Wildlife of Pakistan that K2 and I saw while hiking.
On seeing K2, my nephews and me, a blue jay scolded us on invading its territory, which scared a group of black capped Chickadees and common grackles on the fringe of the forest cover away. That, in turn, had an impact on a herd of deer grazing in the background and we saw them taking to heels.
A flock of geese started honking alarmingly over the lake even farther away.
Hiking about 200 meters, we saw a dozen squirrels had taken up fragile spots in the higher branches of nearby trees.
While hiking, our Kuvasz boy K2 and we routinely find how our approach creates a ripple effect in the denizens of the forests along the Bruce Trail.
A hike during one particular night became a mess when we got sprayed by a skunk. We were at a safe distance though. Still, the smell lingered on for quite a few days on the roadside tree that actually took the brunt of the spray.
K2's reaction to a coyote is what is typical of all dogs. There is something about coyotes that dogs don't like - body positioning, facial expressions, gait, what? I am not sure.
After a long hike in a mid-summer day, K2 and I were resting under a tree when I started thinking about my past in a country where I grew up - Pakistan.
The hike with K2 in Pakistan turned out to be quite hard. Although the ecosystems were beautiful, the temperatures and the terrain were daunting.
Puma (Cougar or Mountain Lion), North America - Snow Leopard and Asiatic Leopard, Pakistan
I will not expect to hike in puma country with K2 without adequate precautionary measures for a dog is no match for this feline. Although Ontario has confirmed presence of almost 500 pumas in the province, they are chiefly found in the hilly and mountainous areas of the western North America and prey upon mule and white tailed deer, rocky mountain goats and bighorn sheep.
Asiatic leopard (such as the one shown here) is highly protected and sparsely distributed all over Pakistan in both barren and heavily forested hilly areas. Its numbers are rising. It preys upon all ungulates found either in the vicinity of or on the hills where it lives - gazelles, black buck, ibex, Himalayan goral, barking deer, etc.
I was especially careful with K2 as we could have run into a leopard while hiking and neither party would be a happy camper if that happens.
Snow leopards are found in the high mountain regions of Himalayas, Karakorums, and Hindu Kush and are beyond our hiking range. They prey upon Markhor and Marco Polo sheep.
I was careful hiking there because K2 and me are likely to encounter this elusive cat if it is prowling in the lower valleys on or near a trail where we are hiking.
Pronghorn, NA – Chinkara Gazelle, Pakistan
Shepherds and their livestock guardian dogs routinely see Pronghorns while grazing their charges near the northern rocky mountains of the USA. Pronghorns were once a prey of what was American cheetah. The cheetah went extinct, but pronghorn survived and can be observed in the open grasslands of western USA, where their population continues to be healthy.
K2 and I startled a flock of Chinkara while hiking in the deserts of Cholistan. K2's catching them was next to impossible as these gazelles are the fastest land animal species of Pakistan. They were once preyed upon by Asiatic Cheetah that went extinct in Pakistan in early 1900s.
White Tailed Deer, NA - Wild Boars, Pakistan
K2 and I love to watch white tailed deer in our neighbourhood during our long distance hikes. Compared to this, my experience with wild boars is that of going to organize hunts in agricultural areas of the Punjab province of Pakistan, where I usually played a traitor, driving them away from hunting parties.
In the eastern USA and Canada, white tailed deer are generally loved for their looks. On the other hand, although piglets look cute to many, wild boars are hated in Pakistan due to the religious reasons and due to their damaging the crops.
Proliferation of deer, as people are generally averse to cull their population, has resulted in over grazed and over browsed forests. On the other hand, wild boars reproduce rapidly.
There are many commonalities too. Both inhabit forests, hills, and open woodlands. Also, environmentally, both of them have become nuisance species.
Although I saw local hunters using local breed of dog called Guldong to hunt wild boars in Pakistan, when invited to the hunt, K2 and I declined.
Mule Deer, NA – Black Buck, Hog Deer and Barking Deer, Pakistan
If and when I hike with K2 and other dogs near the northern Rockies, our chances of seeing mule deer are very high. Mule deer are primarily browsers on woody vegetation and eat relatively little grass. They readily adapt to agricultural products and landscape plantings.
Black buck has been reintroduced in Pakistan and is flourishing.
Hog deer is becoming increasingly rare in Pakistan, because of the destruction of its habitat – riverine forests.
As K2 and I observed, barking deer population has survived in Margalla Hills National Park, where I took picture of this one. Sind Province’s Wildlife Management Board is actively involved in breeding of these beautiful ungulates in the country.
American Alligator, USA – Mugger or Marsh Crocodile, Pakistan
We were lucky enough to airboat at Lake Tohopekaliga near Orlando and be able to take a picture of this mama alligator protecting her 40 off springs. Alligators are top predators, found in the marshes from Texas to Florida.
