Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sharing the Back Yard

I live in a second-tier suburb south of Minneapolis. About a mile away is the Minnesota River valley, a broad expanse that's been kept relatively undeveloped. One might expect to get a lot of wild visitors from the valley, but seldom has anything out of the ordinary been observed. Aside from deer that have been seen only two or three times in over 30 years, it's the usual suburban mix: Owls, rabbits, and raccoons (although their numbers seem to be greatly reduced in the last 20 years or so).

Increasingly present are species that are reclaiming old territories. Bald eagles have become frequent visitors. There's a giant old cottonwood tree in an adjacent lot that someday could play host to a nest, but it might be too far from the river. "Location, location, location," applies in the animal world, too.

Coyotes are also returning. I've heard them howling nightly at most star parties in the open country but now they're back in the suburbs. I've gotten a few glimpses of one trotting quickly away in the last few years, and this spring I've seen one that seems more at ease. Twice it's been seen sleeping on the back yard lawn at the sky brightens at the end of dawn:

The gleam in its eyes is from the flash, not radioactive waste! This one seems more at ease with its surroundings; It showed only mild interest in people walking a few hundred feet away.

Looking perfectly at home
Starting the morning commute
There's no shortage of food available to it. All sorts of rodents are on the menu: Rabbits, squirrels, and shrews are in abundance this year. Add to that all the pet cats and small dogs that are allowed to roam outdoors and I doubt the coyote will go hungry. (Our cat is an indoor cat.)

Bobcats have also been sighted in the river valley and I'm really not eager to see one in my back yard. I consider them much more likely than a coyote to go after larger prey like an imager.

The Minnesota river feeds into the Mississippi river a few miles downstream from here, and together they form a natural impediment to animals traveling southward. Black bears, not all that uncommon in the northern areas of the Twin Cities do occasionally make the trek southward. Two years ago a black bear made it "south of the river" and roamed for a few days through this area. Only the wayward bear came to harm; it was shot in the leg by a police officer and may have survived to return north.

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