Wildlife Encounters | Teen Ink

Wildlife Encounters

October 24, 2022
By Anonymous

To preface these stories, I just want to say that I have always loved feeling connected to nature and to be outside. It makes me feel like I have no problems and like I don't have to worry about school or anything. When I am outside, I often like to watch for animals to see how they are behaving. This isn't for research or analysis, just for my own entertainment. 

    Throughout my whole life, I have seen little critters running around in my backyard, scavenging for nuts or acorns, but nothing ever too big. These squirrels, chipmunks, and birds kept me entertained for hours while I gazed out the window into the sunny backyard. Then one day, a family of deer appeared in the yard. I was amazed at the size of these animals and how majestic they seemed. My dad seemed to think otherwise. He says, “All they’re good for is eating my gardening!”. He goes out to scare it away and I come with, bringing my juvenile curiosity with me. As we approach the deer, my dad, who is already a big man, standing at six and a half feet tall and a solid 250 pounds, makes himself look bigger and makes a lot of noise. However, these deer must reside in a lot of populated areas and are not afraid of his tactics. My dad has the bright idea to run at the biggest one in the group, and just after he starts to run, I see the deer point his antlers at my dad. These antlers were so intricate and sharp, my dad was terrified and backpedaled.. He even lost one of his sandals in the process and decided that leaving it there until the family of deer left was the best idea. At the time, I was terrified. I had always held the same idea of my dad, that he was this invincible giant who loved me and provided for me. This was the first time that I saw him be scared, which made me scared. Now everytime I see a deer, I think of this incident, and laugh. However, I am not so afraid of them as I was in years past. I now find them fascinating. The intricacy of their antlers and their overall indifferent behavior has drawn me to them. I see them every time my dad and I go for a bike ride, and I always make sure to spot the ones trying to camouflage into the foliage. The deer are so used to human activity, we always remark how someone could go up to one of them and pet it. Or as my dad would like to do, “get rid of it”. 

    In River Forest, the only animals I get to see are squirrels, rabbits, and the occasional deer. As a result of this, I love to visit Florida because Florida's ecosystem has much higher biodiversity. However, Tallahassee, Florida, does not seem like the most exciting place in the world. It isn't on any coast, the area around it is flat, and it rains almost everyday. Despite this, it is still one of my favorite places to visit. Most of my extended family lives there and the natural beauty throughout the state is unmatched. My favorite thing to do there everytime we visit is to go to Wakulla Springs. It is a natural spring area that is mostly untouched by humans, but we can take a boat ride through some of it. The animals in this area are so desensitized to these boats because the boats have been going up and down the river for decades. After we see a plethora of wild animals, we decide to go for a swim. There is a small designated swimming area, with freezing cold water. However, this water is very clear and if you bring goggles, you can see a lot of the spring area. As I am swimming around, just looking underwater, I turn around and see what I think is a giant rock. But then, the rock starts to move. And then I see the snout and the giant tail that are attached to this rock, and it turns into a manatee. Manatees have always been my favorite. In the water, they are so graceful despite their giant and awkward build. When I see it, I am only about half a foot away from this beast, but I know not to touch it. It has a massive scar on its back from what I guessed to be a propeller from a boat. I yelled out to my family that I found a manatee and they all swam over. It clearly becomes the highlight of everyone’s trip. It swims all over the swimming area and even comes right for us at certain times, forcing us to move out of the way to avoid touching it. This entire experience felt surreal, and despite the cold, I never wanted to get out of the water. I will never forget this moment when I got to swim with one of my favorite animals. 

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