Raccoons: Masked Bandits of Oakland County

raccoon in tree branch

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

October brings falling leaves, ripening pumpkins, and roving raccoons. Raccoons are among the most widespread mammals of Michigan, and have adapted extremely well to life in Oakland County. These clever creatures can be found everywhere, from our farmlands and wildlands, to the city streets and suburbs of Rochester, Southfield, and Pontiac. Although raccoons are chiefly nocturnal, it’s not at all unusual to see one at dusk or in the dawn’s early light, as they prepare for winter’s approach by putting on pounds and searching for denning sites.

Continue reading

October Snake Tales

snake with tongue out

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“The wild requires that we learn the terrain, nod to all the plants and animals and birds, ford the streams and cross the ridges, and tell a good story when we get back home.” That is perhaps my favorite quote from Gary Snyder in his celebration of the ways of nature in The Practice of the Wild (Snyder, 1990).

I have friends who revel in Snyder’s words. They share stories of wildlife encounters with excitement and joy. However, when it comes to sharing encounters with snakes, sometimes their words and phrases confirm their extreme anxieties and near-phobic horrors of even seeing a snake. These colorful days of October remind us of winter’s approach. That means, it’s time to share snake facts with a disclaimer: although I am not a herpetologist by any means, I am an unabashed partisan of these slithering creatures that often take center stage for a few weeks during the season of leaf fall. Perhaps you are too.

Continue reading

Fall Foliage Adventuring

fall foliage

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Oakland County woodlands, meadows, and lakes are attractive throughout the year, but take on a special aura of beauty in autumn. As shades of summer green surrender to the fiery scarlet of sassafras, glittering yellows of aspens, the reddish-orange hues of maples, and finally, the misty pale yellow of swamp-loving tamaracks, our changing patchwork of kaleidoscope-like colors against a sky of blue can almost overwhelm the human eye. If that’s not enough to lure a nature lover to our hundreds of miles of trails and thousands of acres of parks and wildlands, fantastic fruiting fungi in a rainbow of colors is also emerging along our trails.

Continue reading

The Link between Opossums and Ticks

gray and white opossum on leaves

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Our perception of reality when it comes to understanding wildlife behavior is often not the same as the actual reality. Sadly, that fact combined with our preconceived notions about a species often prevents us from understanding the facts as they truly are. The opossum is near the top of the list of our most misunderstood, maligned, and at times, feared creatures. In reality, opossums should be among the most loved creatures that not only share our urban, suburban, and rural habitats, but also thrive in them. They are guardians of our health and warriors against one of the most troublesome creatures in our midst, ticks.

Continue reading

Trailside Pokeweed of Summer’s End

purple pokeweed berries

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

As summer heat begins to fade, Pokeweed, a native shrub-like plant, accelerates its growth and draws attention to the edge zones of many of our most popular trails and woodlands of the Oakland County landscape. It often appears under power lines and is rather common in sections of our larger parks and State Recreation Areas. Sometimes, it thrives within front and back yards of homes and near areas of new construction. At night, its ripening fruits take on a special eye-catching beauty when captured by a camera’s lens. However, by the time pumpkins are coated with frost, pokeweed mysteriously vanishes.

Continue reading