Critters aplenty at the cabinYou don’t have to live in the north woods to share your space with wild animals. As a matter of fact, up here in the woods there’s much less sharing to be done. The small human population leaves plenty of room for the animal population.
By: Jan Kent, Lake County News Chronicle
You don’t have to live in the north woods to share your space with wild animals. As a matter of fact, up here in the woods there’s much less sharing to be done. The small human population leaves plenty of room for the animal population.
That’s not the case in the suburbs of Chicago, our home-for-the-winter location. Humans have overrun almost all of the animal habitat, so the critters just move right in and adjust to us.
Because we live on a small, man-made lake, we get some migrating birds. That’s fun to see, and we always hope we’ll meet them again when we get up to the cabin. Recently, we’ve gotten resident gulls. We’ve always had mallard ducks. And we’ve been around long enough to remember being amazed and pleased when Canada Geese first came to our lake. Amazed and pleased — well, it’s been a while since we’ve felt that way.
Great Blue Herons nest nearby in the tops of tall, old dead trees in the forest preserves, but they hang out at our lake — fishing, fishing, fishing. When one catches a fish it’s usually crosswise in its bill, and it does a very fancy toss and gulp to get it pointed downward so it can be swallowed. Sometimes, a flock of Cormorants will come our way, camping out on our island, sitting side by side on tree limbs.
We don’t have chipmunks, but we have hordes of squirrels. Gray squirrels, fox squirrels and black squirrels (although they’re hard to spot) are all native to our area.
They all seem to have fleas (do you tune your ukulele to that — my squirrel has fleas?) as they’re endlessly scratching.
When not scratching, our squirrels hunt for food anywhere and everywhere. They want to raid our plastic garbage cans and chew off the corners in an effort to get into the covered ones. They scramble all over bird feeders, sometimes getting seeds, and sometimes not. And they find a fine variety of human food. I’ve watched a squirrel relentlessly digging a hole in our lawn in a desperate effort to bury a little blueberry muffin. I’ve watched a squirrel do the two-step-stumble while trying to run down the street with a bagel clamped in his teeth. Possums slink around between the houses at night, and we occasionally see one peering in at us through the patio door. And racoons — they are the party animals who get onto our roof from the big tree in the backyard. They sit up there, with a good view of the tollway, and eat chicken. We know this because they leave us chicken bones and other little surprises. We wonder if they order from KFC.
And coyotes — we have lots of coyotes. The people who know say that our county has about 2,000 coyotes, and that number remains remarkably stable. They know this because they locate the pups in the spring and collar or tag them. Litters are smaller lately, and that can happen if the food supply is compromised, or if the territory is home to the maximum number of coyotes it can support. Coyotes are self-limiting, and also drive away any interlopers who try to move in down the block.
But you would scarcely know we live with so many coyotes. They’re quiet and discreet and seem to easily find food and shelter. It’s only when it comes to family pets that coyotes are a problem. As one forest preserve employee said poetically, “They are among us and nobody knows.”
Well, there was one time when a coyote made himself known in a big way. In 2007, he walked into a Quizno’s restaurant in downtown Chicago. Must have been a warm day. He climbed into the beverage cooler and sat there for 40 minutes until animal control got him out of there. I’ll bet the other 1,999 coyotes in the county were all cheering for him.