Wild Things Look for New Haunts, Creep into Our World

Of all the Maine islands I visited during a summer field course on island ecology in summer ’99, Crotch Island seemed to me a ghostland: silent quarry equipment gave way to nature. Grasses and vines snaked over crawlers, ospreys nested atop cranes and frogs swam in pools that filled pockets in the granite. The island had an interesting history, too. When Jackie Onassis arranged for JFK’s Memorial in the Arlington National Cemetery, she picked the pinkest granite from Crotch Island, the last major island quarry operation in Maine. It’s a beautiful rose hue. The day I visited the island, I spotted wildlife that adopted the abandoned machinery like funny characters in an odd Wonderland. Rabbits flashed into view and disappeared through old tires, a magic trick.

But this is not so uncommon! When nature resumes its role and vegetation grows over man-made structures, the creatures return, too. In other instances, wildlife sneaks into buildings uninvited and takes up residence, if only temporary. Recently a young Cooper’s hawk, probably enticed by pigeons that roosted in the rooftop of the Library of Congress, flew around inside of the dome-shaped ceiling for a week. It had to be lured down by frozen quail. Library staff consulted FWS, as the bird is an endangered species.http://blogs.loc.gov/loc/2011/01/watching-our-researchers-like-a-hawk/

Bats often use man-made structures like bridges, culverts, mineshafts, attics, and of course, bat houses, http://www.floridiannature.com/bats.htm. Porcupines, which live in hardwood forests and forested swamps, just want to be left alone to eat their veggie diet, preferably Eastern hemlock. But the tree has been under attack by an invasive insect, and that paired with habitat loss has sent the porcupines into man-made structures, where they will gnaw on anything from furniture to vehicle undercarriages. Supposedly the porcupine likes the sodium.http://www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/Plants_

Wind turbines have been a subject of much discussion over whether their presence will harm bird populations. Birds might think, “hey, this is a neat place to perch,” until they get knocked off when the turbines are in use. Newer models of wind turbines are designed to reduce bird mortality.http://science.howstuffworks.com/

While some people think that certain wild animals are “nuisance” species, others want to attract wildlife to their backyards. Here’s a USGS guide to attracting wildlife to one’s backyard—with some precautions to keep in mind:http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/wildlife/wildback/profiles.htm Eccentric folks like to create a way to enjoy watching wildlife, as seen here (in honor of Squirrel Appreciation Day) in this backyard “Mission Impossible” sequence: http://blogs.discovery.com/animal_oddities/2010/01/squirrel-appreciation-day.htmlThe Huffington Post recently posted a blog by a National Wildlife Federation naturalist David Mizejewski on how to properly dispose an opossum with a hilarious video that lets viewers know about their options. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-mizejewski/how-to-properly-dispose-o_b_794889.html My favorite part is when “Pink Mama” proposes using cryogenics to freeze the opossum’s head, closely followed by the condolence card. More sensibly, the Southern Californian opossum enthusiast known as “Pink Mama,” advises contacting a wildlife rehabilitator in the event of finding a dead or injured opossum on the side of the road, but only after feeling its stomach to see if there are “squiggly babies” inside.

Basically, animals move into our world all the time, whether we want them to, or whether they’d rather be in more desirable habitat. Beavers and raccoons will travel through culverts and sewers, if there are no other ways to get from one wetland to another. Wildlife stream crossings research has been an important way for biologists to understand the movement of certain species in fragmented habitat, especially where roads have segmented a forest or wetland. For more information, visit:http://aswm.org/wetland-science/wetland-science/327-wildlife-friendly-stream-and-undercrossing-research

Update: Eagles Attack Customers at Post Office in Alaska

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