It’s springtime in the Ruby Valley! That means buds are blooming, seeds are spreading, and wildlife is waking up. Migratory birds and butterflies are returning from their winter homes to mate and breed. Insects, like bees and ladybugs, are thawing from their states of frozen animation known as diapause and amphibians and reptiles are rousing from brumation (a state of inactivity during cold temperatures). Small mammals such as squirrels, mice, and voles are rousing from hibernation and larger mammals such as bears and racoons are rousing from their deep winter sleep known as torpor.
Alive, alert, and awake, one of the first things these animals will do is try their luck in searching for a post-winter snack. Spring is a busy time in nature, which can make hunting and foraging somewhat of a gamble, but for humans there are historical roots in why we find some aspects of nature luckier than others.
At Nevada Outdoor School, naturalists have been fortunate enough to observe some evidence of post-winter movement. On the west side of South Fork State Recreation Area, for example, they have had lots of luck finding rabbit tracks left behind in the snow and mud. Rabbit sightings are considered to be particularly favorable because of the belief that their severed feet will bring good luck to the individual who wears them. This belief stems from Euro-American folklore; rabbits were believed to be the avatars of shapeshifting witches. By severing one of their feet, the bearer believed they would gain all the witch’s powers and protection from evil.
Beetles such as sand dune beetles in the scarab family and lady bugs are also considered lucky signs. In Nevada, ladybugs are most active during the spring, which is when they begin to breed. They are praised by farmers for eating garden pests like aphids.
In the plant category, another lucky charm that naturalists have observed in the Ruby Valley is trefoil. Trefoil, more commonly known as the clover, is a short-lived herbaceous legume. Trefoil leaves typically grow in clusters of three, but also occur in clusters of four or five. Four-leaf clovers, which are very rare, are considered signs of good luck. Five-leaf clovers, though, which are more commonly known as cinquefoil can be found throughout Nevada and the Pacific Northwest. These rosaceous perennial herbs sometimes grow in your gardens and are similar to strawberries.
So, whether you are hitting the trails or the slot machines at the casino, keep your eyes peeled for the lucky side of nature. Get outside and appreciate their beauty and serenity, but remember to be respectful of their space and survival needs. Don’t push your luck!