Checking the mail at the box down the street is a daily routine. In fact, I often do it instinctively without really thinking about it so my thought are often on anything but retrieving the stack of junk mail and occasionally something of value. And sometimes I come across urban wildlife.
That’s why I was shocked to see a feral hog rooting up the ground 20 yards behind the neighborhood’s mail box. It probably weighed 100 pounds and had a black coat with a touch of silver on the ends of its hairs. It had the classic tall, narrow back and some tusks protruding the jaw line.
This is just a block away from one of the busiest roads in Orange and as I pondered the journey this animal would have taken to get here I realized it not only crossed that road but likely came across Interstate 10 and other roads.
This was a few years ago and it just one of many urban wildlife encounters I have had over the years here in Southeast Texas.
People are often shocked and confused at seeing animals in the city limits.
Part of this is because wildlife television programs have preached doom and gloom on American wildlife when in reality numerous species are adapting quite well to urban life. Granted some species do not fare well near cities but many do.
Coyotes are the kings of urban wildlife.
There are an estimated 3,000 in the city limits of Los Angeles, Ca. the country’s second largest urban center and there are many around here. I have seen them everywhere from the parking lot of Parkdale Mall to eating out of the garbage can in front of someone’s house in Orange.
That was a fun situation because I saw the same coyote the next week on the same day eating out of the same garbage can.
How do I know it was the same coyote? It had a stubby tail, probably about a foot long with almost no fur on it.
Listen to a special report by Chester Moore with detailed info on why feeding coyotes is a dangerous idea.
Hogs as previously mentioned are increasing in the area. More than a few area golfers have found their favorite greens ravaged by hogs in the area.
Black-bellied whistling ducks have done remarkably well in the area and there are hundreds living in many Texas cities. These loud tree-dwellers are actually more goose than duck complete with long ducks and they have no qualms about nesting in someone’s back yard.
As I walked into my house this morning to write this column I saw half a dozen whitewing doves in one of our trees. Whitewings were few and far between in our region 20 years ago. Now they are common.
Ditto for Eurasian collared doves.
Whitetail deer seem to be on the rebound in the area. I have seen more deer in the last two years in Orange County than I saw in my entire life living there. I am getting lots of reports from Jefferson County as well including some deer right in the middle of housing developments and city parks. Houston, San Antonio, Austin and Beaumont are full of them.
We should consider these sightings a blessing. Encountering something wild is an opportunity to reflect on the beauty and majesty of nature and to realize we are not alone in needing space in this world.
The best thing we can do for urban wildlife is to leave it alone. Feeding deer and hogs and coyotes in our yards will only lead to trouble for both us and the animals.
I’m not so zealous on that issue that I recommend taking down bird feeders. Who doesn’t love watching beautiful birds?
You should however be aware that other creatures might enjoy your bird feeders as well. Bobcats and coyotes are probably even more happy to see cardinals and doves feeding in your back yard than you.
And if they happen to come prowling around looking for a meal just give them a wide birth and perhaps grab the camera.
Chester Moore, Jr.