It's Wild (Life) in the 'Burbs

Suburban living means easy access to every needed creature comfort. Growing up in Houston, I lived in a bustling city. Most weekends, we’d head to “The Farm”, my dad’s ranch in the beautiful, remote Texas hill country. Living in suburban Connecticut reminds me of both. I’ve woods in my back yard, but am only a few minutes from “town”. With city-life nearby, it’s easy to forget we’re surrounded by woodland creatures calling the area home, too. Taking my dog out, I’m hearing more birds, signaling spring’s on the way! It’s this time of year we start to see more wildlife moving around, too.

Quail Run Ranch, Harwood Texas, 2011

Connecticut boasts creatures many states have. There’s deer, squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, coyotes, foxes, groundhogs, opossum, and black bear. I’ve seen many of these species in my two decades here. I once took a free lecture at our library on bear in the area. The speaker stressed bear attacks on humans are extremely rare. While there’s bear sightings occasionally, I haven’t seen one. Probably a good thing, since I’m certain I’d die of fright before a bear ever got close!

The deer love to munch my Hostas to nubs in the summer.  Mama and baby have lunch…
The only snake I am afraid of is the one I don’t see.  Here one sunbathes on my bunny statue, right by the door.
There’s always some serious snacking going on at my house!
I snapped a photo of this guy crossing the street on a walk one sunny morning.

We’ve delighted in watching deer and wild turkeys. We’ve laughed at the antics of squirrels who stole our fall pumpkins, carrying them up a tall tree to snack on. We’ve marveled at a red fox against white snow, or the recent sighting of a rare albino squirrel. Our hearts soared with a bald eagle overhead.

However, sometimes encounters with wildlife can be dangerous.

Coyotes are prevalent in this area. My friend Susan recently lost her backyard chickens to a massacre by roving coyotes. Last week, when driving home from my daughter’s school, a canine figure crossed in front of the car, from one wooded area to the other side. I was thinking it might be a “lone wolf”, as it was  large and fluffy, not scrawny-looking like most of the coyotes spotted around. It walked with such confidence, it looked almost regal. My daughter and I were excited to see it, and watched as it paused to look back, then rambled off into the woods. As breathtaking as it was, I was thankful I didn’t see it in my yard, since coyotes and wolves are a threat to domestic animals.

When Audrey was a toddler, she told me to look at the “bootiful” bat. I thought she had drawn one. Little did I know it was a bat stuck between the glass and screen of my kitchen window.  Imagine my shock when I saw this hairless thing hissing at me! Animal control came out. Turns out, it was a baby who’d gone in the hole where the mechanism rests in my crank-out window, and got stuck when the window closed. As soon as it was free, Mama Bat swooped down and rescued it.

Once, my daughter and a play date were just home from school when my dog started barking a warning, fearful bark. Outside was a fearless, snarling raccoon! We have a multi-leveled back deck. Coming from the first level, he got “stuck” under the gate trying to ascend the stairs. Coming up to the glass door, he beat it with his front paws, like someone desperate to get in. I had just phoned the play date’s mom to say they were home, when the girls began screaming. Imagine THAT phone call! I called animal control, and while awaiting their arrival, the obviously sick raccoon drooled everywhere, tore huge holes in both the kitchen and family room screens, chewed my garden boots, and basically acted like a belligerent, stumbling drunk. I’m thankful it was too cold for the girls to play outside that day! As ‘cute’ as raccoons look, they can be ferocious animals, even when they’re healthy.

This pic of my unwanted visitor was taken through the glass of the kitchen door.

Last year, on a warm Sunday afternoon, my friend and neighbor, Jane, looked out her kitchen window, to find a bobcat looming around her daughter’s swing set, also acting agitated. Because of their camouflage coat, bobcat sightings are rare. The further North bobcats live, the larger they grow. Jane reports this one hung around for some time, and even tried in vain to climb up the slide. No one was harmed, and the bobcat wasn’t seen again. I’d walked my dog that day when she stopped abruptly, refusing to go further. I had to phone my husband to pick us up! We pass by Jane’s home on our walk, and I think Bonnie sensed danger.

