Conservation-Why Did The (insert favorite animal here)Cross The Road? By: Kevin Williams, Grundy County Conservation Director
June 28, 2013
I have been logging a considerable amount of road time the past month back and forth to Des Moines. In fact, I can about point the car in that direction and let it drive itself. Lots of time to think and observe and most of it on the same roads. I have seen a lot of different wildlife species. Some at early morning light. Others at midday and still more at evening and even dark of night. And you get to watching at certain locations, for instance, where you’ll see deer more often. Another spot has yielded several sightings of the same old silver-backed groundhog. One area will have turkeys on the hill in the morning and deer on the way back in the evening. Some of the wildlife sightings are at a distance. Some are at the roadside edge. And a few are in the roadway itself. The other evening there were a pair of fawns nursing their mother as she watched me drive by. I’ve not had a close encounter with a deer on these trips – yet. Probably only a matter of time, I suppose. Of all of the animals that I’ve encountered crossing the road are of the large variety. Some are quite small. The smallest mammal so far has been the tiny shrews that scurry across the highway. And then there are toads. They are likely lured by the siren calls of other toads singing in the wet roadside ditch. Slowly they hop their way to the other side of the road. The lucky ones do that. Many snapping turtles are out crossing roads choosing the right place to lay their eggs right now. A big one along the road edge was evidence that they aren’t always successful either. I particularly enjoy the thirteen-lined ground squirrels. I grew up calling them squinnies. When I came to Grundy County I learned that many folks around here called them grinnies. Other names are thirteen lines, striped gophers, and leopard ground squirrels. Whatever you call them, aren’t they a hoot? They dart out into the middle of the road, stand up straight and just wait there. Almost as if they are playing a game of chicken with you! The gap is rapidly closing and there it stays. How many times have I tensed as my vehicle straddled the little critter and passed over. Each time this occurs, I am watching the rearview mirror expecting to see the flattened corpse of a squinney. But in all of my years of playing chicken with these critters, I have never seen that happen. Some have disappeared down a hole that is right there in the middle of the road beside them. Others have jumped free of the tires at the last moment and made it safely to the edge of the road. But the scenario that I find most amusing when I check my rearview mirror is a scrunched up little squirrel slowly raising his head back into the air and checking to see if everything is alright. I’ve often thought that it has to be thinking….So, is this Heaven?
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