How Habitats Shape Our Habits

Native Douglas Squirrel – This is Doug, 8th of their name

I’ve been thinking about how the places we live in influence our habits. For example, where I live; in a suburban neighborhood, in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, we have a high concentration of deer, black bears, coyotes, bobcats, rabbits, raccoons, opossums, cougars, foxes, skunks, porcupine, rats, mice and squirrels. I’m probably still missing an animal or two, like rare sightings of wolves and American badgers. There’s a funny meme about comparing European and American badgers. It’s basically, “The European Badger looks like it wants to invite you over for tea. The American badger looks like it’s going to beat you up in a dark alley and steal all your money.” Seems fairly accurate to me. Our winged neighbors include three types of owls, two types of hawks, two types of eagles, two types of ravens, the American Crow, a couple of woodpeckers, and a variety of smaller birds.

Raccoon young

 Due to the powerful, inquisitive, and highly evolved sniffers on our wild neighbors we wash our recycling and our garbage to reduce the temptation of smells for the black bears in particular. However, many a crow or posse of raccoons have also torn apart an unattended garbage bag. I once saw a construction worker put his fast-food lunch bag on the hood of his truck while he reached in to grab something else. In that same moment a crow swooped down to steal the bag of food. The bag ripped spilling fries and burger bits all over the road.

Oh yes, and we have Moose in Washington State too! They’re not all in Canada. Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about running into moose in the Puget Sound region where I live now but growing up North of Spokane we would occasionally get moose wandering into town during winter. One time riding the school bus home from high school a bus driver reported seeing a moose over the CB radio. Since our route was close to it, our bus driver detoured from the route hoping to see it. He went for a few blocks but we didn’t see it so he went back to our route. I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open. I’m glad the driver didn’t try to make a big long adventure of it.

We don’t need to do anything special to prepare for summers around here, but our winters consists of strong winds, heavy rain and snow in the mountains. At the end of summer, we pull in any outdoor furniture or toys that might have been laying out in the yard or on the patio all summer. Some people pull their barbeque into a covered area or purchase a cover and keep it in place if it’s too heavy to move. Not everyone has a barbeque of course, but they are particularly popular in the suburban American landscape. This too can be a bear attractant. If the grill isn’t cleaned after its cooled and you wait too long a black bear might come along and clean it for you!

Yearling Buck 2019, note the fencing around the young cherry tree in the background.

Fall is the best time to plant trees here. They can usually become fairly well established before the first frost and because our winters are predominately rainy, you rarely have to water your new plantings. Small trees do need to be staked to help them keep from getting blown over and if you’re in an area with a dense deer population, chicken wire or other fencing is needed to keep the deer from eating the young buds and leaves in the spring or it being used as an antler rubbing post by the bucks. From my personal, the bucks prefer young cypress trees as their preferred cologne. A new buck has appeared in my yard and I need to get more long stakes to protect some of my new trees and shrubs.

The state of Washington encompasses most primary biomes within its borders. We’re only missing Tundra, but we do have Alpine and Subalpine regions. I currently live in the temperate forest, but I grew up in the shrub-steppe area. South around the Hanford Nuclear reservation is desert. The northwest corner, the Olympic peninsula is our rainforest.

Rabbit young, native rabbit.

Here is some fun localized humor for you:

 “Hummingbear” feeders = Hummingbird feeders

“Bearseed feeders”, “ratfeeders”, “squirrelfeeders” = Birdseed Feeders (Most people will try 3-5 different “whatever”-proof feeders before giving up. A birdbath is a much easier way to attract birds.)

= a “squirrel poker” = A pocketknife or any small knife (<6in.) because a knife at that length isn’t very threatening

“Widowmaker” = military slang for a submarine, but in the forest it’s a large broken branch hanging up high in a tall tree. They tend to blow down during the winter winds and can impale a person, car or home.

“Alligator or gator strip” = Tire strips along the freeway. We don’t have alligators in WA state.

Caught on a neighbors wildlife camera a few years ago. The one wild neighbor I never want to meet!

Cougars on Wildlife Cam, Mother and Juvenile Son. Neighbors image, not mine.

What geographical region do you live in?

What special precautions do you have to take in your daily life?

35 thoughts on “How Habitats Shape Our Habits

    1. A lot of these animals visit me regularly too! I’ve resorted to giving some of them names. That’s not just any deer, that’s Mathilda, the doe who gardens beside me and Oregano is the oldest rabbit on the property because she is the only rabbit that chews on my oregano. It made her normally white tail turn yellow and apparently the coyotes and bobcats don’t like pre-spiced rabbits.

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      1. Working from home and having a non-traditional schedule allows me great access to really get to know generations of my wild neighbors. I’m thinking about writing about that as well, but I haven’t got the time right now.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. NYC has lots of birds of all kinds, some just migrating through. Mice, rats, squirrels, raccoons, the occasional coyote. Many many many insects. Feral cats. House cats. A large population of dogs and their owners. (K)

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    1. The skunk population has been dramatically reduced since I was a kid. Its actually rare to see them nowadays. I had a friend who raised a skunk kit who was the only survivor when its family was hit by a car. They have wonderful personalities when you have a chance to get to know them.