As humans encroach more on their territory, wildlife has no choice but to sometimes collide with us. My dear friend, veterinarian Dr. Rose Niznik in Illinois offers tips to keep us (and them) safe:

  • Where there’s food, they will come.  Keep lids on garbage cans tightly closed, and put garbage out in the morning, not the night before collection.
  • Close barbeque pits tightly after using.
  • Don’t leave cats out, especially at night, or keep indoor cats.  Cats and small dogs are prey to coyotes and hawks. Never leave any pet outside unattended.
  • Seeing wildlife during the day doesn’t always mean an animal is rabid. It could’ve been disturbed or be hungry. Nevertheless, never approach a wild animal!
  • Close sheds and garages to keep wildlife and bats out. Bats are great mosquito eaters, but can carry rabies.
  • Bird feeders are okay, but never put them too close to the house. If you put a feeder out, you must continue to feed the birds, as they become dependent on you as a source of food.
  • With a weak economy, vets have seen a decline in clients bringing in their pets. Rabies shots and distemper vaccines are not a place to skimp. Always have your pets updated on their shots. June’s dog-licensing month in Connecticut. Now’s a good time to book an appointment before summer. There’s also non-profit organizations offering low-cost or no-cost aid to help with shots, and many towns do rabies clinics. There’s no excuse for an un-vaccinated pet.

It’s exciting to get a glimpse of an animal not seen every day, but we must be aware and respect wildlife, as well. What state are you in, and what’s “wild in your kingdom”? Have you had an encounter? Share your story or safety tip below … I’d love to hear from you!

  1. Jan says:

    Holy guacamole! It never occurred to me that you lived in an area where there are so many wild creatures. We might get an occasional deer, moose, raccoon, and (thankfully!!) no snakes, but would LOVE turtles.. We have lots of owls and hawks in my neighborhood. I live in a semi-rural/suburban area of Washington state. Yes, the amount of housing developments is going up and the animals are continuing to feel the brunt of it.
    One night, while I was still living in my old house, I heard a movement in my living room. Back in those days, I used to leave my back door ajar for my cat if she didn’t come in when she was supposed to. Anyway, there I was walking down the hall in my pj’s and a LARGE raccoon walked out of my living room and out the back door. I had left a bowl of nuts on the coffee table and she had come by for a midnight snack! So much for the habit of leaving the back door ajar…
    I no longer let my cats roam at large. I have a contained area for them to go in the warmer months. You have to understand that everything seems to be part of one food chain or another!
    Loved the pics, especially the ones of the bobcat.


    Love your story about the raccoon in the living room!  What a shock I bet that was!  Good thing he let himself out, the little bandit!

    As for moose, I’ve heard that there are some migrating back to the upper Northern part of Connecticut.  Whether or not that is true, I’m not sure yet.  I’ve heard they can be aggressive at times, too. Thanks for sharing!  -Nicole

  2. Ellen Ottoson says:

    Hi there,
    Having grown up in Brooklyn, N.Y. (lots of cement, a few trees and grass, pigeons & sparrows) you can imagine my delight to live in the country. I’ve seen a red fox trot by, and one coyote, a hen-turkey, red-headed wood peckers, rabbits, bats, migrant birds, hawks, many Canada Geese (stay year round), many types of ducks, bats, cranes, then chipmunks & squirrels, possum, our local raccoon family, & groundhogs and moles. The deer are seen less as more homes were built and same for the one pheasant I was lucky to see. We rarely see some owls. This is very comforting to me to see this wildlife trying to survive around us.
    Take care, Ellen O.

