Flying squirrel © Gregory K. Scott
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I have been putting discarded mixed nuts on our deck for the animals to eat during winter. During the day we have squirrels and some birds visit. At night we have opossums and raccoons visit. However, Tuesday night when I turned on the deck light there was a small squirrel-like animal darting around the deck. It then ran up an oak tree and sat on a limb before disappearing. It looked very much like a sugar glider which is native to Australia and Indonesia. My daughter used to have a pair of sugar gliders so I do know what they look like. Would you know what this small squirrellike animal could have been?
You were probably lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a flying squirrel. The two species native to Wisconsin look very similar, but the northern flying squirrel is larger, has a fuller tail and occupies a range that roughly cuts the state in half from Eau Claire to Green Bay. The southern flying squirrel's range is more widespread; they're found in all but the farthest northern counties. Both species have flaps of skin between their front and rear legs that they use for gliding between trees. They are strictly nocturnal so it's very unlikely you'll see them during the day. At night, they forage among trees or on the ground where their movement is less graceful than their aerial gliding. During winter, they often abandon their leaf-based nests in favor of tree cavities or hollows that offer more protection.
Cat article strikes a nerve
The content of the magazine hit an all time low for me when I came to Johanna Schroeder's article on cat boxes (When cats do more than think outside the box). Some friends and family members have agreed with me. Not all of us share the admiration of cats. They are very harmful in nature, preying on bird species, rabbits and squirrels. In addition, they can become a nuisance by raiding trash cans and defecating on lawns, sandboxes and gardens. There were always hard-hitting articles by DNR staff in the Wisconsin Conservation Bulletins by experts in their field and they gave us a look at the important work being done in conservation efforts and protecting our natural resources. I would have to agree with others, that the direction the Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine has taken leans toward a quasi-tourism content. We have a separate tourism department in this state. Why not leave tourism to them and give us some meat and potatoes articles?
We welcome reader input and ideas for editorial content. We do try to cater to a variety of reader interests in the magazine and the Creature Comforts and Wisconsin Traveler pages have been popular for years. Our focus with the one-page story you referenced in the February issue was indoor cats. We certainly are aware of the very serious issues with feral and free-ranging cats and have covered that in the magazine. We hope you also had a chance to look at the kayak safety story – which we hope will save lives – as well as the important issues of sturgeon management, hunters with a land ethic, migratory birds, upcoming season dates for hunting and a report on how the Department of Natural Resources spends fish and wildlife account dollars. A personal favorite in the issue was the story of a teenager who learned to hunt deer from his grandfather. We invite you to share ideas for articles you would like to see in the future.
Johanna Schroeder's article on cats, struck a nerve with me. I've been an animal lover, biologist, hunter, dog owner for 60 years. In my contacts with cats, I found them too independent to learn a trick or obey any commands, often appearing dim-witted. They kill song birds, over-breed and become feral predators. Why would anyone pay vet fees, buy food and house an animal that urinates and defecates in their house? Need companionship? Buy a stuffed animal – no upkeep! Am I missing something?
In your Februay 2012 issue, page 15, you state, "Each year 40 million Wisconsin birds are killed by Wisconsin cats." You gave no information on where this absurd number came from, most likely from some extrapolation of a bogus database. Recently, Nico Dauphine, a bird researcher at the Smithsonian National Zoo, was fired after being convicted of trying to poison cats. Her published statistic that a billion birds are killed by cats every year, has been discredited. Yet, many people and organizations still use her bogus data. Is that where your 40 million number comes from? If so, you owe your readers an apology. If not, at least an explanation of where the 40 million number comes from. Fifty years ago, the publisher of the Capital Times newspaper used to say, "Let the people have the truth and the freedom to discuss it and all will go well."
Our December 1996 issue (On the prowl) reported on research by University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Stanley Temple that estimated a range of birds killed by rural cats in Wisconsin. Based on estimations of the number of free-ranging cats in Wisconsin (1.4 to 2 million), the percentage of their diet that birds make up (between 20 and 30 percent), and the number of animals killed by an individual cat, Temple calculated a range of estimates. At the low end, using the low population estimates and lowest kill rate, Temple estimated that rural Wisconsin cats kill 7.8 million birds each year; his high-end estimate, was 219 million birds. His intermediate estimate of 38.7 million is commonly rounded up to 40 million and seems to be widely used by wildlife agencies and other reliable sources. His estimates did not include predation by urban cats allowed to roam free.
Horicon Marsh vista
I am a subscriber to Wisconsin Natural Resources. The magazine is great and informative. Attached is a photo of Horicon Marsh when my fiancÚ and I visited in August.
Any use for the attached backyard photo?
Catch of the day
On Jan. 13, while visiting the Maywood Environmental Park in Sheboygan, I captured this mink with his "catch of the day," a tiger musky, coming up the Pigeon River. Thankfully, his journey up the river was towards me, not away from me!
Sharing this picture I took Oct. 10, 2011. Was looking out the back window and saw this white thing climbing the tree. Grabbed the camera and to my surprise it was a porcupine. Have not seen it since.