Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lions & Tigers & Bears, Oh My!

Okay, so it should be Lions & Foxes & Bears, Oh my! Disclaimer - there are no tigers in this story... unless you consider the big bad mean old tomcats tigers... Never mind.

We live in western Wisconsin, right along the Minnesota Border. I spent my first 25 years in Minnesota and moved to Wisconsin about 8 years ago. Oh wait, did I just reveal my age? Not really, because if you add the two numbers above, you actually DON'T get my correct age! Go figure!

The area where we live is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. My town is about 7 miles east of the St. Croix River and our house is 5 miles west of town, so we're very close to the river. The St. Croix River Valley is breathtaking, bordered by limestone bluffs covered in towering pine trees and maple trees that range in color in the fall from a yellow as bright as the golden sun to a deep rich red reminiscent of smouldering embers. West of the river is the twin cities metro area of Minnesota. The landscape gradually changes over a course of about 25 miles from river bluffs to farm land, to suburban neighborhoods and shopping centers to inner city neighborhoods before landing in downtown St. Paul.

Even though our house is surrounded by farm fields flanked by tree covered limestone bluffs, we are just a short drive from a hustling bustling metropolitan area. We make this drive to work every day. Along with the domestic cattle, horses, and sheep at the farms along the road, we also see many wild animals, including whitetail deer, the occasional coyote, lots and lots of turkeys, possums, racoons, skunks, and a managerie of birds.

Up north, which is what we Wisconsinites and Minnesotans consider anything north of Highway 8, there are also black bears and moose, but we sure don't see those down here near the metro area.

So, imagine our surprise when last Monday's traffic on the major interstate highway that we take to work each day was delayed by a dead bear on the road. Yup, a big old black bear right there on the highway. This was on I-94 at County Road 21, just about 10 miles from the heart of downtown St. Paul. Traffic halted while crews removed the bear from the road. This got me thinking about the wildlife in the area. It turns out there have been several black bears roaming the metro area recently! Aside from a bit of a nuisance - making a mess of garbage cans and a bit of wear and tear on some trees - they're relatively harmless. Yet, they seem so much more... wild... than our other wildlife here. Apparently there are also cougars living in Wisconsin again. One was just sited in someone's back yard near Madison, Wisconsin at the end of March

And, on a more-cute, less-scary note... we again have a family of fox living under the grainary just up the road this spring (by the way, fox and foxes are both correct plural forms of the word fox). Last year the momma fox had three pups under the granary and we enjoyed watching them play on the grass on sunny days and seeing them grow. She's back again this spring and apparently has pups again, although I haven't seen them yet. This year, I'm going to try to get some better pictures of them than I did last year. Although even with the poor photos I took of them last year, they were simply adorable! I love seeing the fox (or foxes) and am happy to have them help out with the pesky little rabbit problem that occasionally interferes with the success of my gardens. I'm a little concerned for the welfare of our barn cats, particularly since we spotted the momma fox stalking one of the cats alongside the road the other night. Thankfully, we saw this from the car and scared her off with our headlights, but I can't say those small cats have much of a chance with a momma on the hunt to feed her little foxles. (From now on I'm going to call baby fox foxlets - it sounds cuter). I'm hopeful that the momma fox will get the big bad mean old tom cats instead of the sweet little momma cats. Big bad mean old tom cats feed more little foxlets than a sweet little momma cat would anyway! Unfortunately, momma fox isn't much bigger than big, bad... you know who... and probably wouldn't hunt them anyway. Rabbits though... yup. Momma fox can take care of those rascally rabbits! Glad I don't have my pet chickens yet, or I'd have to worry about them too! Maybe next year I'll have chickens! Then that pretty momma fox will need to have her pups someplace else!

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