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Tips for Coexisting with Wildlife

It’s not just kitten season across the US… it’s baby season all around! This time of year is a busy one for mothers of many species; foxes are corralling their curious kits, squirrels are snuggled up tight in their nests, and porcupines are anxiously awaiting the arrival of their porcupettes (yes, that IS the name of a baby porcupine!) To add to the commotion, warm weather in some areas is luring out species who have been hibernating or in torpor (a state of lowered body temperature and metabolic activity assumed by many animals in response to adverse environmental conditions, especially cold and heat. Source: Britannica) With all of this happening, you may have noticed more wildlife out and about recently. As pet owners, it is our responsibility to keep our pets safe and respect our wildlife neighbors by coexisting. Here are a few tips to help navigate living with wildlife.

Admire from a distance. The safest and most respectful way to appreciate wildlife is from afar. A healthy wild animal should already experience a distrust and fear of humans, which makes this tip easy to follow. Though, in some cases, more curious creatures could indicate being fed by a human at one point or another. Overly friendly or aggressive animals are cause for concern and should be reported to your local wildlife rehabilitation center, wardens, or animal control. To keep your pets safe, the CDC recommends to “Ask your veterinarian how to protect your pets from wildlife diseases such as rabies, leptospirosis, and giardia.”

While deer are often associated with Bambi and are thought of as being exceptionally cute the fact is they are responsible for helping transmit many tick-borne diseases such as Lyme, Bartonella, and Babesia. The brown-legged or deer tick is mostly responsible for the transmission of these diseases. Lyme in particular can be devastating not only on the individual patient but can have far-reaching effects on the family and for generations to come. Many infectious disease specialists are of the opinion that Lyme Disease can never be truly cured but only held in remission. While there is a fairly effective vaccine available for dogs, none is yet available for people.

The red fox appears as another of nature’s cute inhabitants. It is however the natural reservoir for rabies and is therefore extremely dangerous to both people and their pets. There have been an increase in cases and recently a rabid fox bit nine people on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. If someone gets exposed or if it is thought they might have gotten exposed to a rabid animal they must get a series of injections of IgG to keep them from contracting this deadly disease. Once this disease takes hold it is always fatal.

These are but two reasons why we should respect wildlife at a distance, for their safety and our own.

Utilize your local wildlife rehabilitation center as a resource (babies, conflict, etc.) Have you ever come across a wild animal in need? Maybe they were ill or injured, or perhaps you came across an orphaned baby? Or even the dreaded nest of squirrels in your attic that you want guidance on how to humanely encourage them to move on. Your local wildlife rehabilitation center will be able to help! Every situation is different and requires consultation prior to intervention. For example: if you come across several baby raccoons with no mother in sight, what next? An experienced staff member or volunteer will be able to walk you through the situation while asking important questions. Are the babies obviously injured? Are they crying out? Has an attempt for reunification with the mother been made? A key aspect of wildlife rehabilitation is education within the community. Now would be a great time to find your closest wildlife rehabilitation center and save it to your phone- you never know when you might need it!

Take precautionary steps around the house:

  • Garbage containers should be animal-proof. Secure lids with bungee cords or similar devices to keep animals out.

  • Remove food residue from grills.

  • Secure compost piles or bins.

  • Lock or remove pet doors, especially between dusk and dawn.

  • Install chimney caps.

  • Clear gutters and downspouts of nesting debris.

  • Seal soffit, ridge, and gable vents with ½ inch hardware cloth.

  • Cover roof and dryer vent pipes with proper exclusion devices.

  • Secure basement vents and hatch doors.

Finally, know the facts. We know that the internet is filled with useful, interesting information, but we also know that it is also filled with lots of misinformation. This misinformation can create unnecessary fear surrounding wildlife. For instance, if you see wildlife out during the day, it must mean they are sick…right? Nope! That is normal! Especially during baby season, foraging during the day happens frequently. With humans encroaching on the homes of wild animals, it’s only natural to expect that we will see them in more urban areas. With that in mind, taking these steps to respectfully coexist, while also keeping everyone safe, is necessary.


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