• One Minnesota Writer

EAT, WRITE, DIGEST: Urban Wildlife, Suburban Coexistence

This morning, we saw a red fox trot across Roselawn Avenue. She (he?) moved swiftly, eyes on Mick, me, and our two dogs as she stayed whatever course she was on. We stopped, watched her, happy for this vision we don’t witness very often.

“Go, fox, go!” I said. I hoped she wouldn’t get run over; people were just starting to leave home for this day’s work.

But that fox reminded me how wildlife surprises us all the time with an insistence on maintaining territory, fighting to stay until forced out. Roseville, where we live, is a first-ring Twin Cities suburb and has been here, encroaching on wildlife, for decades. That there are a lot of parks in Roseville helps provide places for foxes, coyotes, owls, deer, rabbits, and other creatures to stick around in spit of the oblivious humans who mess with their habitats. 

I adore seeing these creatures. Not everyone agrees.

Not long ago, in another suburb to the north of us, an argument about people feeding deer when other people want to keep the deer away boiled over into someone getting shot to death. The deer, presumably, are fine. When I read the story, I kept wondering what else was involved in this very human disagreement because it seemed ridiculous that the deer situation was the whole story. Of course, it wasn’t. We learned later that the families feuded over lots of things, but the deer-feeding became a catalyst that tipped bad behavior into the realm of murder. These people who were feuding were not farmers who depend on crops for their livelihood and, perhaps, have larger concerns with which creatures get to feast from their efforts. These people, rather, were fellow suburbanites who vehemently disagreed about how to coexist. 

These are the sort of people whom I imagine not stopping for a fox who crosses the road. Or for young geese.

Young geese are plentiful around here. Last Saturday, as I drove north on Rice Street (accidentally, thanks to a closed on-ramp for Highway 36), traffic came to a stop. I was quite far from any traffic light, so I wondered what was going on. I couldn’t see the reason until traffic moved again a few minutes later. There they were on the side of the road: a whole family of geese that included two adult geese and a whole bunch of adolescent geese. I did momentarily wonder if teenaged geese are as challenging as teenaged humans, and then I felt grateful that an entire line of traffic stopped to let this feathered family find their way across a busy road.

That is coexistence. How does this concept get so bungled among people? 

Once, when my family was on a bike ride along a path from Roseville’s Arboretum to Central Park, we came around a curve and nearly ran right into a doe. She stood for just a moment in the middle of the path, her brown eyes looking at us with what we would have called concern, before she twitched ears, nose, and tail, and bounded away. My daughter Abby was still in grade school and she was enchanted with this encounter. I was grateful for the deer’s deft footwork as we all squeezed our bike brakes and wished for a longer look at her. But she was gone in a flash, out of the way of our bikes and those of other riders behind us. It was a Sunday morning and we were taking part in the community bike ride for Roseville’s annual Rosefest. We have not had such a beautiful meeting on that path since.

But those foxes. They get to me. Last fall, two foxes sunned themselves in my back yard. I watched them for nearly half an hour from the living room window. I got my camera and long lens, shot photos of them through the glass. The dogs were sleeping in other rooms, blissfully unaware that these creatures took up space in their yard. In the end, it was me who drove the foxes away. I cracked a window open and the small noise of the window sliding in the frame was enough to make them both look up, twitch ears, vanish. I was so sad that I disturbed them, amazed at how sharp their hearing was, and so, so grateful that they had stayed in our garden for that little while. I wanted to tell them to come back, that they were welcome. 

If only I could have spoken in their language. I’m sure they would have heard me.

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