MIKE BRAUN Country offers creature comforts

When you live out in the country, you never know what's going to turn up in your yard from day to day.
Nobody knows this more than Vince Furrie, whose property in Beaver Township is home to a veritable zoo of wild animals of all types.
Furrie called the other day and urged a Vindicator photographer to make a trip to his home to see what he had recently spotted on his property while training one of his hunting dogs.
"I was out back running one of my dogs and saw something in a tree," Furrie said. "At first I thought it was the usual hawk that nested there." Much to his surprise, the bird turned out to be a great horned owl.
Owl family: Furrie said he and his family have been watching the owl family grow up. "I've only seen one of the young lately, so I think only one made it," he said.
According to some birding books, it is not unusual for one young owlet to push another from the nest. This happens with other bird species as well.
It is also not unusual for great horned owls to take over a hawk's nest, even an active nest. Furrie said that a red-tailed hawk nested in that tree last year and other types of hawks have nested there in previous years.
Furrie, who owns and operates a slew of area Sparkle supermarkets, including Frattaroli's in Cornersburg and is an active member of Ducks Unlimited, said he checked around the bottom of the tree and spotted quite a few of the balls of fur and bones that owls expel after eating their prey.
Great horned owls are mainly interested in rabbits, rats and mice. But they will also dine on opossums, muskrats, woodchucks, squirrels, gophers, meadow mice, porcupines, cats, skunks and large birds such as ducks, geese, swans, grouse, turkeys, and chickens. When prey is sparse, they have been known to take many kinds of hawks, owls, snakes, frogs, lizards, crayfish and other kinds of fish and large insects.
Indeed, Furrie said he walked by the tree one day and smelled skunk and saw the remains of a baby skunk nearby.
Critter-friendly: Furrie prides himself on making his property amenable to all manner of wildlife. He has built a series of wetland areas and alternately floods one and then the other to make the property more attractive to migrating birds, waterfowl and other creatures.
"The other day we had six white egrets and we have a woody [wood duck] with 15 ducklings," he said.
Furrie also said that other animals spotted in recent months include a flock of about 40 wild turkeys and a large snapping turtle that somehow drowned.

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