Over the years, I’ve met several people who’ve had special relationships with once-wild animals. I remember a cousin who had a pet raccoon (bad idea) years ago, and I’ve seen photos of a deer curled up on a couch that one woodsman kept on his enclosed deck.
Earlier this week, I heard from Jim Tyler of Searsmont, who told me about a new “pal” he’d met in the woods behind his home.
“[This] partridge has been here for about a month,” Tyler said. “It started by coming out of the woods when I started my diesel truck up. Now it comes up to me when I come out of the house.”
And that’s not all. The video that Tyler sent in — it’s not a trail camera video, which you’ve come to expect in this feature, but I think you’ll overlook that technicality after watching it — shows the bird emerging from the woods to accept a snack.
“[It] took about two weeks and I had it eating out of my hand and following me around while walking,” Tyler said.
Ruffed grouse — partridge, to many Mainers — don’t usually act that way, according to Brad Allen, a biologist who serves as the bird group leader for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
I shared the video with Allen, curious to hear his reaction. And I wondered, since his department often cautions people to avoid feeding animals, if he’d offer the same advice in this case.
“This is very rare behavior but certainly not unheard of for this species,” Allen said. “I get a few calls each year from people working in their woodlots (even with tractors and chainsaws) that get a visit from a friendly grouse that at times won’t leave them alone. Most of these individuals don’t have food to give, so this is a first for me — a video and hand feeding.”
Allen said grouse face daily threats to their existence during the winter, as they struggle to stay warm and find food.
“Because winters can be tough on grouse with our cold conditions and abundant predator populations, I would wish this guy and his favorite bird good luck as the bird may become lunch itself if it continues with tame behavior,” Allen said. “[This is a] very special encounter with wildlife. I would consider this guy very fortunate to have this interaction with Maine’s premiere game bird.”
And Allen said that while general feeding of wildlife isn’t advisable, feeding birds is a hobby enjoyed by many.
“You are correct that feeding wildlife (especially by hand) is not promoted, but feeding birds in the winter is generally a pretty accepted activity,” Allen said.
Do you have a trail camera photo or video to share? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us “I consent to the BDN using my photo.” In order to prevent neighbors from stopping by to try to tag particularly large bucks, moose or bears, some identities and towns of origin may be omitted.