The common opossum is the only marsupial mammal in North America. Possums have adapted well to the human-modified landscape and have expanded their range over the last century. This mother opossum and young were attempting to cross Knollwood Avenue near Western View Apartments. Western Michigan University landscape staff assisted this family by relocating them to one of our natural areas on campus—just another way Landscape Services helps out.
Many mallard ducks nest on campus and raise young at the Goldsworth Valley pond, Arcadia Creek and storm water detention ponds. Landscape staff keep track of nests every season in order to help duck broods navigate their way across the busy campus.
Our resident mute swans are a fixture at the Goldsworth Valley Pond. This pair of birds cannot fly south during the winter, so it is the job of Landscape Services to care for them during the cold winter months. A special feeder is filled regularly, and a bubble system in the pond keeps the water near the dock open even in freezing weather. While this pair has not been successful in rearing any cygnets, they are healthy and well cared for by our staff.
Spring on campus is a time of wonder. Western's campus comes alive each spring, not only with plants, flowers and trees, but newborn animals as well. Our staff found this very young fawn during morning rounds. Very often, does will drop the fawn in a safe place while they travel to feed and return each day to nurse and move to a new location. Our staff followed this family for more than a week as the fawn would appear in new locations daily.
This little duckling became separated from his brood while crossing campus. Landscape staff spotted this lost duck soon after we had walked his family to the Axtel Creek. A few radio calls later and a quick truck ride and this duckling was reunited with his family. Just another day and another good deed in the life of Landscape Services.
A young red tailed hawk surveys campus. Each spring and summer campus comes alive with young birds of many species. A pair of red tailed hawks regularly nests near East Campus and rears two or more chicks a year. This young hawk was not yet fearful of people, making it possible to take this picture atop the band platform at Lawson Ice Arena.
Rabbits are always on our radar. Every spring, Landscape Services staff is on the lookout for nests of baby rabbits. Rabbits nest in shallow depressions in lawns and fields. Landscape chores like mowing and weed whips can kill young rabbits if our staff is not careful. During nesting season, staff will often walk the site to find or flush out wildlife before mowing. Some fields are not mowed until late in the season to allow ground nesting birds and mammals to rear young. While rabbits are on their own soon after their eyes are open, mother rabbits will return to nests to nurse young during the first weeks. This young rabbit and his nest mates were found before mowing and made it safely to an edge area to wait for mother to return.
Geese on the roof! Landscape Services often gets reports of goose nests on the roofs of campus buildings. While this may seem dangerous for goslings it is in fact a very safe place to nest. Except for hawks, a roof nest is out of reach of most terrestrial predators. Nests as high as two stories (Valley 2 Dining) have been successful; newly hatched geese are very light and resilient and make the fall with ease. Landscape staff keeps watch over these goose nests, just like duck nests, to assist when needed. This goose that nests on the Bigelow food tube has been successful for three years running.
A face only a mother could love. This female snapping turtle was attempting to cross Goldsworth Drive in the valley when she was spotted by our crew. Focused on laying eggs, she was unaware of the dangers in crossing such a busy street. Our staff moved her to a wetland site near the intramural fields south of Valley 3.
Campus is home to many resident and migratory birds. This ruby crowned kinglet was on its way south in the fall from breeding grounds in the Canadian forests. The annual Audubon Christmas bird count on campus shows that many species can be spotted around the Valley region near Goldsworth Pond and Arcadia Creek that boarders the Elmwood Apartments along Western Avenue.
Reptiles and amphibians are very sensitive to pollutants, and population fluctuations can be an index to environmental health. This very young eastern box turtle (terrapene carolina) was hatched in the Goldsworth Valley here at WMU—a very good sign. The eastern box turtle is a reptile of special concern in Michigan and protected by state law. In recent years populations in southern Michigan have been declining due to habitat loss and mortality due to roads.
An adult bluebird surveys the Asylum Lake Preserve from a nest box maintained by Landscape Services.
A family of skunk kits were orphaned on East Campus in the spring. While old enough to forage on their own, the location in town put them at risk from roads, neighbors and pets. Experienced staff was able to capture, by hand, and release these skunks at local natural areas where they will continue to grow and forage safely.
Five, six-week-old raccoons were orphaned when a large oak tree failed on campus. Thanks to Landscape Services and natural areas staff, these young were placed in the care of a licensed wildlife rehabilitation organization and will be released when old enough to fend for themselves.
This spotted salamander is one of the many wonderful creatures that go unseen on campus. If you spend any time in the woods, turn over a few downed logs and you may be treated to a glimpse of this amazing amphibian.