On The Wild Side: Now that many of us are having to stay home, it’s a chance to see what animals visit your yard

This raccoon was among many night visitors to photographer and columnist Ann Brokelman's yard this year.

By ANN BROKELMAN

This winter, and now continuing into the spring, I have discovered the joy of using trail and inside cameras. For the longest time, our dog, Rory, would be sitting on his ottoman by the front windows and would tell us, better described as ‘losing his mind while howling’, whenever we had a fox, deer, or anything bigger than a rabbit walking around our yard.

My husband and I often wondered what else might be visiting our property during the night or when Rory was asleep.

A friend of mine, Karen Reed, had been sharing some amazing videos and pictures of coyotes, deer, and a screech owl that she had captured with a trail camera, and the more she told me about her system, the more I wanted to try it for myself.

My kids bought me one, for my birthday, specifically to watch the screech owl in our back yard, and I got two more to set up at other windows just to see what other animals were coming by.

It didn’t take long to get some success.

In the first week it was up and running, the front yard camera caught dozens of deer, five racoons, two skunks, two foxes, one coyote, a random cat, and too many bunnies to count. (It may have just been one bunny that came by a lot, as they do all look the same).

And this was just during the night; the daytime shots have been equally impressive.

One day the cam caught a Cooper’s Hawk flying in and landing on a tree, other days have caught squirrels chasing and playing, and an endless stream of birds at my feeders. I’ve also captured so many great shots of Rory playing in the backyard. This also came in handy when my daughter Julie came by for a visit. I stayed inside with my sleeping grandson, Jason, while Julie, her eldest Joshua, and my husband Erle played, tobogganed, and built a snowman.

I couldn’t be out there, but I could watch all of it through the camera, (plus I got to stay warm and cuddle the baby).

One interesting thing we’ve noticed is how the wild animals have been using the shoveled path, between our house and the neighbour’s, that my husband dug out for the mailman.

All the local animals seem to naturally follow that path, just like they would a game trail in the forest.  Even more interesting is that now that the snow is gone the animals are still walking the same path!

It makes it easy to set the trail cam up, as I now have a clear trail through my front yard! My favourite cam moment, to date, was a fox who put his face right at the outdoor cam.  He looked, didn’t seem impressed, and then confirmed this feeling by peeing on the camera! Luckily they are water/liquid proof.

The only downside of this experiment is that trail cameras can be very addicting. I started with one but now have five!

Almost every day I find myself running outside, in the cold, to switch the memory card so I can see who visited our yard during the last 24 hours. I could wait longer, but I wake up eager to see what’s happened.

This can be a wonderful family activity where you can learn about each animal that you captured visiting your own yards.

I fully encourage you to get a trail camera of your own. Now is a time to stay at home or in your yard as we deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

Why not see what wanders in your yard during the night? Be safe everyone.


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