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COLUMNISTS

Wildlife sighting make walks more adventurous

Susan Manzke
The rising sun casts shadows of Susan Manzke and her dog Sunny as they near the spot where a bear was sighted crossing the road near her home.

Sunny, my dog, goes out for a potty walk every morning. As soon as I get up and get dressed, I take him outside. He remains on his retractable dog leash so he won’t take off running after a cat or a rabbit. Keeping Sunny leashed is the best way to ensure he won’t rush across the road trying to catch his quarry.

Some days we continue walking. Early morning is a favorite time of ours. The sounds of sandhill cranes fill the air. Sometimes they do a flyby or they may stay hidden in the distance behind cornrows.

The tall corn hides a lot. As I wrote last week, coyotes came through the corn to sneak up on my chickens. Their nature brought them close enough to the birds to make a meal out of five hens.

Often, I hear the howl of the coyotes about ten at night. When Sunny and I were outside one evening this summer, the howling started as we waited for the International Space Station to track across the sky. Both Sunny and I stopped and focused closer on the darkened landscape around us. It certainly gave me chills. Good thing they weren’t close that night.

Sunny is wonders what could be hiding in the corn.

One of my neighbors called me with different wildlife information. He was finishing up mowing his lawn near a cornfield. At first, he thought a big dark dog had come out from between the corn stalks. After looking closer he saw it wasn’t a dog. It was a bear.

That bear crossed the road not far from my house and ducked into another cornfield.

So besides the coyotes, I had a bear to worry about, making my walks much more adventurous.

Lately, I have an additional concern. Though I haven’t seen the black and white of a skunk, I have caught the scent on the breeze. One morning, I could smell it from inside the house. I looked out a couple of windows to see if it was visible. When I did start to take Sunny out for his potty walk, I made a lot of noise. If anything was outside it had plenty of warning to move along before we set foot in the yard.

Because of these sightings and 'smellings', I’ve kept Sunny to short walks. So many animals are out early we wouldn’t want to meet them.

Walks are along the road. Sunny sometimes tries to turn me down the lane, but these days I avoid taking that trek. With fields of corn on each side of the lane, It’s like walking between walls.

It wasn’t long ago that Sunny and I ventured down the lane. Everything seemed lovely until Sunny suddenly stopped and peered into the corn. He had noticed something, but I had no idea what he sensed. It could have been one of the barn cats out hunting, or even a little bird flitting about. No matter what, Sunny’s posture made me look closer.

The way I felt, Sunny could have been sensing characters from the horror movie, the Children of the Corn. Or it could have been coyotes, or the bear, or the skunk. Whatever, I encouraged him to walk faster toward home.

Too many secrets can hide inside a full-grown cornfield.

Since then, I haven’t felt like walking down the lane. It’s hard enough walking on the road, with corn still tall on both sides.

I don’t know what Sunny would do if we came face to face with one of those creatures. As a matter of fact, I don’t know what I would do and I don’t want to find out.

Walks continue, but only along the road and in the middle of the day.

The possibility of meeting a wildlife neighbor close up has made my life a little more exciting. And that’s just the possibility of anything showing up. I don’t think I’m ready to come face to face with anything wilder than a rabbit. Quiet walks are my preference.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; sunnybook@aol.com; www.susanmanzke.net/blog