December 25, 2018
October 2007: My wife, Jean, and I moved into our home in Peoria Heights October 31st. This was not our first choice for a home but time constraints made it necessary. Little did we know how much wildlife was wandering our neighborhood – living in our neighborhood.
1953: I had grown up less than three miles from here … as the crow flies and, maybe, once in all my childhood a deer was seen in the neighborhood. As a boy our streets were made from cinders. Cinders are what’s left after the coal that heated our home was burned. Everything seemed more quiet and much cleaner back then – even though homes were heated with coal. The city was not new of course, but the past was still apparent. People living up the street, less than a mile away, still had horses.
Back to 2007. Our home has a narrow but deep backyard that touches right up to the railroad right-of-way. The trains go by infrequently by this time. None-the-less, they were still a force for moving freight in the area … mostly lumber actually. Once in a while I’d hail an engineer and we’d talk a bit about old times. I told him how when I was a boy I’d hop the train to school the back way. (you had to be here.)
2008: One late, fall evening I looked out into the flower garden where we had bird feeders hung on a staff-type pole with feeder hooks on it. To my suprise a Buck and a Doe were feeding at the feeder. The Buck was hitting the feeder with his antlers and knocking the seeds to the ground. Both deer had to have jumped our small chain link fence further back in the yard – near the railroad track – to get to the feeder which was only a few paces from our back door. When the Buck saw me (I was inside the house) he just kind of snorted and stomped his right front leg, but continued to feed. The Doe just looked up and continued feeding.
2018: That was our first experience with deer in the area. Off and on over the next few years we’d see deer running through the neighborhood or walking, in the evening, along the train track. Once we had four Does in our front yard. Another time four Wild Turkeys were roosting on a neighbor’s shed roof.
The train track is gone, and, as many of you have seen, it’s been replaced by a walking/bicycle riding track. Deer, well we’ve seen two in the last three or four years. Jean saw a Doe looking at her at mid-day, from some cover that managed to miss being cut down by the Park District … they purchased the right of way from the train people … and a year or two ago she saw a Doe and Fawn walking up the track north. Most all the brush that had been providing cover for deer was removed when room was made for the people track.
The deer have moved back to the Nature Center a few miles from our home – we think. They are, of course, capable of hiding in plain site, so, maybe they’re here but have not acclimated enough to the sound of so many people noisily interferring with their home turf. Perhaps they’ll re-appear in numbers again in a few years.
Feral Cats. We had numerous Feral Cats, with kittens, running the neighborhood. Many were caught, spade or neutered, and then re-released back where they were trapped. A cat who we named Muffin, a Feral Cat, has been with us since the first year we moved in here. She lives outside – in our garage – but eats here daily. I can pet her and Jean even picks her up and grooms her with a little brush, however, she will not come into the house.
Stepping back a moment: Our neighborhood was built, for the most part, in the 1950s. There has been next to no building since the 60’s. So, the building of the track is, unfortunately, the main reason for the disappearance of deer.
Time carves an endless furrow.
Dan O. De Ment