A black Christmas and a brown New Years. No more in mid-January. Nearly 2 feet of fresh snow at Trail Creek and although the soft powder is settling we keep having more falling and it appears that it is going to snow everyday for the next week.
Snow is much easier for drivers to navigate than water on ice, but there are still challenges. Even as I watch TV in Columbia Falls I can almost hear North Fork neighbor Lynn Ogle muttering about the weather as he blows snow hour after hour.
Snow certainly creates hard work as residents fire up the snowblowers and dig out paths to woodsheds and clear their lanes. Luckily, Flathead County takes care of the main road and they usually get it done within 24 hours. Only if there is heavy snow in the valley are they delayed more than a day. I get a kick out of watching Facebook as locals query their neighbors about where the graders are and which way they are going.
In the early days the road might remain unplowed from mid-October to mid-May. Although even then late snow might keep the road open until Thanksgiving or even Christmas, no one took that chance, Winter supplies were laid in by Halloween to avoid severe shortages during the winter, Today some folks face real shortages if they canít get to town every week.
Today it is only the wildlife that really suffer in a heavy snow year. Deep, deep snow can keep ungulates (deer, elk, moose) from finding food, but there are other dangers as well.
Predators like wolves and the big cats are much better equipped to travel on deep snow and as ungulates weaken from the stress of limited food and extreme cold they become easier prey and face a major die-off. It doesnít end there.
If there is a major die-off of ungulates one year the next can be trouble for the predators if they canít find food. It can sometimes take wildlife several years to recover from one tough winter.
It is way too early to call this a tough winter, but when you get several feet of snow in a short period it can set up a tough time for animals if we get a lot more snow with warmer periods in between. It all depends if the ungulates can reach the food and whether they can move around enough to escape the predators.
In the meantime enjoy the snow, drive carefully and eat lots of fresh fruit to avoid scurvy.
Larry Wilsonís North Fork Views appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.