A couple of folks wise in the ways of wildlife shared some similar thoughts with me this week. One of the people was Rich Staffon of Cloquet, who’s retiring after more than three decades as an area wildlife manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The other is Julie O’Connor of Duluth, who heads the Peregrine Watch program during the summer and is volunteer coordinator and a naturalist for Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory.
I was doing a retirement interview with Staffon, and I asked him about success stories in Minnesota wildlife. He talked about wild turkeys, bears, white-tailed deer, Canada geese, bald eagles and peregrine falcons.
Here’s an excerpt from his comments:
“I never dreamed when I came here in the 1980s that we’d ever have a turkey season in the Cloquet area. One of the lessons I’ve learned is that wildlife populations are very dynamic and constantly changing. I think when I went through school, I thought things were stable and would vary around a mean. But things can change dramatically and fairly quickly. Look how fast the Canada goose and turkey expanded. And it can go the other way, like moose in the northwest (of Minnesota). They tipped over pretty fast, and we’re worried the same thing could happen in the Northeast.
“You have to have an open mind and realize the way things are today might not be the way things will be in 30 years.”
I found those comments insightful. Then, a couple of days later, I received one of the daily updates on Duluth’s peregrine falcon family from O’Connor.
O’Connor has been doing Peregrine Watch with Duluth’s falcons for seven years. A pair of adult falcons has nested near the top of the Greysolon Plaza Hotel in downtown Duluth and this year has fledged four chicks. Here’s an excerpt from O’Connor’s post:
“This is the first year that the birds have spent the majority of their time high on the Greysolon building. This is the first year that we haven’t seen the chicks regularly at the clock tower in the first few days after leaving the nest. Every morning, I’m surprised and relieved when we get that glimpse of four chicks at once!
“It’s good to have things in our lives that keep us humble. These birds are continuously reminding me that I don’t know all that much. I don’t get real sure of myself anyway, but they keep tossing me curveballs and exceptions to ‘the rules’ that keep me on my toes and open to anything happening at any given time. When people ask me questions that I used to answer with confidence, I’m finding myself chuckling and struggling to give an answer that is informative but that conveys the utter unpredictability of these birds. It seems that the more I learn, the more I realize that I don’t know!”