Mandan News

Wild neighbors

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Is it just me, or have our animal friends moved into our neighborhoods. We live on the edge of the Heart River Valley, so we’ve always had all sorts of wildlife hanging around our yards. But my mom lives over in Diane’s Addition and my brother-in-law lives behind the old junior high school, and their neighborhoods seemed to have blossomed with critters of all sorts.

For instance, both of them have wild turkeys roaming around their yards. Pheasants, deer, and rabbits and such have become daily visitors. I’d postulate that most of us don’t really know who’s lurking around our neighborhoods, because most of us don’t dare go outside this time of year. At best, we might look out our windows or see something cross the street while driving to work.

So, other than shoveling snow or trying to get our cars started, we don’t spend much time in our yards or observing whose hanging around our neighborhoods. Therefore, I spent the last week doing that for you, and here are my findings.

My mom had an owl in her backyard last week. Owls are rather fascinating creatures; this one was a great horned owl with ears, and the ability to turn its head in a circle. They are also predators with claws the size of an eagle’s. They are silent hunters known to come out of nowhere to snatch their prey. Rabbits seem to be one of their favorite prey, and from what I can tell, this winter seems to have been a good year for rabbits; they’re everywhere. I saw one cross main street on its way to Ohm’s cafĂ© last night, and have lost count how many times I braked my truck to allow a rabbit to cross the road.

When the owl shows up, its difficult not to watch him, as his presence is rare, and it doesn’t take long to be mesmerized at how he seems to be able to turn his head in a circle, while calmly waiting for lunch to materialize.

Of course, the turkeys seem to dominate their arena; I noted that when the turkeys came in, the owl disappeared. Turkeys have but-her faces, their bodies are huge and it’s quite a sight when the Tom’s spread their tails out … but their faces are really ugly. Their necks and heads are gray, mixed with red and blue, and changing hues, as well as wrinkled skin. That red thing, hanging below their beaks, usually takes away their bird beauty. Turkeys and vultures are obviously related, and it’s interested to note that vultures are incredibly beautiful flying machines, but they have the same but-her faces.

The deer also seem to have moved further into town, I’ve seen them behind Anytime Fitness, rummaging behind Ohm’s, wandering around behind the old junior high and lost count of how many times I’ve had to hit my truck brakes to allow them to skee-dattle to safety.

Given all this, I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing, but I know I enjoy seeing the wildlife as it reminds me that we all need to share some of our bounty with our animal and insect neighbors … and given what I’ve seen this winter, we must be doing a good job of that.

Of course, I’m quite sure that some folks really don’t care for these neighbors using their backyards for toilets and mating and such. I’m sure some fruit trees and other food bearing foliage is being destroyed, but on the whole, it seems to me that having a neighborhood filled with wildlife is a good thing.

Of course, it could be a sign that life out on the prairie has become too sparse for them to survive, so just like the folks that used to live on farms moved to town, so have these guys … here’s hoping that your brakes work when you’re confronted by the neighborhood moose crossing the street …