Thursday, June 25, 2009

Squirrels and Coyotes Out in the Open

Because the weather is so hot, I don’t spend my whole lunch hour walking. Rather, I stroll over to MSU’s Beal Botanical gardens, to better familiarize myself with all of the herbs and weeds by reading the little placards which explain the different plants’ uses. On these strolls, and walking around the campus in general, I notice squirrels all over the place, including the black squirrels, which I had never seen until I moved to this part of Michigan. I am a former Detroiter, but also lived in California for 20 years, and then moved here, to mid-Michigan. There were no squirrels in our California neighborhoods; for some reason they don’t thrive there like they do in the Midwest and elsewhere. The only squirrels we saw were California Ground Squirrels that live in burrows in more natural areas, not residential neighborhoods. My younger son, then in Jr. High School, came to Michigan with me, and mentioned that neighborhood kids were always surprised when he would shout, “Look, a squirrel!” because to them it was such a common sight. (One of our favorite sights was the way squirrels ripple as they run across leaf-piled lawns in autumn.) A Japanese MSU student I knew also commented on how she and her boyfriend took all kinds of pictures of friendly squirrels, because they’re apparently not known in Japan.

My son is now back in California, and mentioned that when he was walking in Huntington Beach’s Central Park last week, the ground squirrel population had become so dense that seeing them poking their heads out of their burrows, they’re so close together that it looks like a meerkat colony. This is likely what attracted the coyote, which he also saw on his walk. The coyote was just relaxing on a sunny, open lawn where other people were picnicking, playing, and pursuing their other recreational activities without taking notice of it. A couple walked past with their dog, and the dog became alert, although they did not. When another bystander asked them, “Do you see that coyote over there?” they replied, “Oh, we thought that was your dog.” There’s no reason coyotes shouldn’t loll about in public places, because who, actually, would chase after a coyote? A dog catcher or game warden might, but nobody else would have a reason, and where would they chase him to? I would only go after a coyote if he was menacing somebody’s dog, cat, or child. Now that this coyote has discovered that he can go about in open daylight unmolested, the rest will probably follow suit, and soon we’ll be seeing coyotes in all the public squares.

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