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?