East Coast / West Coast: Nature in the Pacific Northwest and back East

Mike Gold living the dream in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Nancy Gold.
Mike Gold living the dream in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Nancy Gold.

By Mike Gold, A retired entrepreneur living the dream in the Pacific Northwest.

Having lived here now for twelve years, I was thinking of all the natural things that we were used to back east vs. here in the Pacific Northwest.

Let’s start with animals. Back east, the most feared animal one would run into was man. See, in the highly populated cities of the east (New York City, Boston, Washington DC, etc.,) you didn’t often run into a wild animal. But humans especially the roving gangs in the big cities of the northeast were a far greater danger than, say a rabid raccoon.

Out here, just this year we had a cougar attack two bicyclists in Washinton State. So there you are riding your bike on a trail out in the country. A cougar jumps you as you ride past, say a low hanging branch. One of these unfortunate riders was killed. The probability of any wild animal killing you in any northeastern city is practically zero. The probability of you being harmed by a street punk is far higher, especially late at night.

We also have rattlesnakes (but not west of the Cascades – thankfully). Back east (more in the southeast or mid-Atlantic than northeast) there is the occasional cottonmouth, which is poisonous but not usually fatal. They are also called cottonmouth because if you ever look into its mouth, you see a very white area surrounded by two giant fangs.

Perhaps the most feared animals in the great western U.S. are Grizzly Bears. These are truly dangerous creatures. Occasionally one will kill a human. Mostly by being surprised by a human – especially if the bear is protecting food, or a cub. If you want to experience (from a safe distance) a grizzly, watch the movie "The Edge." One can appreciate the grandeur of the grizzly as it, a man-eater, hunts a small group of humans.

I guess my strongest impression of nature here in the Pacific Northwest vs. back east is that our area is significantly wilder than the other. Part of it is how relatively young our area is in significant human population. Second is the inherent wildness of the area. It will be a long time before the Northwest is rid of natural threats to man. One example is that it is rare for a skier, hiker or snowmobile rider to be killed by an avalanche in the northeast, but not that uncommon here. There is not a single road back east that is closed down from time to time during the winter for “avalanche control” as is our major east-west highway (I-90).

If you mentioned this to a lifelong resident of the northeast, they will simply not comprehend how this is possible. The greatest threat to skiers back east would be depressions surrounding large trees. If you are unfortunate enough to drop into one of these, it can be very difficult to get back out. That also happens here.

Back east, most ski areas do not have the scale of “off-trail” areas that our large western areas have. So even if you were to fall into a tree depression, chances are good that someone will hear you yelling.

Next item, deer. I drive to a local gym every morning. On three separate occasions, I ran into a deer running across the road. I hit one on one of the three occasions. Only broke one of my headlights, the deer just continued to run back into the woods.

On another occasion, I was driving home one sunny afternoon (we live down on Puget Sound in unincorporated Snohomish County). As I rounded the curve leading to our home, I saw a herd of about ten deer standing in the middle of the road (Puget Sound Blvd). I slowed down and got to within 25 feet of the herd (who still had not moved). I actually got within ten feet of them when they skedaddled back into the woods.

I highly doubt it if any driver has ever killed a deer driving around New York City much less run into a herd as they approached their home in Brooklyn!

Last item. We have scads of eagles flying around our area. One family of them who live in the trees behind our home we see just about every day. I can safely say I have never seen an eagle back east – even from the top of the Empire State Building. But it is reported that some have seen King Kong up there.


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