Racoons: Masked Bandit Dumpster Divers

Racoon in Apple Tree, Courtesy US FWS, Bill Buchanan, Photographer
Racoon in Apple Tree
Courtesy US FWS, Bill Buchanan, Photographer
Those masked bandits raiding our gardens by night and bird feeders by day, who often wash their food (actually enhancing tactile experience), have human-like highly sensitive hands, love to eat chickens, as do I, and have a very clever brain- an animal full of contradictions much like us human animals.

I have deep affections for racoons that began with an young childhood in Michigan. A farmer friend discovered a litter of racoon kits in their haymow. Their mother was found dead on a nearby gravel road, a common demise for racoons, skunks, possums and host of many other critters.

The kits barely had their eyes open and needed intensive care. I took two from the litter and began gathering information on how to keep them alive. I don’t recall the details other than my mother mothering me and the baby racoons. We filled a doll bottle with whole, unpasteurized milk, which they quickly drank with gusto! As they drank, their tiny hands would massage my own, which brought me pure joy.

As they grew, I became their world as they explored me from top to bottom, their sensuous hands gathering texture, and other nuances of touch. We became inseparable companions. Neighbor kids soon joined the fun and were delighted by their playful, inquisitive antics.

I was forewarned they could become threats as they matured, even vicious at times, and possibly contracting rabies and other communicable diseases for cats, dogs, and humans. Our neighbors had gardens, keeping careful watch over my pets. Fortunately, my racoons were never a problem. Perhaps it resulted from being so habituated, they became one with us, and being well fed and entertained, never strayed into mischief.

Once the racoons gained maturity, and I became involved with school activities that fall, it was decided to return them to the farm where they were gladly accepted by the younger family members. A month or so later, one was found dead on the highway. A few days later, it’s sibling met the same end near it’s sister. Naturally, it shattered my heart.

So many years and a lifetime later, we are living on a small, wooded stream in N. Utah. Wild racoons are a constant, once birthing a litter in our chimney, occasionally finding their way to my bird feeder, on our deck, and exploring our garage. The grandkids are always enthralled, when these nocturnal beings tap on our deck windows both amazed as they lock eyes.

Raccoons, although not native to Utah, are abundant throughout much of the state. Resource agency professionals estimate that raccoons cause 60–70% of all urban wildlife problems. Racoons display problem-solving skills on par with monkeys. Further, they far outclass domestic pets such as cats and dogs, suggesting an astonishing level of intelligence. And that is often their undoing, as it is our own!

Jack Greene for BAS and I’m wild about our masked bandit dumpster divers!

Credits:

Images: Racoon in Apple Tree, Courtesy US FWS, Bill Buchanan, Photographer, https://digitalmedia.fws.gov/digital/collection/natdiglib/id/11639/rec/2
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham and Jack Greene, Author, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading:

Jack Greene’s Postings on Wild About Utah, https://wildaboututah.org/author/jack/

Hinkamp, Dennis, Racoons are Costly Pests, Extension, Utah State University, Dec. 9, 2003, https://extension.usu.edu/archive/raccoons-are-costly-pests

Reese, Julene, Racoons Raiding Your Garden and Garbage, Extension, Utah State University, May 31, 2013 https://extension.usu.edu/archive/raccoons-raiding-your-garden-and-garbage

Senior Bird Talk

Senior Bird Talk:Belted Kingfisher, Courtesy US FWS, C Schlawe, Photographer
Belted Kingfisher
Courtesy US FWS
C Schlawe, Photographer
What about birds? Why are they so alluring, so beloved by so many? Perhaps it’s their extraordinary beauty, their fascinating behaviors, their presence in our deep history and art, their ability to mimic us, their high intelligence and remarkable ability for flight, sight, agility, navigation.
Whatever the reasons, the bird is the word!

It was never more apparent than when I visited an assisted living facility for elders in Logan, Utah where I was invited to deliver a 45 minute presentation. As I entered the room, a young lady had them riveted with a bird trivia quiz. Then came my turn. Many were in wheel chairs, others with walkers, some seated with staff assistance.

I opened by asking them if they had a favorite bird, or bird story to share. A diminutive lady of Indian heritage and telling accent told of her mother’s favorite- a parrot which lived on her shoulder and would chat away as she went about cooking and housework. Later in the session she had another story. As a young girl she was eating a sandwich when an raptor swooped down and snatched it from her hands, leaving a slice that left a scar which she attempted to show me.