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  2. Being abroad in Japan, makes me homesick for the wildlife of Pennsylvania. Growing up, I would see turkeys, racoons, and white tail deer regularly. And of course groundhogs, maybe our most famous animal in the state. When I was lucky, I could catch a glimpse of more elusive creatures like foxes, owls and even a beaver once.

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    1. Hi Matt! I’ve never been to Pennsylvania, but I think I would like it! I follow a page on Facebook called Bob’s Pennsylvania Wildlife cam. He share game cam footage of animals that cross a log over his creek. Japan has its own beauty too, but I know its not the same.

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      1. Ah Ive seen videos from there before. Its really cool to see the variety of animals that use the log. Japan for sure has its own natural beauty, the seasons especially fall and spring are spectacular. There are Monkeys,boars, deer, tanuki(racoon dog), giant salamanders , and cranes.

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  3. Hi Melanie, This is great. We have many of the same species. I like the story of the crow stealing the lunch off the hood of the car. Right now is skunk roaming season. We have one that comes out and watches me and the dog early in the morning.

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  4. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I live in Northern Ireland, the old world, and whilst we do still have a good deal of wildlife numbers are on the downward slippery slope! To be honest, I can’t think of any wild animal that I would worry about, I would be more concerned about straying into a field of cattle! This part of the UK like the Republic of Ireland is a mostly rural farming landscape; large wild animals just don’t exist here anymore!

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    1. You have some lovely sheep there! I’m so used to looking for any kind of critter I think I would get bored in Ireland after a few weeks. Once I was done appreciating some of the culture and all of your lovely rocks and stones. Being the adventurer that I am. I would definitely have to visit this cave, supposedly the gateway to hell. Fascinating history! I have one random Irish ancestor on my mother’s side. I can’t claim to be Irish though. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/inside-irelands-gate-to-hell-that-birthed-halloween

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      1. Melanie, there are some stunning landscapes and coastlines here on this island but I think that no matter where you might walk on this land or in mainland Britain you are bound to be walking on the bones of the ancestors! Even fishing boats trawling in the North Sea between Britain and Denmark on the European mainland drag up ancient bones and implements! (I was unable to open the link, needed a sign in, but I can imagine how it reads ☘)

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      2. That all sounds very interesting to me! I considered Archeology and Anthropology degrees, but ended up doing Sociology with an Emphasis on Social and Environmental Issues because they offered the program at night. I could work full-time in a good paying job and go to school full-time at night. (You know, the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” plan. Hahaha! It was worth it to me! I paid my own way through college and only had $10k to pay off by the time I graduated.)

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  5. I looked up American Badgers.
    Gulp.
    How are they even related to European Badgers!
    And I love racoons – simply because they don’t look real!

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    1. We jokingly refer to raccoons as “trash pandas” I forgot to add that to the list of local humor. I love their little hands. Most of the time they are not an animal to be concerned about, but they can get mean and dangerous if cornered. They can spread a disease called Leptospirosis from water tainted by their feces.

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  6. I see Doug’s been at the eyeliner to make him look far too adorable to chase off or kill!

    As Ashley has mentioned, here in Britain we just don’t have the variety of medium to large wildlife to avoid/protect against that you do (except for foxes and deer). At the moment, I’m struggling to find a clear path away from my house that isn’t covered in hedgehog poo! Oh, and getting to sleep early is difficult because of the incredibly noisy owls that live in the trees around here.

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    1. What kind of owl? I don’t like the call of the Barred owl, which is actually an invasive owl here. I hear it in the summer, but in the winter, my favorite Great Horned Owl couple comes back to their nest near my bedroom window with their soothing classic owl hoot that most people think of when they think of the sound an owl makes. Hedgehogs are cute. Do they poop a lot? like rodents?

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  7. I throw a couple of drops of peppermint oil into my bin bags to put off the wildlife – such as foxes and rats – seems to work. And I always wash my recycling [even the dog food tins] as I know that some poor bugger has to sort it by hand.
    Sx

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    1. Peppermint oil is a good idea to have around. We’re required to rinse our our recycling, but its important for the garbage so that some poor critter doesn’t get a jar stuck on their head. Or the bear drags the whole trash bag off into a nearby wooded area.

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  8. Im in East Africa near lake Victoria, in the capital. There are different animals in small pockets of wild green, all sorts of birds and squirrels too. Some monkeys. But none of the dangerous ones. Those are in the countryside

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      1. Unfortunately those pockets are hanging by a thread and they only exist because some people have refused to sell off their land but govt is taking over all city land and in some years, they’ll be gone.

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      2. I wonder if a network of food forests could work. The people would need to be feed well enough though from the start so the trees, shrubs and plants could establish themselves to produce a bounty of food in the coming years.

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