South Loop Wild-erness
The area around my property has the equivalent of a National Park
08/25/2010 10:00 PM
I really wanted to sit out a lot on my decks (big and small) and in my yards (back and side) this summer but it all came to naught. The truth is, I am terrified of the outdoors at Roosevelt and State.
Somehow the area around my property has become the South Loop equivalent of a National Park. Wild animals seem to have gained free reign in the neighborhood and many of my neighbors are like park rangers, spotting this and seeing evidence of that. The sightings and stories have built up through the years and I have gotten quite skittish. Suburbanites are surprised when I tell them I’m not afraid of city strife: drive-by shootings, muggings and thefts. But that I am afraid of being mauled by a cougar.
One of my neighbors relentlessly tells me spooky stories about the many raccoons we have had prowling around, that they have a penchant for biting and that they carry rabies and other rare and exotic diseases. I always ask for proof, and even though she hasn’t provided any, I can’t help but say to myself, “I sure don’t want to find out the hard way.”
It’s not news anymore that coyotes run wild a block away at Roosevelt and Clark — within the largest piece of undeveloped land left for miles around — land formerly owned by the infamous Tony Rezko. In fact, this newspaper has intensely reported on the coyotes. Neighbors hear them at night. They have been spotted at the lake and one even had the gall to visit a Loop Quiznos.
Then there is a neighbor across the alley on Plymouth who spotted a fox under her deck a few years back. She didn’t stop talking about it for six months. No one did anything or called anyone. But we all knew we had had a fox.
One night many years ago, I was at a party at a neighbor’s and I ran home through the alley to get something. As I ran up my back steps there was what looked like a very fat rat — the pointy tail was very rat-like — lolling in front of my backdoor. I ran right back to the neighbor’s and breathlessly reported what I’d seen. I was assured and reassured and reassured again and again, that it was just a possum and that possums had been skulking around Dearborn Park ever since the first white townhome was built on the other side of Roosevelt in the late 1970s. (Aren’t possums supposed to play possum? Why was one boldly out there at my back door?)
Add to all that the rabbits and squirrels and owls and falcons. If you have vegetables growing — even carrots — rabbits won’t go near them, but they do love to eat petunias. And one year I saw the squirrels eating the insides of my deck chair cushions, and I was tempted to leave a jar of nuts out because I felt sorry for them. Turns out, they were taking the stuffing and building a nest in my tree. The owls and the falcons swoop down to make meals of small animals, which is scary if you happen to have a teeny dog — or a pet mouse. Bottom line is, you can’t trust these rabbits, squirrels, owls or falcons as far as you can throw them.
I have also had my fair share of feral cats and collarless dogs. In fact, in an attempt to capture some feral cats many years ago using cat food as bait (I was going to give them a good home at a neighbor’s who had the patience for that sort of thing), I ended up attracting another possum.
And of course, I’ve had a few rats scurrying through the yard over the years, too, even dancing around under my Adirondack chair — while I was in it. They are such urban creatures they hardly deserve mention. But still, their presence — along with a few beehives and wasp nests — adds to the wild animal park nature of life on my South Loop corner.