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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wild Thing, your just a Big Pain

Ever since humans have become "civilized" and created their "civilizations", there have been those who feel the yearning to get back to "Nature". Or someone want to live in the "Country".
Never mind that their entire lives they have lived in the city or sheltered neighborhoods of cookie cutter houses that all look alike row after row. The closest most people have come to wildlife is on TV or at the zoo.
Then they chose to move "closer to nature".
At first they are shocked, then amused when raccoons, opossums, or skunks show up to munch on their dog or cat's food that has been left out. Then it's SOOO KWOOT to leave extra food out, so they can snap a few pictures to show family and friends. Look how back to nature we are!
It's cute for a couple of weeks or even months, but then they begin to notice that one raccoon or skunk or opossum has told his buddies that a new fast-food joint has opened up, and come on let's belly up to the Buffet! Soon there are families of raccoons literally banging on doors and windows, demanding food. Skunk families decide to move in under the house or shed to raise their families closer to the food supply. And we all know when some thing upsets them, "POOF" the house becomes filled with a noxious odor. Even the squirrels have seemed to come calling more frequently.
The family dog is now getting sprayed on a regular basis by skunks, skunks are tearing up flowerbeds looking for additional food. Raccoons are working on trying to break into the house, they know where the food comes from.
Then there are the coyotes. Always portrayed as sinister yard lurkers, just waiting to eat little dogs and cats. They aren't really. They are just following the food chain.
And we also have the occasional Mountain Lion.
Well, now the people who at first thought it was so "KWOOT" to have the "wild" right in their backyard are now realizing that it's not cute and can be down right dangerous.
They just don't realize that they have unwittingly changed the food chain, and invited the natural food chain into their backyard.
Even deer, seemingly harmless, who hasn't seen Bambi and want a Bambi to hang out in there yard. So they start leaving vegetable scraps out to attract the deer. The deer are getting fed so well by all this "extra" food, that Does are fawning 2 sometimes even 3 babies. This population increase now attract dangerous predators, such guessed it...Mountain Lions.
Not only are there now apex predators, now there are too many deer for the food supply. And diseases are spread faster among this larger population. More deer to run across roads to be hit by cars, causing accidents. And lets not forget the frightened deer that crash through windows into homes and businesses causing not only injuries to themselves, but lots and lots of property damage.
So now what?
Well, these animals need to be Controlled! We must call Animal Control!
They want this problem that they caused to be solved by us. Control these wild animals!
What was once Kwoot now needs to go away!
And then the blame game. "I never feed the wildlife! I stopped leaving food out." and, "Oh that animal lover down the street, SHE keeps leaving food out and attracting all these Pests!"
It is not harmless to feed wildlife. ANY wildlife.
Another extreme example of Humans creating Wildlife problems? Look at the Bears in Tahoe and Yosemite.
So where do I come in?
I am sent out to shoot skunks that are trapped or sick in backyards. This is the only way we are allowed to handle these potential Rabies carriers. Yes. Rabies. Skunks and Bats in this area are the most common Rabies carriers.
What is also common is Distemper in Raccoons. This disease often mimics the symptoms of Rabies. Rabies is fortunately pretty rare in raccoons in this area. Sick raccoons are captured and taken to the shelter for Humane Euthanasia. Trapped raccoons that are healthy can usually be relocated to a nearby Nature area.
Recently, I had a call for trapped raccoons. They were 2 young little guys that were not old enough to be released. When I picked them up they were scared and crying for their mother. But the homeowner insisted that they were damaging his lawn, he wanted them GONE!
So they took a ride to Wildlife Care, a wonderful local organization of volunteer wildlife rehabilitators. It was a little sad, knowing that their mother was most likely lurking nearby.
Oh and when I asked, he said his wife stopped leaving the cat food out "awhile ago". Uh huh.
I have also picked up opossums that have inadvertently gone in the traps set for "feral/stray cats". These guys are relatively harmless, they just look and tend to smell nasty.
Squirrels, well, we tend to only pick up sick or injured. And believe me I have the scar to prove that they can be VERY ungrateful and nasty when you are rescuing them.
I pick up countless road kills, wildlife that has been killed or injured by the family pet, and wildlife that have been poisoned by household pesticides.
And there are always calls from people who want us to Get Rid of IT!
Wild Turkeys wandering through suburban upscale neighborhoods munching on carefully manicured lawns and colorful flowers.
Squirrels running rampant across the roofs of brand new McMansions. One lady wanted me to come out and "control" these squirrels that were running across her home's roof. She insisted they were going to damage the "imported roof tiles". I advised her that this isn't something we do. Her reply, "Well your Animal Control Aren't you!? Your suppose to Control Animals!" Then she told me her tax dollars pay my salary and that if I want going to control these animals I was just useless.
Alrighty then.
I always wonder when people use the "My tax dollars pay your salary" bit, so what do my tax dollars do? do they pay my salary? How does that figure?
Nevermind. That makes my head hurt.
It is possible to live with wildlife. Just don't feed them. Don't leave food out for them or stray cats. You feed strays, you feed wildlife. Even feeding you own pet, don't leave food out, especially over night.
Check out the link to Wildlife Care for more tips on living with wildlife and what they do for the community.
Learn how to live with the Wild, and be a part of conserving the Nature you wanted to live around.

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