Getting to Know Wild Animals is Fun


Getting to know wild animals is fun. Besides reading about them or watching nature programs on television, you can invite them over!

Even in a high-rise apartment, you can hang bird feeders for seed-eating birds and for hummingbirds, which like nectar. A garden with bright-colored, deep-throated flowers will also draw nectar-eating birds. The birds you attract may feel safe enough to stay. If they build nests, you may see them feeding their young and teaching them to fly.

Depending on where you live, you might see rabbits or lizards in your yard. And at night, you might see an opossum or a raccoon or a bat. You might even hear an owl. Get to know the animals that live around you. Watch a spider spin its web. With a magnifying glass, you may be able to see the silk coming out of the spider’s spinnerets. The secret to seeing wildlife in action is to stay alert and watch quietly.

Raccoons will raid your trash cans, but they may also arrive at your door to ask for a handout. Be warned—once you feed them treats, they will return regularly and can be demanding!

This eastern gray squirrel in New Jersey is following in the footsteps of its ancestors—it’s helping itself to the grain on a sheaf of oats. When the first colonists planted their plots of grain and corn, hundreds of thousands of gray squirrels left the forests and devoured the new crops.

The house mouse has always lived among humans. Long before there were “houses,” the house mouse liked to eat people’s grain, search through their garbage, and travel with them to all parts of the world.

Many people do not like to have skunks on their property. But the most important part of a skunk’s diet is insects—and insects destroy plants. So, if a skunk wanders through your yard, don’t startle it. Let it munch on your insect population and move on.

If you live in coyote country and leave dog food out or are plagued by rabbits, mice, or rats, a coyote may find its way to your door. Coyotes are skilled at pest control and help to keep the diseases in check that are spread by rodents. Just don’t leave small dogs out with the dog food. Any animal that is small is fair game to the coyote.

The opossum is no stranger to towns and cities. Opossums may live in another animal’s abandoned den or in your woodshed. They eat everything from food scraps to insects, snails, fruits, and vegetables. They forage at night, but if you’re lucky, you might see them in the early evening or the early morning.