In the Yard

Rhonda Hayes is a garden writer, photographer and blogger. She also volunteers as a Hennepin County Master Gardener. Rhonda chronicles her gardening adventures and advice at her award-winning blog, The Garden Buzz. She is a frequent contributor to Northern Gardener magazine and the Star Tribune Home + Garden section. At Your Voices, she writes about life around the city lakes, occasionally veering off the garden path with essays on the silly and serious issues of the day.

Adaptable Urban Wildlife, Well Almost

Posted by: Rhonda Hayes Updated: November 12, 2013 - 2:38 PM

When we left the western suburbs for the city my only regret was leaving the critters behind. No more would I breakfast within sight of eagles, encounter and maneuver around minks on the dock or spy baby Bambis on the way to the grocery store. 

Moving to Minnesota and settling along the Minnetonka/Wayzata border I was always in awe of the sheer variety of critters roaming the woods and waters around my home. Animals I only imagined in the great Northern wilderness made their homes and lives close to where I was doing the same. When I wasn't spotting them outright, I saw their tracks and other signs that they had passed by while busy surviving their day.

Six years later, heading into the city I figured the wildlife would be limited to only the most adaptable creatures; rabbits and squirrels, a few common birds and perhaps a flock of pigeons. But I was wrong.

With the exception of deer (although I hear they range a few blocks north of here by the country club) and the odd otter sighting, I have yet to miss a single animal I used to see before. They are simply in a different setting. And in some cases I see them much more.

The barred owl that took up sentinel on our basketball hoop right outside the window was stunning. The summer of the "sidewalk foxes" was surprising and delightful. A single tom turkey appeared for awhile foraging at 4 o'clock every day down the street. Waxwings still gobble fruit but from another tree. Eagles soar above me as I walk the trails, I must only remember to look up. I even glimpsed a mink as he made his way between the lakes. The city does not deter them.

Not all is charming though. Just as in the burbs, the ubiquitous raccoons prowl and plunder. They pillage bird feeders, chew through veggie gardens, terrorize urban poultry and wreak general havoc in neighborhoods. For the most part we do not find their antics endearing.

So when I noticed the pointy ears and black-masked eyes at a curious angle in the gutter the other day I just groaned. What are they up to now? But as I drove closer I realized this raccoon was between a rock and a hard place. 

Crawling into the street from the storm drain this guy ( or gal) had become stuck. He scrabbled and clawed but his butt was stuck. To make things worse it was a cold and rainy day. He would try and try then rest his head on the pavement with a look of sheer exhaustion and misery. Surely he would make it out in time?

I drove home half a block away but turned around and gave it another pass. He looked so pathetic, so pitiful. I thought about times in my life when I had become stuck, albeit usually metaphorically. I drove around the block one more time. Still stuck.

For a nanosecond I considered grabbing a blanket, throwing it onto the struggling critter and quickly pulling. However reason prevailed and I called in the experts. The lady at animal control gave an empathetic "awww" when I described the wily critter's plight. I had to leave for a prior appointment so I wasn't able to watch the extrication but he wasn't there the next day when I checked, so one way or another he found freedom. 

I couldn't help but wonder will he repeat the process. 

I still haven't forgiven the general raccoon population for the wrongs they have done me. But just like in war, when you see the enemy up close and personal, long held opinions can change.

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