HomeScienceWildlifeUrban encounters with wildlife can be interesting

Urban encounters with wildlife can be interesting

After living within the Buffalo city limits for over 40 years, our interactions with urban wildlife have been pretty mundane for the most part. We’ve seen our share of robins, finches and gray squirrels enjoying the area. They’re cute, plain and (to be honest) a little boring.

Peter Corrigan of Buffalo.

However, some of our encounters could only be described with words like weird, absurd or ridiculous. But also quite wonderful.

Here’s an example, and the one at the top of the “weird” list. One Saturday around noon, in the late 1980’s, older daughter Caitlin (about 5 years old) came up to me while I was working in the garden and kindly asked if I wanted to ‘see the owls’. I put down my rake and told her in my kind, all-knowing fatherly way that they couldn’t be owls. Owls are active at night – right?

She led me up our driveway to where our neighbor was standing, stunned with surprise. “You have to see this,” he said. The next moment I saw why: walking back slowly from us, on ridiculously high steps, were two little owls! Their comical faces had turned to us as they withdrew, eventually disappearing under a large, shaggy bush. We wouldn’t see them again.

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Super curious, we scanned some nature books and found photos that matched the birds we had seen. It was unmistakable: we had just seen two burrowing owls! But this just couldn’t be because their range maps showed western Iowa as the closest to Buffalo. It was just so weird. And great.

There was one time when I came home from work and saw the side door of our house ajar. Not a safe situation! Nervously, I jumped up the stairs to face everything I found inside. When I got almost to the top of the stairs, I saw our cat jumping maniacally through the bathroom.

“What now?” I thought; has the cat gone mad (further)? Then I saw the immature starling desperately trying to stay away from the cat’s jumping attacks. I got it then: door is open, bird flies in, cue the madness. I was able to round up the poor bird with a towel and take it outside. It felt good to rescue a young pigeon from certain doom.

Recently there was another encounter with wild animals in the city. It’s Sunday afternoon and wife, Teresa, and I were busy upstairs in our office. Our young girl cat, Silvie, hung out with us. Suddenly Teresa exclaimed, “There’s an animal in this room!” Sure enough, under her small desk was (of all things) a young and very cute flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans). About 6 inches tall, brown with large black eyes, this strange visitor looked up at me as if to say, “Sir, a terrible mistake has been made here.”

Instinctively I closed the office door to keep the animal close. Silvie, part-time predator and full-time hen, followed the beast but didn’t seem too eager to send it. True to his kind, the little acrobat actually made a few short, thrilling flights to avoid her. The look on the cat’s face said it all: “Wait…this thing is flying?”

Finally, the squirrel hid in the back of a small closet. Luckily I was able to wash it out there. It flashed to the storm door that led to an outside porch. I opened it slowly and our guest left. He was last seen against the walnut tree in the backyard and disappeared into the foliage.

These strange and wonderful situations have made one thing clear: the wonders of nature don’t stop at the city limits!

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