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Northland Nature: Young wildlife seen in July

July means many things to Northlanders. This is usually our hottest month. It is the time when we are most likely to have thunderstorms and occasional severe weather warnings. Summer sports prevail and it's when many of us take our vacations. The...

Raccoon
This young raccoon encounters a problem while learning to climb ... and looks for help. (Photo by Larry Weber)

July means many things to Northlanders. This is usually our hottest month. It is the time when we are most likely to have thunderstorms and occasional severe weather warnings. Summer sports prevail and it's when many of us take our vacations. The month is also filled with lots of activities in the world of nature.

Roadsides abound with wildflowers. Daisies, buttercups, hawkweeds, lupines and clovers decorate the spaces as we begin the month. They give way to black-eyed susans, milkweeds, fireweeds and cow parsnip later, and maybe even some early goldenrods.

It is the beginning of the berry season, with perhaps a dozen kinds found by the time we reach the end of these 31. All these plants mean abundant insects, and now we see diverse butterflies, dragonflies, crickets, grasshoppers, cicadas, bees, wasps and flies. And with all these potential food sources, the spiders continuously hunt the insects.

July is also when we see the young of the year from many of our other wildlife.

The birds that sang so persistently during June are slowing, and maybe even stopping completely now as we proceed through this month. Singing is a way of attracting a mate and defending a territory needed for breeding. And with the family now mostly raised, they do not need to vocalize their territorial proclamations. By late summer nearly all the avian songsters will have silenced. Instead, at this time in the trees, we'll see the smaller fledglings that have gone from the nests travel with the parents, trying to get fed among the branches. It is often these family units that make up the first flocks of migration.

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Other animals are maturing as well. Frogs that called so loudly in spring followed this with egg laying, and tadpoles. During the hot days of July many metamorphose to become the new frogs of the year.

And then there are the mammals.

Rabbits and squirrels had young early in the season. These are the ones that you may have been seeing in the yard during early summer. Frequently, they breed again in summer and we may see more miniatures of these common small mammals.

Others are slower to reach maturity and have only a single generation per year. The deer fawns that we saw in late May are still with their mother and usually still wearing spots. Fox kits are growing in their family units now.

And so it is with the aquatic mammals. Beavers and muskrats families move through the shallows and learn to feed on the proper vegetation.

During a walk a few days ago, I heard the calling and crying sound that was not what is normally heard in the woods. I followed it and discovered an immature raccoon, a young of the year, in the midst of a climbing lesson. Only a few feet off the ground, the critter had latched onto a couple of diverging branches and it was unsure of where to go next.

The desperation calls that I heard were meant for the caring mother who was nearby.

Despite its precarious position, the young mammal was a delightful sight to behold. Black-masked eyes with a gray body, it looked like a smaller version of an adult. The dexterous five toes of the front feet were also like that of the older ones. However, the ringed tail, so large and bushy with the elders, was also ringed but tiny. Could this be the adolescent of a new born raccoon baby that I found in a shed during May?

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With a diet that includes almost anything they can grasp in their hands, raccoons have adapted to humans and appear to be doing well in most places. Typically, I don't see raccoons much during the warmer months. They find plenty of food in the wilds of the woods and wetlands.

But with the coming chill, they seek meals at plenty of other sites, often coming to us. I don't think I have ever had a year of feeding birds that has not also included some inadvertent feeding of raccoons. And like

many other campers, I have shared a few camp supplies with them, without my permission. No wonder they are often called the masked robbers.

But this young one carried all the beauty and innocence that we associate with youth. And without thoughts of what could happen, it was just an interesting animal to watch and note how it dealt with this climbing problem.I left this young raccoon in its confused arboreal pose and moved on thinking that maybe we we'll meet again in a few months.

Retired teacher Larry Weber is the author of several books, including "Butterflies of the North Woods," "Spiders of the North Woods" and "Webwood." Contact him c/o budgeteer@duluthbudgeteer.com .

Related Topics: ENVIRONMENTWEATHER
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