Where the Wild Things Are—but Maybe Shouldn’t Be

Jan. 2017: 

This Michigan homeowner found a trail of destruction after coyotes ransacked his abode.

July 2015:  Coyotes instinctively fear humans and usually run away when they see one. But, as they become more numerous in cities, there have been some rare exceptions.  

April 2015:  NYPD officers nabbed a wily coyote Saturday who made a rare trek to lower Manhattan. Sightings are increasing in New York City, and some experts say as many as 2,000 coyotes live in Chicago. Another report claims that “urban coyotes” have a longer life span than their country cousins.  

May 2014: Moose on the loose–this news video reports about a moose’s two-city tour and the police efforts to keep it and people safe.

This recent National Geographic article looks at animals who now “commute” as they try to get around in our expanding cities.

Coyotes at Wrigley Field

The rural population shrinks as more people move to the cities, and it seems that some animals have the same idea. Recent news reports indicate that wild animals are joining the move to become urbanites–elk sightings in Kansas, bears lumbering into several cities, and a mountain lion shot in a Des Moines residential area.

In our mid-size town of Ames, a fox and her three kits set up home in a small park behind our house. One day my wife lifted our toddler grandson onto the merry-go-round and the fox darted out. Her kits were cute, and we hoped the family would help with our rabbit infestation, but the mother fox eventually moved on. Maybe she reckoned plentiful rabbits didn’t compensate for speeding cars and rambunctious two-year-olds.
Lately, the most brazen “wild things” are coyotes. When I was a kid in Iowa, we figured a coyote was either a romantic symbol of the Wild West or a not-so-wily creature that often had an animated anvil dropped on him from above. We would have thought it “cowboy cool” to have coyotes loping across the fields on the farm. Now they’re so thick local farmers need to take measures to protect their sheep from them. Facing gun-toting hunters, coyotes apparently think city life looks more appealing.
A recent report indicates that coyotes have been haunting Chicago’s downtown district and the Wrigley Field area. As a long-suffering Cubs’ fan, I know it used to be rather barren and lonely around Wrigley during post-season time, so maybe the coyotes found the right spot to hide out. However, 2016’s World Series hoopla may have changed things–with all the celebration, maybe no one even noticed a few coyotes had joined the party.

But let’s face it—wild animals and tame people are not generally a good combination. We’re probably going to see more coyote road kill, bears in trees shot with tranquilizer guns, and mountain lions shot with real guns.

I’m not blaming the animals. Their habitat is shrinking, and especially during winter or drought, a McDonalds’ dumpster or backyard fish pond can look mighty tempting. And some people actually bring the wild things into their world. A Des Moines police officer says he has seen a Bengal tiger in a drug bust, an alligator in an apartment, and a number of monkeys. Exotic animals escape, a pet python becomes too big to trust around the family poodle, and in some cases, a wild animal that has been “tamed”—such as a raccoon—rips into a small child.

Attack of the Protective Ground Squirrel

I must admit, as a kid I tried to tame a creature from the wild. Ground squirrels had burrowed in at the far edge of our lawn, and with help from my brothers, we dumped enough water down the hole to make it surface. Wearing thick leather gloves, I grabbed it and transferred it to a big tub in the basement. I placed some water in a lid and gave it dandelion stalks for a snack. Beyond that, my eleven-year-old brain had no further plans. We went swimming at a small-town pool that afternoon, and by the time I returned, I figured the furry thing was domesticated.
When I reached in—gloveless–to pet it, the ground squirrel bit my right index finger, and like a snapping turtle, it would not let go. I shook it, yelled, jumped around in the basement, screamed some more, and before I could think of a solution, Mom was coming at us both with a wooden baseball bat raised in the swing-for-the-fences position. I had never seen Mom even bunt, so her solution scared me worse than the animal attack. With drops of blood flying, I raced up the stairs, burst out the door, and soon enough, the animal and I parted ways.
Maybe we all need to figure out how to coexist with wildlife. I know I learned a few lessons: Animals need their space. Wild animals don’t make good pets. And a Mom protecting her young should not be anywhere near a baseball bat. by dan gogerty (cartoon from oocities.org; coyote pic from npr.org; ground squirrel pic from thecatsite.com)

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