Poetry Friday: Wildlife Sights and Sounds

We live in Wisconsin in a town that has grown over three fold in the last twenty years. Houses occupy what used to be cornfields and prairie, tightly woven together with a maze of streets and lights where once there was nothing but crickets and darkness.

Human development greatly impinges on the environment. In these last twenty years, I’ve seen the milkweed supply diminish along with the iconic monarch butterfly that the plant feeds. New stores get build while old ones remain standing, yet empty.

The stately ash trees, a wrongfully planned monoculture that lined the trees of our nearest city, met their demise when an insect named for its deep green color infected its bark. The ash are gone.

With all the development, you’d think the wildlife would react. And, in some ways it has – we see fewer and fewer monarchs visiting our backyard pollinator habitat. We see deer wander through our home fruit orchard to nibble on the fallen apples. The cows that used to pasture in the coulee behind us eat somewhere else now, or maybe, don’t eat at all. The land does not belong to the farmer any longer.

This week, we witnessed the boldness of a woodchuck in our yard. He walked all over our lawn. He watched my husband fix our invisible dog fence. He tried to get into the garage several times. So far, he hasn’t damaged anything during his two afternoon visits. He’s displaced. The field and woods that abut our property have become one of the newest subdivisions in our town. Who can blame him for looking around for a new place to call home?

One thing that has not changed in the song of the coyotes. We hear them at night, and rarely will see them during the morning, headed back to their den. Behind us sits what is called a coulee in Wisconsin. A coulee, we were told when we questioned the meaning of the word after our move to Wisconsin, is a valley with only one way in and out. There are other definitions and most refer to a deep but dry ravine or valley with steep sides that was formed by water. It comes from the French word to flow (Collins online dictionary, 2021). It makes sense; besides the Germans and Norwegians, we had French explorers and settlers in our region of the country.

In the coulee behind our home, live coyotes. There they feed there babies or pups at night. The pups excitedly feed on the meal with yelps and high pitched cries, reserving the howling for later in the summer and fall once they have grown. But, their feeding frenzy, as I like to call it is common at this time of year and can be quite alarming if you don’t know what you are hearing. The recent nights of ruckus inspired my tanka (first ever attempt at this form of syllabic poetry).

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is coyote-tankacjl21.jpg

Today is Poetry Friday. Our host is Bridget at Wee Words for Wee Ones blog. Thanks for hosting! Please visit her page for more inspiring stories and poetry!

12 thoughts

  1. Well, now I must add listening to coyote in a coulee at night to my travel list of things to do. What an interesting part of life you’ve shared with us today. Thank you!

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  2. Carol, thanks for sharing your poem as well as the backstory! Habitat loss is disheartening, especially when it’s not necessary (building new buildings while others stand empty).

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  3. Thank you for the fascinating insight into your new urban sprawl reality, Carol. We lived in Madison for 10+ years and I don’t think we heard a single coyote (not surprising). Then we moved to Tucson, AZ and heard the “coyote pup bands” every night. I have very mixed feelings about these critters. One jumped our fence and got our rat terrier, Smidgey, in its jaws ready to enjoy an evening meal. Luckily my daughter was passing our backdoor at the exact moment and startled the coyote who dropped our screaming dog and skedaddled from whence he came. It’s a miracle Smidgey only had coyote spit on her fur – not even teeth punctures!
    There are no coyotes (that I know of!) here in Switzerland, but we do see the occasional hedgehog. Not so noisy or dangerous. 😉

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    1. UGH! Seeing a pet in the jaws of a coyote would be terrifying. I’m not sure I like the coyotes either but they are interesting to listen to when they feed their pups. I wonder if they are only indigenous to N. America, given your observation in Switzerland. Hedgehogs would be amazing to see!


  4. I enjoyed reading about your surrounding land, Carol, and the poem of those babies growing up. Coyotes have entered our city thus the foxes have moved on. Once in a while, coming home late evening, I see one trotting down the street. The sprawl changes every habitat, even in a big city. On a good note, I walk around a big lake nearby & the milkweed there is prolific. Later I will see lots of butterflies! Thanks for sharing about your own area’s challenges.

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    1. We are tired of the sprawl and yet know we are contributing as we plan to build a house further out – away from most development. I was happy to hear that you appreciate wildlife and find ways to enjoy it such as your walk around the lake. Happy to hear there is a lot of milkweed!


  5. The urban sprawl is happening around Columbus, too. We do what we can for the wildlife that is adapting to the city. Skunks, raccoons and possums are welcome to clean up under the bird feeders. Monarchs and swallowtails are welcomed with milkweed and fennel.

    Your tanka is perfect! We hear coyotes occasionally, but how special to hear the pups!

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    1. Sounds like you are nature lovers as well. We are fortunate to have a large yard and provide what we can for wildlife…especially monarch habitat and pollinator plants. The bird feeder is hard to keep filled and the humminbirds keep us entertained, too! Thanks for your kind words!


  6. I enjoyed this reflection on the changing nature in your neighborhood. Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

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