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Bears and Butterflies

Bears and Butterflies

OUT-Nature-niche-Chestnut-saplingBy Ranger Steve Mueller


Someone photographed a black bear southeast of Cedar Springs but I did not get to see the picture. There was a report of one crossing Northland Drive. A bear also crossed Red Pine Drive south of the Howard Christensen Nature Center. Bears are usually shy and fear people. They are moving south in Michigan as forests regenerate. Many of us saw pictures of the bear and cubs that were found near Ada.

It is exciting that native plant communities are recovering well enough to support large wildlife that was present a century ago. In many places, people have bears as neighbors without problems. Sometimes problems develop because we do not properly store garbage or we do things that attract bears into unsafe situations for both people and bears.

We just returned from a vacation where we had the opportunity to hike in bear country. We did not fear. Instead we followed recommended safety procedures. It was a thrill to have the opportunity to see wildlife not normally seen at home. We saw Grizzly bears, Black Bears, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goats, Moose, Pine Martin, and several other mammals we do not see in the Cedar Springs area. That is a purpose for the trip as well as a chance to get into wild areas for natural beauty and hiking.

While hiking wild country, I thought about the wild country in our local nature niches where wildlife goes unnoticed. Most are not dangerous but some like mosquitoes cause more problems and discomfort than bears. Some wildlife provides great beauty and interest for those that make an effort to observe them in our yards. Allowing part of yards to be claimed by nature gives butterflies and other interesting wildlife a chance to abound.

Fifty-one species of butterflies have been documented at Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary where I live. Many butterfly species can be found around our homes if we look for them. There will be more butterflies in yards where native wild plants are allowed to grow. Extensive lawns, manicured gardens with pesticides and fertilizers discourage butterfly survival. Allowing native nature niches to establish brings beauty and interest to occupy one’s lifetime.

One does not need to spend large sums of money or travel to discover new and unusual species. One can allow nature to share the home site. Daily walks in the yard will provide opportunities of enjoyment and endless discovery. I am continually finding new plants and animals that I did not know shared my abode. A few years ago I discovered the rare American Chestnut on my property. I lived here for almost 35 years and had not discovered it on our few acres. This spring while leading the Michigan Botanical Club on a flower walk we found Purple Avens that had also evaded me.

In your neighborhood, one could probably find 50 butterfly species, learn about their habitat needs, life styles, and habits. As a seven-year-old, I collected and raised caterpillars. It was amazing to watch how fast they grew, observe caterpillar growth, pupation, and finally the emergence of an adult butterfly. The fascination led to my career as Ranger Steve. I still want to share the wonders of life that occur around us everyday.

Traveling to see large mammals in national parks or other wild areas is a rare opportunity. The exuberance of life that shares our yards is an easy healthy and inexpensive family experience. There are many local nature organizations offering support. Howard Christensen Nature Center, West Michigan Butterfly Association, Junior and Senior Audubon, Wild ONES, Land Conservancy of West Michigan, Isaak Walton League, and more are here to assist your enjoyment.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.


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