Mainly a freshwater species, the mugger crocodile is found in lakes, rivers and marshes of southern Pakistan. Being a large carnivorous reptile, the mugger crocodile eats fish, other reptiles and small mammals.
We could have encountered a crocodile basking in the sun when we hiked along any lake in southern Sind province, taking K2 and other dogs close to their habitat was a definite ‘No’ for me. Dogs in the entourage were on leash when we approached any lake providing habitat to these amphibians.
Racoon, North America - Rhesus Macaque and feral cats, Pakistan
K2 likes to chase racoons and tree them. Racoons are omnivorous animals that usually eat vertebrates, invertebrates and plant matter. They will raid your garbage cans and get into bird nests to eat eggs and nestlings.
In Pakistan, this niche is taken up by a number of animals. In the wild, it would be Rhesus Macaque monkey flourishing in the lower Himalayan hills.
In the populated areas, feral cats feed from dumpsters in the cities, towns and settlements.
Cats took to trees when they saw K2. Monkeys, on the other hand, stood their ground and no matter what K2 did to intimidate them, they screeched back like a determined gang.
Wild Turkey, North America - Peacock, Pakistan
K2 and us ran into wild turkeys in Rockwood Conservation Area. In Pakistan, we ran into peacocks (peahens) while hiking in Tharparker region in southeastern Sind province and in the salt planes of the Punjab province.
Sandhill Cranes, NA – Demoiselle Cranes, Pakistan
Both these cranes are among 4 subspecies of cranes that are not endangered.
I am sure I will see a pair of sandhill cranes when hiking with K2 along the banks of lakes in southern USA. Sandhill cranes have their match in Demoiselle cranes of Pakistan.
The Demoiselle crane lives in a variety of different environments, including desert areas and numerous types of grasslands (flooded, mountain, temperate and tropical grassland) which are often within a few hundred metres of streams or lakes.
K2 and I saw them all over the wetlands of Pakistan.
Great Blue Heron, NA – Grey Egret, Pakistan
Great blue heron, as our popular hubber Aviannovice correctly suggests, is a graceful bird that K2 and us can easily observe while hiking along lakes and rivers of the USA.
In Pakistan, Grey Egret evoked the same feelings in me and perhaps in K2 too.
It feeds in shallow water, catching fish, frogs, and insects with its long bill. It will also take small mammals and reptiles. It will often wait motionless for prey, or slowly stalk its victim.
This leaves me with the nuisance of our North American Skunks and Canada Geese.
We are always scared of spring and fall seasons when the skunks in our neighbourhood become very active. I dread their spray. If K2 or one of us gets directly sprayed by a skunk, we would have had it. There is no animal of Pakistan that I can think of that comes close to the niche occupied by skunk, but hey wait a minute. There is one that comes to my mind – common crow. While it can’t spray you when harassed, it knows how to get even. It will drop its poop on you.
The odour of skunk’s spray won’t go for days, but imagine the embarrassment caused by carrying that terrible crow poop on your head and shoulder for all the passersby to see and be amused at the cost of your self-esteem. And believe you me it has its nasty odour too.
When K2 was bombed by an angry crow, I couldn't even clean the poop without water for the more I tried to wipe it out using a dry tissue, the more embarrassingly it spread over K2's beautiful fur. Our acquaintances in Canada empathized with us on learning about skunk spraying us one evening, but those in Pakistan heartily laughed at us on knowing about crow pooping over K2
Canada geese have become a nuisance all over the USA and Canada. Their population is bursting at seems. They dump at least 1,360 kg of droppings along the stretch of shoreline. According to experts, the loose-boweled birds which poop-ulate the Lake Ontario waterfront unload their contents an estimated 10 times each hour.
The only thing cute about Canada geese is their goslings following the adults.
The only animals that came close to Canadian geese were feral dogs, i.e., only in terms of their residency and nuisance value. We found them occupying corners of all vacant pieces of lands and parks, in the water or under trees trying to take shelter from sweltering heat, prowling about for carrion and throw-away crumbs of bread, travelling in packs, and even uttering alarm barks at strangers.
The devils always attacked us, especially when in numbers. K2 would have easily taken on two of them, but a pack of feral dogs would be more than a match for him. I had to carry pellet gun to thwart any attacks.
The only thing cute about feral dogs was a litter of puppies that K2 and I saw. They reach out to us just like pet dogs and we almost always fell in love with them.
The unfortunate ending of our adventure
I heard K2's growl that woke me up. I had slept for nearly two hours and K2 had gotten restless on his inability to keep on hiking. It had been a long dream and my head was heavy. However, gathering my stuff and putting it back in my backpack and loading K2's gear back in his doggy backpack, we started again.
Alright, this was a dream, but I am sure it will come out true one day.