JoAnne Skelly: Wildlife is on the move

Birds, bears, bobcats, deer, tree squirrels, voles, moles and more are migrating from summer to winter habitat. With the arrival of autumn, animals must devour quantities of calories to prepare for winter food scarcity. Abundant fruit is falling off trees, waiting for hungry critters to come and get it.

A reader told me a bear got up in her pear trees. Based on the quantity of bear scat around our neighborhood, we figure there’s a bear or two living in our creek bed going after apples. Deer of all ages have been wandering around, eating crabapples, grass, apples, roses and whatever else appeals to them. I recently sat on the patio and watched two bobcats walk by within 15 feet of me. They were hunting ground squirrels.

Birds are diverse at Washoe Lake right now. Great egrets, great blue herons, terns, plovers, black-necked stilts and my favorite pelicans are feeding every day on whatever they can find in the muddy water. On a recent visit, my sister-in-law said in surprise, “There are so many hunting raptors.” Red-tailed and other hawks are prolific. Cooper’s hawks bred a new family again this year. There are kestrels and an occasional merlin or an eagle, always a thrill. Vultures abound of course. I often startle a barn owl out of the trees when I’m gardening. Great horn owls hoot in chorus almost every night. The American and lesser goldfinches cover fields of groundsel in the morning and sunflowers the rest of the day. Flocks of immature and mature robins, who have just returned after being gone all summer, do the worm dance on the lawn every morning.

Gardeners often plant with hopes of attracting wildlife: planting berry bushes, currants, grapes and fruit trees. However, when something like a bear decides to eat fruit, he’s indiscriminate in how he removes them from the tree, often doing damage to branches. Bears can harm pets and people. Where deer are common, mountain lions may follow. Carson City has a growing resident deer herd and mountain lions are sometimes seen in town, definitely a hazard.

I’m not planning on reporting the bear that lives here, but I’m planning on staying alert and not going out in the dark. We moved into his territory as much as he moved into ours. However, if I or my neighbors spot a mountain lion, we will report it. Stay safe. Be tolerant of our animal neighbors but remain alert.

JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


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