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 What’s that noise?

A late-night encounter in Utah's backcountry

Brent Stettler
Brent is the DWR's conservation outreach manager for southeastern Utah. He loves wildlife and the outdoors and spends his free time exploring the backcountry.

Early in my career, I took many trips into the mountains of southeastern Utah. It’s one of the state’s most remote and beautiful areas, and there’s wildlife everywhere.

On one of these journeys, I stayed overnight. I was assigned a Ford Bronco, so it was easy to just drop the tailgate and stretch out in my sleeping bag.

Most snowshoe hares live in mountainous areas above 7,000 feet. They typically eat a variety of green, succulent plants in the spring and summer. In the fall, they prefer to eat bark and twigs. They don't usually nibble on vehicles. Photo by Betsy L. Howell

Most snowshoe hares live in mountainous areas above 7,000 feet. They typically eat a variety of green, succulent plants in the spring and summer. In the fall, they prefer to eat bark and twigs. They don't usually nibble on vehicles. Photo by Betsy L. Howell

I hadn’t been asleep for too long before I was awakened by a metallic grinding sound. It seemed pretty strange, considering my remote mountain location. The sound stopped after a minute, and I went back to sleep.

Then, a few minutes later, I awoke to a clinking noise. I was stumped. I sat up in my sleeping bag and looked around. When I couldn’t pinpoint the source (which eventually stopped), I managed to get back to sleep.

Sometime later, I was again awakened. But this time, I felt the Bronco move — and it freaked me out!

I sat up and looked around but couldn’t see anyone. Who was messing with me, and why? Whoever it was, he was crouched beside the vehicle, because I couldn’t see him through the glass.

I leaned over the tailgate to see if I could spot the prankster and found him immediately: a snowshoe hare was gnawing at the undercarriage of the Bronco!

Apparently, I had parked right over the spot where the hare bedded down, and he was not too happy. He seemed determined to get rid of the chunk of metal over his head, even if he had to nibble all night. I saved him some time by re-parking the Bronco.

Now, when I head into the mountains, I always take a closer look before I park my car for the night. You never know who’s trying to get some sleep!

11 Responses to What’s that noise?

  1. I too had a similar encounter with wildlife several years ago. I was at Fairview Lakes and nearly midnight I heard a loud noise, similar to the nawing noise you heard. However I was in an old motorhome I had purchased used and it was made out of plywood, covered with metal siding. I couldn’t see anything outside and after hitting the door a few times the noise stopped. Withing 20 minutes it started again and this time I opened the door and went outside with a flashlight in hand, but still never saw a thing.
    Later, when the sound started again, I was a little more interested in finding out who or what was making the noise. I quietly went to the door, again with the flashlight, and opened it quickly. There stood a huge porcupine, one of the largest I had ever seen. Apparently he was tasting the old plywood for the salty taste left by road salt during the winter months. He scampered off and I never had any other encounter with him again,

  2. I love stories like this. I’ve always wanted something like this to happen to me when I go camping but I have not had such luck yet. That’s probably a good thing. Thats also some good advice about where you park. I go camping in the desert a lot and I could very easily park over a rattle snake cave. I’ll make sure to think about it next I go out.

  3. Was the hare able to make any progress on the chewing of your bronco or was the material too tough? That is a great story by the way, thanks for sharing.

  4. I camp quite a bit in Utah but have never seen a snowshoe hare. It’s my goal now to find one! Love your story!

  5. Haha, what a cheeky little bunny! I’ve never seen one myself in person yet, and it’s probably a good job because we cart a small Jack Russell terrier about with us and he has a thing for rabbits and hares. He caught a couple of rabbits but never a hare – they’re just too fast for him and his little 3-inch queen anne legs :-)

    – Mike

  6. All that trouble for a single rabies infested rabbit? You just started your Bronco and parked somewhere else? Why not kill him? Have you ever shot at Rabbits for just for kicks? Some people say such touching things and later on, when they’re bored, they forget and kill those same precious animals–for fun. I hope you respect all the animals all the time as you did that Hare. My vehicle hit a jack rabbit in the west desert. Instead of continuing on, I back up and picked the little guy off the road and dug him a hole and gently placed him in it and whispered, “I’m sorry, little guy.” He had the softest fur I’ve ever felt. Amazing critter, and I can’t believe some fools go shooting them just because they’re moving targets. -My two cents.

  7. Jason
    A jackrabbit’s prime function is as food for other animals. a jack that gets 3 month old is a success story. You should have left the rabbit for coyotes, weasels, hawks or other preditors to eat. then that preditor would not have killed some other rabbit that day.

  8. It’s amazing the noise that some animals make. I mean you don’t really associate loud strange noises with some animals. I was sitting up in my tree-stand over a beaver pond, calling for moose. There was a family of about 8 beavers in the pond. They are the noisiest creatures you ever met. When chewing the bark off of a tree they had fallen they make a sound like a buzz saw. They are very vocal and constantly squawking at each other. I never knew they were that noisy until I was sitting quietly above them in that tree stand.

  9. Rick Kennerknecht

    Brent – good story! I was thinking you were going to say something like “bear?” Good story headline! It made me stop to read your blog.

    Regards, Rick

  10. When I lived in the Black Hills of South Dakota, we had a real problem with rabbits chewing on the undersides of vehicles. Marmots and porcupines are notorious for this too. I think they may like the residual road salt or maybe they are just keeping their incisors worn down.

    For Jared and Mike, a great place to see snowshoe hares is in Soapstone Basin. I see several everytime, in every season.

  11. Yes, that was a very strange and potentially frightening experience. That rabbit was mightily loud with its activities that woke you up. I am glad that it was not anything else.

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