I seldom see mammals in my yard besides the ever-present squirls. Once there was a family of skunks in our front yard which led to our slightly delayed departure from the house, waiting for them to clear the area. I do see evidence of many footprints, burrows, and scat. However, my game camera tells a story of a very busy yard. There is a band of five racoons that visit my water fountain every night to get a drink. A family of seven woodchucks travels from their burrow along my fence line to raid the neighbor’s vegetable patch. Two old and battle worm opossums inspect my bird feeding station. There are also infrequent rabbits and once a nest of baby bunnies near the edge of the path. My game camera seems to be most successful when I point it at the pond or down our main garden path. I use a cheaper camera, so the photos are not great quality, but they are good enough to identify the critter.
On occasion I will be weeding and come across moles, voles, and mice. The moles and voles build their tunnel burrows through my woodchip paths seeking out the worms and grubs that are breaking down the decaying chips. They can be a problem when they eat plant roots. Voles have a reputation for eating liatris roots. Planting liatris with wire cages around the roots is a solution for yards with big vole problems. The mice sometimes nest in my potting bench over the winter which forces me to clean out my bench each spring, which I guess I should be doing anyway. I also find their snug nests out in the little blue stem patch. I view them as cute little troublemakers that feed my owls.
I like to know that my garden is providing shelter for so many. A part of me really wants to tame the animals enough so they feel comfortable being in the yard during the day, but I know that is a can of worms. The racoons already cause enough damage when they go frogging in my pond and tear up all the plants. My vegetable gardening neighbor would rather loose fewer vegetables. And we don’t really want a skunk making a home near our front door. The number of mammals already is quite a lot for the area of my garden. I guess I will just need to be content with knowing they are there and shelve my dreams of being an animal whisperer.
One mammal I’m lucky not to have, are deer. Deer are beautiful to look at but often cause destruction. They can also bring chiggers and ticks into a garden. I’m very fortunate to not need to worry about those pests while working outside. The absence of deer in my yard is a sign that my yard is not connected sufficiently to wildlife corridors for them to feel safe traveling to my yard. Yards connected by safe travel corridors are better for wildlife, so that their young can disperse to new territories to find mates. Animals like deer, that need a larger feeding ground then just one yard can provide, depend on connected habitats. If a yard does have deer already it would still benefit from more wildlife corridors that allow the deer to travel and decrease the burden on just a few yards to provide all the needed food.