Stage Nature Center – An Oasis of Wildness

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“The wild requires that we learn the terrain, nod to all the plants and animal and birds, ford the streams and cross the ridges, and tell a good story when we get back home.” That sentence comes from The Practice of the Wild, a captivating book of essays by Gary Snyder that shares his thoughts on wildlife, wilderness and the world. It often came to mind on major nature-embracing adventures such as the ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro, a week of backpacking on the Appalachian Trail, or a month on South Manitou Island. Last Sunday morning it came to mind in a place I would never have expected: the City of Troy, the 11th largest city in Michigan by population and the largest city in Oakland County, a region I equate with office buildings, upscale shopping plazas, landscapes of flatness and the constant din of traffic. Continue reading

Wandering Through Winter with White-Tailed Deer

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Wandering through winter is the way of life for the white-tailed deer living in our midst. They need not wander far. For snowy days, temperatures below freezing, and winds that howl across open meadows and fields rarely present a danger to the thousands of deer that live in Oakland County. Deer have evolved a four-step basic strategy for surviving winter that is really rather simple: go about a slightly altered routine, don’t over exert, sleep near your best food supply, and just wait for spring. They can do this thanks to physical traits and behavioral patterns that slowly changed as autumn faded. Continue reading

Wildlife Tracking 101: Raccoons, Rabbits, River Otters and More!

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

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Raccoon: The five toe imprints of raccoon paws make the track easily identifiable

Winter is the perfect time to search for wildlife tracks. No matter how bold or stealthy the wanderings of a wild creature might be, tracks in the snow expose identities – and sometimes create mysteries. Tracking in snow can be fantastically easy, as in the case of clear raccoon tracks near a bird feeder, or it can be deceptively tricky when tracks distort and expand during snow melt. A bare footprint of a human in snow turns into something that is Sasquatch size, and a house cat track might morph into a mountain lion. One thing is certain, winter wildlife tracks are fun to explore, and many park agencies have winter tracking programs. Check with your nature center or park agency for details! Continue reading

Deer and Coyotes: Hidden in Plain Sight!

deerOpportunities for encounters with the natural world are not limited to the trails of our parklands.  The glacially created  hills, open fields and meadows,  forests,  wetland habitats  and  agriculture practices of Oakland County’s 908 square miles  provide excellent habitat for  our abundant white-tailed deer population  and the elusive eastern coyote; the apex predator of our county.

Deer and coyotes know no borders and most sightings are surprise encounters when they are out in the open very close to homes, crossing a frozen lake or a highway.  During the deep snow days of winter deer visit bird feeders and coyotes scavenger for road kill within yards of homes.   But some of the most exciting encounters occur in the woodlands; where they have the ability to hide in plain sight.

To survive amidst the almost one and a quarter million human residents of the county, large wild species must adapt to human presence and avoid detection. Coloration helps many creatures blend into the woodland environment and they often go unseen when not moving; but there is no question they note the passing of humans.  Predators and their prey both use a motionless stance to avoid detection when danger is nearby.   And if a human takes heed from their behavior and finds a place to wait and watch, they too are hidden in plain sight and the reward may be an up close view of the wilder side of Oakland County.cayoteText and photos by Jonathan Schechter, Nature Education Writer – Oakland County Parks www.destinationoakland.com