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Ringed Bandits Who Steal

A backyard without wildlife is like an aquarium with no fish. Wildlife makes any backyard more complete. Photo by Peter Sporring

I can’t help but feel sorry for folks like the ones I wrote about in a recent Picton Gazette column, who are so pristine and Gawdawful perfect in their lifestyle that they consider all manner of wildlife to be the enemy. They should instead be living on the top floor of a condominium, high above it all where the only wildlife they need to contend with are flies. Down here in the real world, all wildlife species are welcome at our home, even the bees at my feeders and the moths on my door. Especially the raccoons. I first learned about the dexterous fingers of raccoons when a young family of them used to visit us nightly on our sundeck. We enjoyed having them stop by and often I would leave scraps on the deck to ensure their return another night. Gradually, they became accustomed to me stepping out onto the deck to watch them eat in the dim light of the moon. As they were finishing up my offerings one evening, I opened the door just a crack and held a crust of bread just inside the door. Ever so slowly a pair of furry hands reached in through the crack and ever so delicately clasped the crust and pulled it outside onto the deck where it was promptly shared and consumed by the party of four visitors. Two of my bird feeders in a previous setup hung from a wire strung between two trees. This wire also contained a string of patio lights and a set of wind chimes. One calm night I awoke to the sound of wind chimes vigorously chiming away, and realizing there was no wind to activate them, I turned on our 500-watt flood light. There illuminated at the end of a tree limb was a raccoon vigorously shaking the wire which it continued to do in the now full flood of light until the feeders, one by one, dropped to the ground. Mission accomplished, it then casually retreated back along the limb, lowered itself down the trunk of the maple, and proceeded to eat the sunflower seeds, now liberally spilled upon the ground. Some say we should not feed wild animals. But those who tell us not to, are often the same people who feed birds (a million dollar industry), feed ducks prior to the waterfowl hunt, or feed deer, or plant fruit bearing shrubs to attract wildlife to their back yards. If there is a law, or a policy, then it is surely being created and subsequently manipulated according to the whims of those who practice it. Until I see a policy in place that applies to everyone, I will continue to look forward to the ringing of my wind chimes, the overturned flower pots on the sundeck, and the lid removed from my compost bin. And I will not hesitate to hand a raccoon a piece of bread, should its paws ever slip through our kitchen door again. People in synthetic routines are missing all that.

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About the Author: Terry Sprague became interested in nature at an early age. "Growing up on the family farm at Big Island, 12 miles north of Picton, on the shore of the beautiful Bay of Quinte, I was always interested in the natural world around me. During my elementary school days at the small one-room school I attended on Big Island, I received considerable encouragement from the late Marie Foster, my teacher in Grades 6 through 8. Her home was a short distance from where I lived and through the years she was responsible for developing my interest in birds. The late Phil Dodds, a former editor with the Picton Gazette, also a great nature enthusiast, suggested I undertake a nature column - a column I have submitted weekly since 1965. The column has since expanded to the Napanee Beaver and the Tweed News. Life has been good, and through the years I have enjoyed working with such nature related agencies as Glenora Fisheries Research as a resource technician, Sandbanks Provincial Park as a park interpreter and Quinte Conservation as a naturalist and outdoor events coordinator. As a nature interpreter, currently working from my home office, I now create and lead numerous interpretive events in the area and offer indoor audio/visual presentations to interested groups. Could one who is interested in nature have enjoyed a more exhilarating period in the work force?" Terry's website is

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  1. Sedona/aka Barb says:

    Hi Terry

    Great post and love the px
    I sent you an e mail re the fox
    Have a great day!
    I love nature!

    Sedona 🙂

  2. Louisa says:

    I understand what you mean when you say you feel sorry for folks…the thing is, they are missing out on something so special by exploring the realm of the animal (and plant) world, and further, actually interacting with them rather than just being bystanders. I can’t help but feel there’s a price to pay for insisting on life separated from the workings of the world. We’re all part of it, not separately revolving circles in it. Why the denial? Why the fear of it? I have imagined what the planet would be like without living creatures all interacting as they should be. How void and desolate that would feel. By understanding all that’s around us, we find out about ourselves.

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