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Wildlife Whispers...

Imagining wildlife,

by Dee Walmsley

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Humans and wild animals require habitat for breeding, feeding, raising their young and just plain living. Can the two co-exist? What happens to the woodland creatures when the bulldozers and chainsaws invade their territories? Imagine, entering their world. What might you find?

A new-born fawn lies sleeping in the tall grass. His spotted coat and silence are nature’s camouflage. The doe is grazing away from her baby secure in the knowledge that he is safe from harm. He has no scent and will remain silently hidden until her return.

Raccoon kits snuggled together in the hollow of a tree enjoy an afternoon nap.  Mother who has just finished their feeding is also sleeping. Tonight she will have to travel many miles before joining her kits at dawn back in the safety of the tree den.  The night will be long. The food source is dwindling. Too much competition for too little space. She has more than one den within her territory and will share these sites come winter with other resident raccoons. They will not hibernate but go into a form of suspended animation during cold snaps, living off the fat they have gained through fall feedings.

The flying squirrels sit quietly in their tree den. Since they are nocturnal critters who hunt in the dark, most humans are unaware of their existence. The squirrels also serve as prey for owls and other creatures of the night. If you put your ear to the right tree you just might hear the churring as the tiny inhabitants stir in their sleep. The Douglas squirrels have mated and made their nest in their favourite fir trees.   They share the fir cones and cedar buds, fungi, nuts, berries and lichen with their cousins the Eastern Grays and Northern Flying while chasing the saucy Stellers jays away from their food caches.

If you listen, you will find the air is filled with the sounds of robins, sparrows, finches, juncoes, and wrens, just to name a few. This multitude of our feathered friends  have nested and laid their eggs as part of the rites of spring. Woodpeckers, and hummingbirds noisily guard their territories. Hawks, eagles, and owls have  mended their nests in preparation for their young while keeping watch on the small rodents, their favourite meal in the surrounding underbrush.

A variety of plants, grasses, trees, stumps and fallen logs, provide food and habitat for the wildlife within its borders. This is also home to coyote, weasel,  mink, skunk, possum, amphibians, reptiles, birds, insects and butterflies, who co-exist in nature. Human encroachment on these forests forces urban wildlife  to co-exist with another species, man.

Where do all the critters go when humans decide to take over their territory?  Many take up residence in human dwellings causing problems for both species. Some animals become dependant on hand-outs which upsets the balance of nature. Many are killed or starve with the loss of their habitat.

Humankind can take steps to alleviate the suffering and upset of wildlife in many ways. We can stop clearing land in the springtime and leave a few dead trees, rock piles and fallen logs. We can establish wildlife corridors and replant wildlife trees.  We can leave an area in our own backyards wild, as habitat. There are a number of plants, weeds and shrubs that will not only beautify your yard but attract birds, bees and butterflies along with providing nesting and denning sites. We have the power  and the ability to protect our environment and its creatures. We can co-exist. It just takes a little planning and sensitivity on our part.

Dee Walmsley would love to hear from you! Email: deew74@shaw.ca

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