When a lull occurred, I asked if anyone had ever been called “bird brain”. Several raised their hands with a sheepish giggle, as did I. I lavished them with trivia on the remarkable neurological design that allows a tiny bit of high quality, tightly packaged neurons to perform the amazing feats birds are capable of. Beyond this, how bird brains can change form for breeding season activities and when half brain sleeps and half awake during migration.

Another filler. I paraded bird skins and nests from our locals for bird ID and notes of interest. The hummingbird and nest was an immediate hit, as was the stunning Bullock’s oriole with its nest made from horsetail hair and fishing line. The common snipe was of special interest. “How many have been on a snipe hunt in the night?” Many hands raised. Then I showed the bird, a far cry from what they imagined this mystery animal to be.

A woman near the back shared another story of a family parrot which had some unseemly language to share with guests, could miraculously escape from most any cage, and dismantle whatever it pleased- a brilliant, very mischievous bird.

Another bird of special interest was the kingfisher. Holding it in my hand, I shared an intimate experience when a kingfisher slammed into our window (since successfully installed bird deterrents). Thinking the bird dead, it later awakened in a cardboard box I had placed it in, and was released in fine flying form. A day later, it reappeared on my deck rail, looked me in the eye with a gratuitous head tilt as if to say “thanks Jack!” and flew off. Most unusual behavior for the kingfisher!

I learned much from my audience that morning, bird love, great story telling, and new friends- I hope to return!

Jack Greene for Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I’m wild about Utah!

Credits:

Images: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham and Jack Greene, Author, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading:

Jack Greene’s Postings on Wild About Utah, https://wildaboututah.org/author/jack/

“Legacy House” in Logan

Lake Love

Lake Love: The Great Salt Lake, Courtesy Pixabay, Filio (Tom) contributor
The Great Salt Lake
Courtesy Pixabay, Filio (Tom) contributor

Great Salt Lake Countdown Clock, Courtesy and Copyright Jack Greene, photographer Great Salt Lake Countdown Clock
Courtesy & © Jack Greene, photographer

Utah Youth Environmental Solutions (UYES), Great Salt Lake Countdown Clock, Courtesy and Copyright Jack Greene, photographer Utah Youth Environmental Solutions (UYES)
Great Salt Lake Countdown Clock
Courtesy & © Jack Greene, photographer

Great Salt Lake Countdown Clock, Courtesy and Copyright Jack Greene, photographer Great Salt Lake Countdown Clock
Courtesy & © Jack Greene, photographer

Native and Youth Voices Honoring the Great Salt Lake Event November 11, 2023 Courtesy and Copyright Jack Greene, photographer Native and Youth Voices Honoring the Great Salt Lake Event November 11, 2023
Courtesy & © Jack Greene, photographer

Brine Shrimp Art at the Native and Youth Voices Honoring the Great Salt Lake Event November 11, 2023 Courtesy and Copyright Jack Greene, photographer Brine Shrimp Art at the Native and Youth Voices Honoring the Great Salt Lake Event November 11, 2023
Courtesy & © Jack Greene, photographer

On October 28th, we gathered near the Salt Aire on the north shore of the Great Salt Lake. A sharp, cold wind kept us huddled. We walked nearly a half mile of mud flats on a path strewn with eared grebe carcasses to reach our destination, a giant, 7-foot clock. The clock displayed four different scenarios of our future based on various lake levels. At the 12 O’clock hour was 4200’, the ideal lake level for healthy waters to support brine shrimp, brine flies, and microbialites, all essential for the millions of birds that feast on them; and to cover the toxic dusts generated by a dry lake bed.

A youth driven event, they poured out their hearts and deep concerns with eloquent testimony for the lake’s diminished health, which translated to their health. The dead grebes were a grim reminder of what the lake has become from the Jordan, Weber, and especially the Bear River being diverted to serve human demands.

Two weeks later, a mixed assemblage of Native and youth gathered on our state capitol steps accompanied by Making Waves for the Great Salt Lake human sized brine shrimp puppets, musicians, and a phalarope dancing to exquisite poetry, to deliver their offerings honoring the Lake. Several tribal members, including Shoshone and Goshute, shared stories of their deep history and cultural connections. Youth representing the Utah Youth for Environmental Solutions and the Great Salt Lake Youth Coalition offered soul piercing words.

