Friday, July 04, 2008

urban wildlife

Louisiana black bear cub during a relocation project I wrote about for Defenders Magazine. Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana.
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp

I keep having wildlife-in-the-city experiences lately. There are (or were) the cutest pair of mourning dove babies in my backyard. They must have fallen out of the tree in my backyard because mom's nowhere to be seen, but they're fully feathered and they just couldn't fly yet. They would sit on my back porch and when I opened the back door they waddled off.

Then came the call that Matt saw a two-headed raccoon. Yes, he was utterly convinced! It was in a fig tree in his yard which is not very tall so he got a good look at it, and he's pretty good with knowing his wildlife, so the kids had me in the car ready to drive over and see this unusual two-headed racoon. Then he realized, oops, no, it's really two young ones entangled up, play-fighting. The kids got to see them but I didn't. I'll never forget though the time when I was still living there and we had a plastic garbage can on our porch (which is on the 2nd floor since the house is sort of on "stilts") and the can lid had a hole chewed in it by squirrels. Well one night I heard something out there in the garbage can so I turned on the porch light, and out pops the head of a young raccoon from the garbage can hole! I thought, how cute! And so I shut the door and peered through the window to see what it would do. It scurried out of the hole and sat on the stairs. Then came another one out of the can and to join its sibling. Then another one. Then ANOTHER one!! Four young raccoons were inside that garbage can and managed to get in and out of a hole that was no bigger than 4 inches across!

So yesterday I was driving down a road near a pond that is known to have ducks and ducklings when a mama duck started toddling across the road with her 10 or so adorable as anything ducklings. It freaked me out because I'd been barreling down the road and would have hit them had I not slowed down, and there were cars behind me, so I stopped and pulled over and they turned back toward the pond and away from the road. Then another car came plowing down the road. I waited until it was clear and let the ducklings pass. But they probably get mowed down all the time because they regularly cross these roads where drivers go 40-60 mph! I snapped this photo with my cell phone. :)

I love wildlife. I really do. I've loved it since I was little. I used to love insects and snakes and salamanders. In high school I used to love to watch Jacques Cousteau and Jane Goodall documentaries. And also - my favorite animal - mountain gorillas and the Dian Fossey National Geographic documentaries were my absolute favorites.

That project where I was relocating Louisiana black bears was really amazing. My favorite section of the article is this, though:

At BBCC [Black Bear Conservation Committee] headquarters, Paul Davidson regularly fields calls about nuisance bears, and he relates a story from a few years back. "A guy called and said, 'there's a bear on my porch with his head in a pen I have some baby chicks in. He's eating the feed.' I asked him, 'Is he hurting the chicks?' The guy said, 'No, the chicks are standing on his feet.'"

Once again, our fear of wild animals contrasts with the reality of most encounters with these amazing animals.

Happy 4th of July! This was always my favorite holiday since it coincided with my birthday and summer and time at my daddy's cabin in Oregon. This year, the kids are off with their dad at a friend's lke house so I'm home working on an article. Joy!

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