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Oct 22

Wild Turkeys on my Deck

Posted on Thursday, October 22, 2009 in North American Animal Art

After moving to Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, we built a log home on a wooded acreage.  We were hoping to see wildlife such as cougar, bobcat, bear and subjects for a deer painting.  With excited anticipation we moved in to our new log home.  We had decks surrounding the front of the house with French doors leading out to the deck..

Early one morning in the late summer, we awoke to a tapping on the French door.  I sat up in bed and looked out on the deck.  There, on the deck looking in at us was a young wild turkey.  We were delighted at this charming wake up.  This was just what I was hoping to experience when we chose to live in the wilderness.

Soon this young turkey was visiting us every morning, sometimes, a bit earlier than we would have wanted.  We began to think of him as “our” turkey.  He got used to us very quickly and we began to look forward to seeing him every morning.

I figured this turkey would like some cracked corn.  I raced off to the feed store and came home with a 25 lb bag of cracked corn.  I put it out in the drive way on the gravel for “our” turkey.  He loved it and was soon smacking his turkey lips in anticipation of our morning treat.

We thought we were so lucky that this lonely turkey had found us in the wilderness.  We thought it would be really fun to raise wild turkeys and release them on our property.

We called the Department Of Fish and Game and asked what species of wild turkey would be best for our area of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.  He asked, “You want to do what”?  We were puzzled that he did not share our turkey enthusiasm.

Soon, our turkey invited his wild turkey friends to the ongoing party that was our driveway.  We began to awake to the sounds of raucous turkeys demanding their cracked corn.  They actually banged on the window.  No more gentle tapping.  These turkeys did not want to wait at all for their breakfast.

Each day we began to see more and more turkeys.  Apparently “our turkey” was the “decoy” turkey, meant to soften us up.  It was a brilliant plan and soon I was under the control of twenty five turkeys.

The turkeys were not content to wake us up at 5:00 AM.  They were soon banging on my art studio door and then, balancing on my deck railing, six abreast.  We were the most popular turkey buffet in the neighborhood.  The turkeys especially loved dessert, all the sunflower seeds in my bird feeders.

We soon altered our turkey raising dream and began to think of ways to rid ourselves of these blasted turkeys.

One day after a snowfall, I glanced out my art studio window at the large flock of turkeys in my driveway.  Even though, I had stopped feeding them months earlier, they were still scratching at the remaining crumbs from the summer.

I saw some movement above the turkeys in the woods.  Two coyotes were stalking the turkeys!  Oh Joy!  I cheered for the coyotes!  They dashed down the hill into the flock of turkeys, scattering them.  The turkeys flew up to the trees and looked down at the hungry coyotes on the ground.  The coyotes slunk back to the trees and waited.  Then after a couple minuets, the coyotes charged down the hill into the flock of turkeys.  Again the turkeys flew up to the trees while the frustrated coyotes trotted back to the woods, resigned to defeat.

I was most disappointed that the turkey’s natural predator, the coyote could not eliminate my turkey invasion. I was too squeamish to shoot the turkeys so I needed another plan to rid us of the turkeys.

I called the Department of Fish and game and asked for advice.  They said that they would be happy to trap the turkeys and relocate them to the Sandpoint area where there was a rancher who loved turkeys and was eagerly waiting for these turkeys to come and live on his property.  All I could say was thank you, thank you, thank you!

Soon the turkeys were herded into a pen and boxed and sent to the happy turkey loving rancher.

Sep 17

Exotic Big Cat Owners

Posted on Thursday, September 17, 2009 in Animal Art

Tommy the Cougar

Tommy the Cougar

Exotic Big Cat Owners


As a wildlife artist, I constantly need new original material, in the form of photos.  One of my sources has been owners of tigers, cougars, leopard, lions, ocelots, bobcats and even cheetahs.  Some of these exotic big cat owners also have monkeys and parrots as well. 


My husband and I have visited these big cat owners, and with their permission, have had many photo sessions with these big and little exotic cats.  These photo sessions have been nearly as adventurous as our trip to the African continent.


One of our first visits to a pet owner of a big cat was in Northern California where a young man was keeping a full grown cougar and a full grown ocelot.  The cougar was named Tommy and the ocelot was aptly named Satan.


After calling in advance and getting directions to the remote location, we arrived at the home of this big cat owner.  He told us that his cats required at least six to eight hours of contact daily to remain tame and docile.  He said that he and his wife had recently had a new baby.  This resulted in his cougar, Tommy and his ocelot, Satan not getting the required attention that they would usually get. 


When we visited the cougar enclosure, we were greeted by an enthusiastic 200 lb male cougar.  He was overjoyed to see us and began rubbing up against his chain link fence and making happy sounds.  I was eager to meet Tommy the cougar and Jim was ready with the camera to take some up close and personal photos of this big cat.


The owner opened the enclosure and put Tommy the cougar on a chain leash.  I immediately approached the cougar as the owner led him into the yard.  The cougar seem happy to meet me.  I asked the owner if I could touch the cougar, he said sure, the big cat was used to that.


So, I gently put my arm on the big cat’s neck. When I started to take my arm away, Tommy, the cougar decided that he liked my arm. He turned and grabbed my arm in his mouth, holding me securely.  Even though my heart was racing, I held very still until the cougar’s owner made him open his mouth and let me loose.  The big cat owner apologized and said that the cougar was lonely and needed more attention. 

 I quickly realized that the feeble chain that the big cat owner was holding the cougar with, would not hold Tommy if he wanted to get away.  We did not take many more photos of Tommy the cougar as he was soon back in his enclosure, pining away for attention.  I suffered only minor bruising and a torn blouse.