Two Saturday’s ago, I entered Westminster University Gore Hall greeted by youth, artists, organizations, and many seniors. Brine shrimp, brine fly, eared grebes, avocets and California gull puppets decorated walls and tables, representing a few of the hundreds of species that call the Great Salt Lake home, or a nice stopover as they wing their way around the globe.

The 4-hour youth led event was hosted by the Westminster Great Salt Lake Institute and lead by several youth organizations and various supporting groups. Many had attended our rally on the capitol steps. This amalgam of intergenerational individuals working on behalf of saving the Great Salt Lake ecosystem was heartening, and essential for the lake to continue on.

We were trained on how best to effect good policy with our Utah legislators through building positive relationships and preparing well researched and documented information to educate them on our interests. Another Rally is planned for Saturday, January 20th at 3 pm on the south steps of the Capitol. Many voices will be heard, including Ute tribal member Forest Cuche, many youth, and Utah author, Terry Tempest Williams.

Looking ahead, Salt Lake City may once again host the winter Olympics in 2034. May our internationally renowned Great Salt Lake be present to welcome them, and may our snow be white and bright, not brown and gone, from a covering of dust blown from an empty lake bed.

A few Secret Santa Ideas for the Great Salt Lake: write, text, or call your elected officials; make art about the lake and post it on social media; Perhaps most important, enjoy the many gifts our Great Lake offers, especially the millions of wings that grace our heavens!

Jack Greene for Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I’m wild about our wild and wonderful Great Lake!

Credits:

Images: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham and Jack Greene, Author, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading:

Jack Greene’s Postings on Wild About Utah, https://wildaboututah.org/author/jack/

McCormick, John S., Saltair, Utah History Encyclopedia, 1994, Utah Division of State History, Utah Department of Cultural and Community Engagement, https://historytogo.utah.gov/saltair/

Utah youth march with giant clock in support of Great Salt Lake bill, ABC4-TV, Oct 28, 2023

Join the Vigil for Great Salt Lake, happening EVERY DAY of the 2024 Legislative Session at the Utah State Capitol from 8-9 am and 5-6 pm:
Great Salt Lake 2024 Daily Vigil, Walk with the Waves 8-9 am, Tue Jan 16, 2024 – Fri Mar 1, 2024, Making Waves for Great Salt Lake Artist Collaborative, https://signup.com/client/invitation2/secure/113888296054/false#/invitation
Celebrate the Lake Species! 5-6 pm, Tue Jan 16, 2024 – Fri Mar 1, 2024, Making Waves for Great Salt Lake Artist Collaborative, https://signup.com/client/invitation2/secure/82319992083/false#/invitation

Making Waves for Great Salt Lake Artist Collaborative, https://sarahlizmay.com/making-waves-for-great-salt-lake-artist-collaborative

Lake Art from the Making Waves for Great Salt Lake Artist Collaborative, Supported in part by Great Salt Lake Audubon and Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/lake-art-puppets/

Utah Youth Environmental Solutions (UYES), https://utahyes.org/

Write to your legislators: https://le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp

Grow the Flow, Conserve Utah Valley, https://growtheflowutah.org/

  • Secret Santa for Great Salt Lake (Courtesy Nathan Thompson, GrowTheFlowUtah.org, Dec 12, 2023)
  • Invite someone new to get involved with helping Great Salt Lake
  • Donate to an organization working to save Great Salt Lake
  • Write to your elected officials about Great Salt Lake
  • Express gratitude for the lake in prayer and/or conversation
  • Make art about the lake and post it on social media
  • Turn off sprinklers
  • Contact local churches or other organizations about decreasing turf in public/shared spaces

Wuda Ogwa

Wuda Ogwa: A Labor of Love and Healing at Wuda Ogwa, Courtesy & © Mehmet Soyer, Photographer
A Labor of Love and Healing at
Wuda Ogwa
Courtesy & Copyright © Mehmet Soyer, Photographer

A moment of reflection, Shoshone tribal leader Darren Parry at Wuda Ogwa, Courtesy & © Melanie Parry, Photographer A moment of reflection
Shoshone tribal leader Darren Parry at Wuda Ogwa
Courtesy & Copyright © Melanie Parry, Photographer

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Bear River Massacre where on a frigid winter morning in January, 1863, over 400 native lives were lost, mostly women, children, and elderly, slaughtered by the U.S. government. I’ve become well acquainted with the site where this horrible tragedy occurred, a beautiful reach of the Bear River a few miles northwest of Preston Idaho. I’ve volunteered to record birds on their near 600 acres of land, which the Northwest band of Shoshone’s had purchased several years ago. Diversity of bird species is an excellent indictor of the habitat health they rely on.

