Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Food Chain

The entire week I spent in Wisconsin was marked by a regular occurrence, one to which you could almost set a clock. Each night, shortly after midnight, I would hear howling in the distance. And that howling would get closer and closer each night. It was the howling of a pack of coyotes. We heard them every night, calling each other, sending signals to one another in their hunt for prey.

One night, we heard a different sound. The cows at the dairy farm across the road started bellowing. The cows are often in the field each night, eating and sleeping. This was one of those nights. When in the field, they are usually quiet, but this night, we heard them making loud noises. I knew immediately that they sensed something wrong. Within 2 minutes, I heard the howling. This was different than any other night though. The hairs on my arm and the back of my neck stood up. This was different because we knew where the coyotes were, and where their expected dinner was.

However, cows are quite good at natural defense. They form a circle, with the calves in the middle to protect them, and their heads face out, ready to meet the instigator. For about 20 minutes, we heard nothing but the cows bellowing, and the coyotes shrieking. We knew from the sound there was a siege in place, the coyotes trying to get a sizeable dinner.

The noises ended as abruptly as they started. We knew a pack of coyotes could not have taken all of the cattle, but if they got a hold of a calf, they would have torn it apart. We heard the occasional cow bellow, undoubtedly standing watch, but eventually it fell completely silent.

The next morning, we contacted the farmer across the street, and suggested she check her stock. She took the 4-wheeler out into the pasture and returned a little while later, reporting that all of her cows were fine. As vicious as coyotes can be, I was extremely impressed that the cows could fend them off.

In addition to coyotes, Wisconsin is home to a lot of other wildlife. A lot of deadly wildlife, like wolverines and badgers. The mascot of the state of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin is the badger, another animal native to Wisconsin. In the same family as wolverines, badgers are extremely protective of their young. And like wolverines, they have short tempers and long claws, and are genetically suited to disemboweling a human. Apparently, they are often found hunting WITH the coyotes. They have a mutual alliance with the coyotes, travelling behind and eating the carrion, or hunting alongside.

The Department of Natural Resources is apparently trying to reintroduce wolverines back into the state. Wolverines once extended their habitat throughout the upper Midwest (Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan) but now are extremely rare. Wolverines are the mascot of the University of Michigan. They are also nasty animals with foul tempers. The largest of the weasel family, they also have very strong scent glands, so they basically stink (much like the University of Michigan). Wolverines can take down animals several times their size with their ferocity, so putting them back into the habitat there is a wonderful idea, considering I take my kids there each year. So, the badgers aren’t dangerous enough, we have to put wolverines into the mix.

And then there’s the latest wild animal found in Wisconsin. As if the wolverines and badgers weren’t deadly enough, cougars have been sighted in Wisconsin. The DNR swears up and down there aren’t any, but there have been numerous sightings of what is the largest cat in North America.

In short, Wisconsin is rapidly becoming one of the deadliest spots in North America. Thank God there aren’t any snakes up there too!


  1. The Wisconsin DNR is probably full of crap.

    All 'cougar' remarks and jokes aside, there was a cougar killed in a town south of where I live (Northwest IL) a couple of years ago. They aren't prevalent, but evidently the odd cat can get to this neck of the woods.

    Coyotes can be a problem here. There used to be a bounty on them in Illinois but I don't think there is anymore.

    And I'm pretty sure if you hike on the bluffs along the Mississippi up in Wisconsin, you can find a rattlesnake or two. And don't forget that Appleton's Midwest League baseball team is the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

  2. Sure sounds like a helluva dangerous place.

  3. Yeah....thanks Rich Rodriguez. Thanks for nothing.

  4. This was like watching the discovery channel.

    Gimme a shotgun and a fire pit and I'll eat every one of them... including you.

  5. Lou, it's a savage land filled with savage people. I would avoid the place except for the fact that Wisconsin rednecks forget more about having fun with alcohol, fireworks, and demolition derbies than Southern rednecks will ever know.

    Heidi-Doing a happy jig for Michigan's woes. Go Spartans!

    Q, I have no doubt. You are Canadian, and as everyone knows, Canadians are tougher than the toughest people from the US.