    Hi Ellen,
    You didn’t mention where you moved to from Brooklyn, but sounds lovely!  I love seeing the groundhogs here, they are so adorable.  I also once saw what  I believe to be a wild mink, but that was when we first moved here and were still one of the only houses around.  We don’t see pheasant anymore, either.  My father reports that the roadrunners, quail,  and tarantula spiders we always saw when I was young up at the ranch have also disappeared largely due to the fireant population increasing. Enjoy, and thanks so much for commenting.  -Nicole

  3. We have LOTS of deer and raccoons that roam around where I live, plus a bunch of other woodland creatures 🙂 🙂 We keep our garbage cans shut…and they don’t lock, but we have these really heavy stone slabs on top. Those work really well. Love and hugs from the ocean shores of CAlifornia, Heather 🙂

    Heather, that’s a good tip.  I never thought about putting something on top of my garbage can lid to keep critters out.  Something once got in mine…the cleanup was awful!  Thanks for reading and for the tip! -Nicole

  4. meredith (hereford girl) says:

    Nicole! WHAT are you feeding that squirrel?? 🙂 What a chub!
    Here in Virgina we have all the animals you mentioned, in addition we have been having fairly regular sightings of bald eagles! YAY!

    Meredith – I know, right?  That squirrel was a butterball!  Guess it was all my pumpkins from the fall…

    I’ve only seen a bald eagle flying overhead once, and it was so large and majestic.  Lucky you that you see them regularly!  Thanks for reading!  -Nicole

  5. meredith (hereford girl) says:

    Nicole! WHAT are you feeding that squirrel?? 🙂 What a chub!
    Here in Virgina we have all the animals you mentioned, in addition we have been having fairly regular sightings of bald eagles! YAY!

    Meredith – I know, right?  That squirrel was a butterball!  Guess it was all my pumpkins from the fall…

    I’ve only seen a bald eagle flying overhead once, and it was so large and majestic.  Lucky you that you see them regularly!  Thanks for reading!  -Nicole

  6. Nicole, Read your new blog and it brought a tear to my eye. It brought back memories of all the trips we took to Quail Run and how you grew up in the wilds of Texas. Really enjoyed your new blog… very informative to new comers in what some folk. Just to let you, know Quail Run is still wild. I have a picture from one of my trail cameras of a big mountain lion with a 12 point buck by the the neck he caught under one of my feeders. Keep up the good work. Love you, Dad

    Dad, I want to see that picture!  Missing you…love you! Nicole

  7. Ellenl Ottoson says:

    It’s Ellen again: Oh,I forgot to say that I am now living in Ohio! I’ve been in the Air Force and once lived in Rhode Island. Our little house there in the woods had a mudroom where I kept our potatoes and apples. By morning the apples had a bite out of one or two and they were strewn all over. Turned out to be the raccoons pushing open our outer front door. Like Heather, we wound up putting heavy bricks on our trash cans too. Cute looking, but wasteful & pesky animals.

  8. Shery says:

    To actually see a bobcat is such a rare experience. There are a lot of them around here, but I’ve never laid eyes on one. Texas and Connecticut are a long ways’ apart in about every way :o) I feel fortunate to live in a place where native animals still live here also. I bet you do too. I love my wild neighbors.

    Hi Shery,  you are so right, I do love the wildlife around me.  As for the bobcat, I’ve heard no more reports in the neighborhood of sightings.  Jane was lucky to get those pictures! Take care and Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  9. Hi, Nicole,
    I enjoyed this blog and the pictures are so impressive. I liked the pictures of the bobcat. Impressive, and that is a very chubby squirrel! Is the bird feeder the vintage hummingbird feeder you told me about? We have bears and coyotes here in northeast Georgia so we are warned about leaving food outside. I am so proud of you. Love, Mother

    Hi Mom! No, that is not the vintage hummer feeder I just got.  That’s an old picture.  As a matter of fact, I don’t use that type of food anymore, but make my own.  The vintage bottle feeder will come out in a few months.  Miss you and love you, Nicole

  10. I grew up in a suburban area, and when I had children we moved to an agricultural reserve just 3 miles from a big suburb–it’s funny how that short drive can make a world of difference. We had goats, ducks, mini horse, and such a wonderful place for our children to learn about the animals.

    Hi Melissa, All those animals sound like Heaven to me!  My family and I love animals and I would love to have goats and ducks, and a mini horse!  Thanks so much for reading and commenting!  Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  11. Tarek says:

    I’ve seen bobcats several times while hunting, but not on trail cams. I believe Kari (I Don’t Wear Pink Camo to the Woods) had a fisher on her trail cam last year. Pretty sure it was her.Cool shots of the yote! We’ve got tons of them, but have never captured one on camera.

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