Tribal elder Darren Parry is hoping to acquire funds for a cultural interpretive center which would tell the story of this sacred land and its people, along with an amphitheater for powwows and other educational and traditional activities. Wuda Ogwa, Shoshone words for Bear River, will become an outstanding education center woven into it’s cultural and spiritual significance.

Darren has gathered many nontribal interests as well, to bring the land back to what it may have been before various agricultural practices caused radical changes from what it once was. Exotic Russian olive trees have invaded many acres of the flood plain. The Utah Conservation Corps has removed substantial amounts, some burnt down and pyrolyzed to form charcoal to be used as a soil amendment. Cattle grazing will be phased out to allow better control of exotic species.

As I approached an open field cleared of Russian olive, hundreds of seedling native plants had been strewn over the open ground awaiting for shovels and spades. Cottonwood, willow, dogwood, golden current, choke cherry, service berry, wild rose. It was overwhelming. How could such an immense quantity of plants ever find a hole? And we were only a small part of the land to be treated.

As I scanned the fields, it became apparent this might just be possible. Hundreds had come- Ogden, Salt Lake, Provo, and our own valley, an army of very different colors from that of 163 years ago. We had come to heal the land, to offer some retribution for those whose bones had once littered some of these same grounds.

“Yesterday, we met as a group of 400 people who took part in another step of the process. We planted thousands of trees and plants that were once sacred to the area. We took a giant step towards healing as a People, as a community, and as a nation. We could not have done this alone. We will continue to hold these events for the next few years to come.” Darren Parry
I look forward to seeing the fruits of our labor, to see a flourishing forest and meadows of native plants, and a flourishing community of Native people to celebrate the rebirth of their ancestors in the living tissue of these new arrivals, which in turn will provide a rich habitat for birds and a plethora of additional life forms.

This is Jack Greene for Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I’m wild about healing wild spaces and the souls they nurture.

Credits:
Images: A moment of reflection, Shoshone tribal leader Darren Parry at Wuda Ogwa, Courtesy & © Melanie Parry, Photographer and
A Labor of Love and Healing at Wuda Ogwa, Courtesy & © Mehmet Soyer, Photographer https://chass.usu.edu/sociology/directory/mehmet-soyer
Audio: Courtesy & © J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin, https://npr.org/ and Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Lyle W Bingham, Webmaster, and Jack Greene, Author, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading:

Other Wild About Utah Pieces by Jack Greene

Marchant, Brock, ‘Knowledge keeper and storyteller’: Darren Parry selected as The Herald Journal’s 2022 Resident of the year, The Herald Journal, January 27, 2023, https://www.hjnews.com/news/local/knowledge-keeper-and-storyteller-darren-parry-selected-as-the-herald-journals-2022-resident-of-the/article_d64af090-9ebb-11ed-b7f8-73242930a463.html

Parry, Darren, The Bear River Massacre: A Shoshone History, Common Consent Press, November 29, 2019, https://www.amazon.com/Bear-River-Massacre-Shoshone-History/dp/1948218194/

Wuda Ogwa, Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, https://wudaogwa.com/
Boa Ogoi (Wuda Ogwa) Cultural Interpretive Center, Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, https://www.nwbshoshone.com/boa-ogoi-cultural-interpretive-center-1/
Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, https://www.nwbshoshone.com/

“This site has also been known as the Bear River Massacre, and as Boa Ogoi. The tribe officially uses the term Wuda Ogwa, a direct translation of Bear River.”

[Last Paragraph: Gilbert, Lael, Reclaiming Sacred Space: QCNR Students Assist in Restoration at Wuda Ogwa Site, Today, Utah State University, November 09, 2023 https://www.usu.edu/today/story/reclaiming-sacred-space-qcnr-students-assist-in-restoration-at-wuda-ogwa-site

Utah Insight: Water Restoration Project, PBS Utah