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Wisconsin's Wildlife: Book Identifies Native Animals Near You

Why travel to faraway places when what is right here at home has so much to offer?

That is what nature travel writer Candice Gaukel Andrews wants to reveal to readers through her most recent book Travel Wild Wisconsin.

UW Press
A new book guides you to rare Wisconsin wildlife encounters.

When trying to categorize this book, Andrews and her publishers had some difficulty. It’s a nature travel guidebook for those who want to explore, a history book for select regions of Wisconsin, and an essay book about the people who work with animals she met along the way.

“In any type of writing…what you are trying to do is tell a story,” Andrews says. “In nature travel writing, you are trying to tell the story of a place.”

Andrews, a former script writer, wanted to make sure she was only including native animals to Wisconsin, a natural habitat to find these animals, and cheap options to go explore and observe Wisconsin’s wildlife.

The book highlights an animal for each month, describing the best time of the year to find these animals. Some of the animals include prairie chickens, American bison, white-tailed deer, loons, and gray wolves.

Canada Geese in October

Canada geese can be seen along Wisconsin roads, in parks, in backyards, and by ponds. In this chapter of the book, Andrews points out the “dueling attitudes” of how we view these birds: those who treasure what they add to the natural beauty of the state and those who find those birds a nuisance that won’t move when they are in our way.

Andrews went to a place where Canada geese were welcomed.

“Seeing them at Horicon [in Wisconsin] is just an international event,” Andrews says. “It’s a phenomenon. People come from all over the world to see. When you go to Horicon, you see hundreds of thousands of geese coming in at night. You don’t get that in your city parks and you don’t get that in your backyards for sure.”

Canada geese were in danger of becoming extinct 50 years ago. Andrews says they came back strong and people need to experience the incoming flight into Horicon Marsh Wildlife Area and Horicon National Refuge.

Loons in July

Many people travel to the great North Woods of Wisconsin, which happens to be a great place to count loons. Volunteers who live next to bodies of water do a loon count every five years to track the population of the bird.

Candice Gaukel Andrews

Andrews writes about the physical characteristics of the loon and how they change. When loons fly south for the winter months, they are gray with black eyes. However, in the summer months, they change into their well-known image.

“We are very lucky, especially in Wisconsin, because we one of the few states that have loons that have the red eyes,” Andrews says. “They only have those in the summer and we have loons here in the summer. So we get to see those brilliant red eyes and their distinctive black and white plumage.”

The history of the loon in Wisconsin has strong connections to the Ojibwe people. The legend of the Loon involves a loon who saved the life of the first man, Anishinabe, becoming the first act of Creation.  Anishinabe tried to fly, but he fell into a lake and sank to the bottom. The loon dove down and saved his life.

Andrews is the author of other nature books, including Great Wisconsin Winter Weekends, The Minnesota Almanac, Beyond the Trees: Stories of Wisconsin Forests, and An Adventurous Nature: Tales from Natural Habitat Adventures. She also writes for several international environmental organizations and nature-travel and eco-tour providers. She lives in a suburb of Madison.