On Sunday, January 16, David Drake, the UW-Extension Wildlife Specialist and Professor of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, led a group of 52, including 13 children, from the Picnic Point entrance to the old orchard. The crowd that gathered on that chilly afternoon was eager to learn how he and his students attract and track foxes and coyotes in the UW-Madison Lakeshore Nature Preserve. Drake began by describing the categories of animals that live in the Preserve -- birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles -- and identified the numbers of species of each that live in Wisconsin. As he led the group up the hill past Bill’s Woods, a red-tailed hawk flew overhead and Drake pointed out evidence of squirrel and pileated woodpecker activity in the area. He described the differences between the gray, red and flying squirrels that live in this area, and suggested positioning motion-sensored red lights near our birdfeeders to reveal the nocturnal visits by flying squirrels.
The recent snowfall provided fresh turkey tracks and gave the 13 children opportunities for their own ground level discoveries.
Off trail, in the old orchard field where the Urban Canid Project traps coyotes and red foxes, Drake demonstrated how they set cable restraints to trap the animals humanely. Shortly after another red-tailed hawk (a buteo) flew overhead, a sharp-shinned/Cooper’s hawk (an accipiter) winged into Caretaker’s Woods. After noting the anatomical differences that allow the two birds to navigate the different habitats, Drake explained how his researchers handle, examine and outfit the canids with $1200 radio collars that enable the Project to track their movements throughout the Preserve and the city. A small blood sample is collected from each animal and submitted for COVID-19 testing as part of a study to learn whether the canids are carriers of the disease.
The group had many questions for Professor Drake, which he answered expertly and clearly from his vast knowledge of wildlife ecology. As the UW Extension Specialist in Biotechnology, Friends host Tom Zinnen was particularly proud of his colleague’s presentation. Report by Doris Dubielzig and Tom Zinnen