2007.07.18 I don't mind the deer, but beware new critters

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

I’m often surprised by the difference in the types and amounts of birds and animals in Fulton County and surrounding areas, compared to what was in eastern Lenawee County. Back in 2004, I moved about 32 miles to the southwest, but it seems like 3,200 when you consider the changes in wildlife.

For example, I never would have expected to ever see a bald eagle outside of a zoo or vacation to Alaska, but one day while driving on Route 66 just north of Zone, one decided to swoop down across the road maybe 300 feet in front of me, then make a couple of quick circles to make sure I had seen it. Just as quickly as it appeared it was gone. I’m still waiting to see it again.

The area seems to be full of odd-looking birds I’m unfamiliar with, but enjoy seeing, anyway. I also enjoy driving through Harrison Lake State Park to see the ducks near the dam (if visitors haven’t scared them away for a while) and the geese on the southwest end.

Another surprise to me after I moved is the number of deer in the area. The Goll Woods area on the county’s western side is a great place to spot deer without leaving your vehicle. In Lenawee County, I usually only saw deer bouncing off the front of my car.

I’ve seen as many as seven or eight deer on one drive through Goll Woods. There doesn’t seem to be any particular place to look as every month or so, one will turn up somewhere new. They aren’t a bit afraid of humans either. They seem to know that they are protected from hunting most of the time. As long as you stay in the car, they will let you look all day, or at least until they are bored and finally wander off.                                                                                                                                                                                                  

I’ve also seen deer off of Route 66 south of Archbold, east of Defiance near Independence Dam State Park, and the largest sighting of all: a herd of about 12 to 15 deer south of Route 20 just west of Fayette.

But I got the biggest deer surprise last Saturday night. I took a drive through Harrison Lake to check up on the ducks and geese, but found none at home. Of course, it was raining at the time, so any smart bird was probably in a dry spot.

I was leaving the boat launch area on the southwest end of the lake and was nearly to CR 27 when a small fawn darted out of the trees on my right. Without slowing down a bit, it looked straight at me, them continued into the trees on my left.

Since I moved to Fayette, I’ve either driven or ridden through Harrison Lake two or three hundred times and this was my first deer sighting. I stopped to let any other deer cross, but none appeared. Maybe the fawn was running behind her mother and trying to catch up. Now I’ll be driving even slower when I visit the park.

It was odd to see a deer in a park where I’ve never seen one before. It reminded me of the stories of the exotic species of birds, lizards and snakes starting to populate Florida. There’s another animal on the move, one that may end up in our area as a threat to deer and a nuisance to humans. Care to make a guess? No, that’s wrong, try again.

A recent Associated Press article told of the spread of armadillos. The animal that sort of resembles an armored rat is spreading east and north and now is established in southern Illinois. They are also now as far north as Nebraska. That’s a fast expansion for an animal which was once found mostly in Texas, then throughout the Southeast.

As with many things these days, global warming figures into the growth as armadillos don’t hibernate and need mild winters so they can keep searching for grubs and earthworms. They are adept at hitching rides on railroad cars so they could make the jump to our area whenever they wish, mild weather permitting.

The big problem is they like to live near forests and river valleys and they love to root. This is bad news for deer, other wildlife, cattle and humans, all of which would be prone to stepping into their holes.

Experts say our region has no predators to stop the spread of the animal, although it’s said starving people ate them during the Depression and many recipes can be found on-line. I wonder if bald eagles might like the taste of armadillo?

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