Tuesday, April 24, 2012

They're Back

Don’t look now, but the Twin Cities are awash in animal species that have come back from the brink of extinction or moved back into town from outside the beltway. Real North American animals, not exotic species from somewhere else. There was that flock of wild turkeys that worked the Greenway west of Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis for a while there last summer, picking at clover and gravel at the edge of the path, spilling out into traffic like rude teenagers, creating a hazard for bicyclists speeding past. Or the bald eagle sitting high in an ash tree at Lake Harriet last fall. A friend pointed it out. The bird was perched up there, taking in the parade of people below—seeing and being seen, as if the ash were his favorite park bench. It was all very Southwest Minneapolis tony. The Lake Harriet crowd had accepted the eagle, The eagle had accepted the Lake Harriet crowd. And it’s not just Minneapolis. From Fridley to Lake Phalen, South Saint Paul to West Bloomington — everywhere — wildlife that moved out is moving back in. We’ve got coyotes and foxes sneaking in from the suburbs. We’ve got deer running up and down the river bottoms. And hawks perched on freeway light poles. Possums seem to be showing up more frequently. Somebody spotted an otter below Saint Anthony Falls. And didn’t we have a black bear on the east side of Saint Paul a while back? Canada geese were almost extinct forty years ago. Not any more. They’re so common they don’t even pretend to migrate. They’ve taken up permanent residence all over town—in the parks… on the golf courses… next to those little ponds at the bottom of freeway cloverleaves … anywhere they darned well please. Only a few years ago, gray squirrels and pigeons were about as wild as Twin Cities wildlife got. Now the peregrine falcons who’ve taken up housekeeping on the skyscrapers in Minneapolis are making squirrels and pigeons darned nervous for miles around. The Asian carp may be coming. The zebra mussels and Eurasian milfoil are already here. The invasive species may seem to have us on the run. But our native species have their small victories and little success stories too. All right here at home—framed in the kitchen window or outside the front door.