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Exploring Summer Wildlife In Your Own Backyard

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The family dog alerted us that the female raccoon that’s been frequenting our yard and garden was back, in mid-afternoon. She was on an outing with all four of her kits, and I got a few mid-range photos of the adorable family.

They had ventured down a tree into a wooded area near our yard.  When the dog and humans got excited, the kits scaled back up the tree first, then the mama raccoon wasn’t far behind.

This raccoon is the prime suspect in the digging of our newly planted vegetable beds in May.  Our guess is she was hunting for grubs to eat shortly before her babies were born.  She also had at least one late-night squirmish with the family dog, but all is well now.  It seems the family was just out hunting for food when the paparazzi caught up with them this time, and after a few photos, we left them in peace. 

It’s a blessing to live where wildlife is still thriving.  A Northern water snake was another example we saw on a recent neighborhood walk.

Yes, I instruct my children to leave wildlife alone and to be cautious, especially avoiding snakes.  We’re not worried about the family dog because she’s up to date on her rabies vaccination.  But at a safe distance, wildlife is a welcomed site.

Maybe we watch bunnies munching happily on clover made possible by NOT spraying the yard with conventional herbicide meant to kill everything except one type of grass.

Wildlife can also be tiny.  The kids tried petting slugs after seeing one as a star character in EPIC.  It’s fascinating to stop and observe a modest moth rubbing its wings together on a leaf.

And bees in our yard are not something to be feared, but rather creatures to welcome because they pollinate our flowers and food.  

A typical challenge for my kids is a scavenger hunt where they have to identify or locate plants and animals in our own backyard.

If you think kids should start connecting with nature at an early age, you might appreciate the book Beyond Ecophobia by author David Sobel.  The book offered by the Orion organization gives parents and teachers guidance on helping children learn to appreciate the natural world without becoming scared or overwhelmed by today’s ecological problems.  It’s part of Orion’s Nature Literacy Series.  Sobel says, “What’s important is that children have an opportunity to bond with the natural world, to learn to love it, before being asked to heal its wounds.”
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