be abandoned, these lucky chickens, horses, goats and fallow deer have a place to spend their final days. Old trailers with hay for bedding and chain link fencing protect them and give them a place to call home. As an Eagle Scout project, the animals had improvements to their habitats, and the young men learned to protect one of nature’s resources:
It’s animals.
In the local schoolyards, groundhogs come out at dusk. They move away quickly when approached. Like beavers, but without tails. Some grow very round and move a lot quicker than you would imagine. The forested areas preserve our local fauna Some farms and ranches shelter a variety of species that need special care and food. Caring people work to ensure the protection of our wildlife; we can help. Our fish need clean water just as we do. The clams in Shinnecock Inlet help to filter the impurities from the local waterways. Litter and plastic can endanger birds and fish if they ingest it, or become entangled.
We live on an Island but ultimately are connected with others, not isolated. What happens in one geographic area eventually impacts another. The mallards and swans live in the ponds and lakes. The seagulls cling to the beaches, north and south shores. Piping Plover are protected at Smith’s Point when they are nesting. Many deer are on Fire Island too. The seasons change quickly and life adapts to the temperature, daylight, water, and wind. After many storms and snows and yet, somehow, our outdoor creatures survive the passing of time.