Top of the morning, Jan. 11, 2014

Top of the morning, Jan. 11, 2014

Not long ago, a fox trotted down my street in Champaign. From our front window, my kids and dog seemed happy to see it. The nervous, city-dwelling parents? Not so much. As it turns out — and you'll read about it in Sunday's News-Gazette — studies show we shouldn't be surprised to see a fox hangin' in an urban setting. It's happening more and more, Rob Kanter writes. Our environmental columnist also basically calls me a chicken for my critter-is-on-my-doorstep reaction, pointing out that "an adult red fox typically weighs only somewhere between 8 and 13 pounds — less than some housecats I know."

Nonetheless, I reached out to Rob for three more animals that might surprise us by showing up in the yard.

Coyote

The number of coyotes in Illinois has increased dramatically the past 30 years and now is estimated at about 30,000. They're especially active and visible in late winter, when they breed.

Cooper's Hawk

Once rare thanks to the pesticide DDT and widespread shooting, Cooper's hawks are now year-round "regulars" throughout Illinois. Look for them when the little birds at backyard feeders suddenly scatter.

Junco

We see these sporty, dark-gray sparrows with white bills only in the winter, when they are common at feeders in East Central Illinois — this is their "south for the winter." Come April, they head back to Canada and Alaska, where they breed.

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