Coyotes and Your Pets

Posted on May 27, 2022

We’ve had a few reports of daytime coyote sightings at Robinson Woods recently. This is not surprising- after all, we humans are visiting their habitat! So encounters with them and other wildlife will happen. In fact, that’s the very reason many of us love to walk these natural areas—to observe wildlife in its natural habitat. However, since we know many people like to walk their dogs at Robinson Woods, and many of our other preserves, we thought some pointers on how to keep your dog safe when coyotes are nearby was in order. 

First, and most important: PLEASE KEEP YOUR DOG ON A LEASH. Chance encounters with wildlife are one of many reasons this rule is in place at all of our preserves. A lone hungry coyote will sometimes approach your dog in a non-threatening, or even playful way, in an attempt to lure it away from you… and to their larger pack, at which point they will come together and attack. Most domesticated dogs will think “Oh look, a doggie friend!” and willingly go to it. If your dog is leashed, they will stay close to you, and the coyote will probably just move on. They want an easy target, and they likely don’t want to come too close to you. And don’t think your dog isn’t susceptible to this because he’s larger… we’ve heard of this behavior happening with a full-grown golden retriever!

This is not to scare anyone from walking their dogs in our preserves or any natural area. Most coyotes aren’t interested in you or your pet, and will probably run away if you cross paths. But on a few occasions, if they are hungry or have pups nearby, they may be bolder. 

Be aware of your surroundings, and be sure you can keep your dog close to you if a coyote does approach. You can also wave your arms and make lots of noise. Coyotes won’t come near you if they think you might be a serious threat. Leave their territory as soon as you can. But don’t run away; this might provoke them to chase you. Stay calm, maintain eye contact, and back away slowly. 

At home, don’t let your pets outside, especially at night, unless you can keep an eye on them. Don’t leave dog or cat food, or bowls that may smell like food, outside. Get an outdoor light, and turn it on when pets are out in the yard. Coyotes typically try to avoid bright lights. 

And remember: coyotes are native inhabitants of this land, and were here long before us people were. They play an important role in our ecosystem, and are not our enemies! As long as we are careful, vigilant, and respectful of their habitats, we can co-exist without any problems.

Super-Duper Blood Moon Eclipse

Posted on May 13, 2022

That’s right, this weekend we get treated to another Blood Moon, this time with a total lunar eclipse to boot! Late Sunday night into the early hours of Monday, if we have clear skies (that’s kind of a big “if” at this point), we will be able to see the entire event from this part of the country.

Lunar eclipses only occur during a full moon, and this one comes with the added bonus of being a Super Moon—which means the moon will be in the spot in its orbit closest to Earth.

At the peak of the eclipse, when it has reached totality, the moon will appear to be an orangey-red color, hence the name “blood moon”. And just a reminder of why the moon looks red during the eclipse: when the moon travels through the Earth's shadow, the only light that hits the lunar surface has been filtered through the Earth's atmosphere. Blue light is a shorter wavelength, so it hits the Earth's atmosphere and scatters. But longer wavelength red and orange light travels straight through, hitting far fewer molecules in our atmosphere, so that's the dominant color we see.

The specifics of when the event occurs and where to see it will vary some by your location, but in our area in general, the partial eclipse will begin at 10:28 p.m. EST on Sunday night. The Blood Moon will peak at 12:11 a.m. Monday morning, with the event ending at 1:55 a.m. To see the eclipse’s path and determine exactly when things are happening in your location, plug in your info here.

Want to get some pics? Here’s a nice guide on how to photograph a lunar eclipse.

So let’s cross our fingers for clear skies Sunday night! If you get a good photo of it, please post it on Facebook or Instagram, and tag us! @ChikamingOpenLands.

Spring Flowers 101: Bloodroot

Posted on April 21, 2022

A member of the poppy family, these white flowers with yellow centers can be found in woodland habitats and near streams. An easy way to distinguish them from other white spring flowers is by their large, multi-lobed leaves. So what's up with the name (side note: we want to name our death metal band "Bloodroot")? Their roots contain an acrid, orangey-red juice (here's an example) that Native Americans used as both a dye and war paint. However all parts of the plant, including the roots, have been found to be toxic, causing skin irritation in some people, and it can be poisonous if ingested in large amounts. But you weren't just walking along, plucking random flowers out of the ground and eating them anyway, right? Right??

Spring Flowers 101: Skunk Cabbage

Posted on March 4, 2022

You might be thinking, "Hey. That weird-looking thing doesn't look much like a flower!" But it is, and it's one of the first to emerge, even before spring, at that. Found in wetland areas and near streams, the flowers come up very early, before the leaves. They have a very distinctive, sci-fi look, with a purple hood-like leaf surrounding a spherical structure that looks like it's covered in spines... but these are actually lots of little flowers. The flowers are able to emerge so early because they have an amazing natural ability to produce heat-- in fact the flower buds can heat up to 70 degrees--which thaws the ground and snow around them, allowing them to bloom. The leaves emerge later, unfurling in a spiral pattern that resembles cabbage. 

And yes, these flowers STINK! Their supremely unpleasant rotting meat smell attracts the pollinators they need to reproduce. And despite their name, they are not edible. Eating them (if you could even get past the smell) causes burning and swelling of the mouth and throat, and they can be poisonous in larger quantities.

Skunk cabbage flowers are up right now! Can you find one? Post a pic on our Facebook or Instagram pages! @ChikamingOpenLands.

Ice is Nice (but not to walk on)!

Posted on February 11, 2022

Satellite imagery from MLIVE

We love going to the lake in the winter… the light, the snow mixed with the sand, the muted color of the sky, and the awesome ice formations along the shoreline are all stunning. But despite how tempting it may be to explore that ice close up, don’t do it. Looks are deceiving- what appears to be thick, solid ice, might be thinner than you think, floating on moving water, or it may have weak spots that are invisible to you.

We’ve had a colder than normal January and early February (today aside), so the shoreline ice cover is building quickly. But MLive’s meteorologist Mark Torregrossa posted some satellite images of the Great Lakes this week to show just how dangerous and unstable this shoreline ice can be. Our Great Lake is a little hard to see in the photo above, since it has been so cloudy the last few weeks, but if you look at the southwestern shoreline by Chicago, you can see how broken up that ice is.

A better image is of Lake Erie:

Erie is pretty shallow and narrow relative to the other Great Lakes, so it tends to freeze the most solid. But look at that shoreline! Lots of open water for that ice to break into. In fact, last week 18 people had to be rescued after a large ice sheet on Erie broke off and trapped them on the floating chunk. No thanks!

Torregrossa says that the wind direction make the difference between ice that is visibly unsafe, and ice that looks safe, but is not. On the western shores, like in Chicago or the other side of Michigan on Lake Huron, a northeast wind in front of a storm system can spell trouble. The northeast wind packs the ice around the shoreline. Then the storm will typically bring a west wind, which blows that ice back out into open water. Here on the east side of things, we have another danger: ice volcanos. Over here that west wind piles the ice up on the shoreline… but underneath, the waves are still rolling. If you listen, you can often hear the water sloshing around under there. The waves create a void under the ice, making for a weak spot—one you can’t see—that could break off or open up at any time. When holes do open up, sometimes the water shoots up through them, hence their name.

Bottom line- definitely go out and see the awesome ice formations happening on Lake Michigan right now… but look from afar.