What was your first connection with a wild animal? Do you have any fun memories? In my UConnect animal communication class, we talked about connecting to wild animals we meet in our neighborhoods.

I admitted that I love saying hello to the neighborhood critters. When I shift my attitude from “Oh, just another bird/squirrel” to “Hello, how’s your day going?”, I remember I’m a part of Nature. I stop walking or driving through it without connecting.

Playing with wild animals*

As a young kid, I spent my time either reading or meandering outside by the stream or in the fields. My friends and I searched for crawdads, frogs, and pollywogs. I would pick up a stone in the river to see who was under it. Sometimes I found a young “red bellied racer” snake in my front yard, an exciting find!

*Just to be clear, I’m talking about neighborhood animals. Not the ones who should be roaming safely in wide open spaces!! Read my blog, “Saving the White Lion.

Playing with a squirrel

I spent many summers with my Nana and Papa in Geneva in the Finger Lakes region of New York State.

One summer, I remember my Papa sitting on the porch watching me play. I had gone across the street into the neighbor’s front yard with the huge Elm tree. That tree seemed a hundred feet tall, like the beanstalk that Jack climbed to get into the clouds. Honestly, until I saw the Redwoods in Northern California, that seemed like the biggest tree in the world.

I closely watching the squirrels run up and down the tree. Just because I was a kid, I decided to chase one up the tree. As I walked away, Papa yelled me to look at the squirrel. As I turned around I saw her come back down and race for me. He called to me, “She’s playing with you, Maribeth!” So I ran away from the squirrel as she chased me. Then I turned around and chased her back up the tree. We did for a while until I was winded. I assume she was, too.

My kids connect

connection with a snapping turtle

My son Pat and daughter Andy carried on this tradition when they were kids. They grew up near Little Hunting Creek, a tributary of the Potomac River.

I remember Andy, about five or six, coming to me with a handful of live worms. Guess it must have rained that day. “Look, Mommy,” she cried, “they LIKE me!” “Yes, baby, they sure do,” I replied. “Now you need to put them back in the lawn so they can find a home.” And she did.

Of course, Pat discovered animals, too. And brought them home to show them off. Incredibly, he once brought home a full-grown snapping turtle. The turtle immediately buried deep into our woodpile.

But I remembered my unsuccessful attempts as a child to bring wild animals home as pets.  So I told him the turtle couldn’t stay. He understood and let it loose in the creek.

Have you had a memorable experience?

I hope my story jogs a few fond memories for you about connecting with wild animals. Maybe you re-experience the joy and wonder of interacting with non-human personalities! And you find yourself seeing the world from a more childlike lens of wonder.

And please hand that beautiful ability down to your kids, okay? Share your wonder with your kids! It’s one of the perks of being human. Check out 10 Surprising Ways to Teach Kids to Love Nature.

Read Communication with wild animals

Do you have a fond memory or you or your kids interacting in a fun way with wild animals in your neighborhood? I’d love to hear your story!