Domestic wildlife

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Deer, turkeys, woodchucks, rabbits and opossums among outdoor backyard visitors

The title of this article may border on being an oxymoron, but as more and more of the natural areas in the Rock River Valley fall victim to relentless developers, wild animals are being literally driven to our back yards.

When I purchased my home in the Gingerwood section of Loves Park five years ago, I was attracted to the area by Pebble Creek flowing through a wooded tract at the rear of the property. I had only resided in the new location a few days when one morning I was startled when I looked out a back window and saw a mature whitetail deer ambling, nonchalantly, through my backyard.

Since that time, I have seen wild turkeys, woodchucks, cottontail rabbits, raccoons, opossums, and what I thought was a beaver in my backyard. Of course squirrels and chipmunks are omnipresent, but they don’t really count as wildlife. The wooded area is also a haven for birdlife, and one never knows when a new one will be observed at the suet or seed feeders or perched on the limb of a nearby tree.

I suspect that most of the mammalian species of wildlife we see in this area of Loves Park emanate from the Harlem Hills Nature Preserve area, less than half a mile from my residence. Harlem Hills is managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and encompasses approximately 62 acres of sanctuary for wildlife. The preserve is fenced, but I have observed many holes in the fencing as I have wandered about the preserve.

A neighbor of mine is an astute observer of nature. Fortunately, she records her observations of the dynamics of nature as they unfold in her backyard, and she has kindly allowed me to pass some of them on to the reader:

From the journal of a Loves Park nature lover:

“…saw the coyote grab a woodchuck in the field north of my condo about 8:40 p.m. last Saturday … he readjusted his kill several times as he trotted south along the edge of the field and the woods … they’ve cut the grass again so there is no cover. We were hoping they would let it stand until August as the DNR had recommended… .

Saw a full-grown rabbit with one ear hanging down … perhaps. a victim of a fence or a predator. Sunday I ran across a turkey with her two youngsters. I was clucking to her and she wasn’t afraid. The youngsters can fly, and they were making peeping sounds as they scurried along trying to keep up with mum. I think she is a domestic as the tips of her tail feathers are white.

A week ago, a red-tailed hawk nabbed a squirrel and flew to a tree as I was watching through my binoculars. Then, a second hawk came to join the first one on its perch just to the right of my building.

The other day I saw a beaver in the little pond in the woods …right before a goose chased me ahead of her flotilla of goslings… even these little buggers had their heads down in their offensive attitude as they followed my back-stepping path away from the pond… it must have been their right of way I had violated.

There are some woodchucks that have dug their burrows close to the line of trees across from the condos. I watched a mother holding down the branches of a mulberry tree so her three little ones could munch on the leaves. I think you call a baby woodchuck a kit, and I saw one of them make its way across the lawn and enter a storm drain on the road. It emerged about 15 minutes later and meandered back toward the woods and disappeared. It is most adventurous and fearless. I am afraid I will witness it becoming hawk fodder one of these days. I hear the whistles of woodchucks frequently, and it was such a whistle that drew my attention the other evening when I witnessed the coyote kill.

I observed this kit munching on succulent greens on another occasion and put my thumb and forefinger in my mouth, blew and emulated a warning whistle. He hunkered down in the grass. I approached and tried to get him to move to safety with my walking stick. He bit the stick and chattered and growled, so I left him munching away on the greens…”

The saga of natural history is being played out at all times of the year in what can be called an open-end engagement. To be a part of this drama, all we have to do is to keep our eyes and ears open. Remember, you do not have to purchase admission tickets to what is occurring in our own backyards.

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