Thursday, June 9, 2011

Nuisance animals

Spring is the time when many wild animals begin looking for places to make their summer home, find easy foraging for food, and raise their young.

Warm temperatures also mean humans start spending more time outdoors.

Now is the time people should do a thorough evaluation of their property for opportunities for nuisance birds and animals. Scattered garbage or refuse, pet food, and birdfeeders should be cleaned up and put away for the summer.

Holes in foundations of buildings or in the skirting of trailers are inviting places for wild animals to take up residence. Now is also the time to repair woodpecker holes and close up other inviting openings in your eaves for squirrels, starlings, and bats.

Homeowners must also be vigilant to prevent swallows from packing mud into the eaves of a house. Continuous removal of the mud and providing an alternate nesting site usually results in the swallows moving to the alternate. For plans for an alternate nest area for swallows contact your local Idaho Fish and Game regional office.

Most wild animals easily adapt to human food. Skunks, foxes, and raccoons will take young fowl raised for human table-fare. They are also adept at eating birdseed, fruit, and pet food left outside intended for the cats or dogs.

Porcupines pose a threat to many pets and can girdle valuable landscaping but if handled carefully can be easily removed from residential areas and released back into the wild. Once they are on the ground, a broom or long handled shovel can be used to sweep them into a garbage can. Place the lid on the upright can and transport them out of the area for release.

Hawks and owls thrive in close proximity to humans and agriculture. For many farmers they are worth their weight in gold due to their focus on crop eating rodents. Great horned owls are also an important predator on skunks. If owners fail to take precautions they can also prey on small domestic pets.

Hawks and owls have also been known to draw blood while protecting their nests. In areas where this is a problem we usually recommend allowing the birds to raise their young and leave the nest and then removing the nest for the following year.   

In bear country, now is the time to make plans for bear-proof refuse containers. Bear-proof dumpsters used in subdivisions and around restaurants make those areas less attractive to black bears. I strongly suggest all concessionaires utilize bear-proof dumpsters.   

As bears develop patterns of use on human food sources, our attempts to protect landowners and the public become less effective. With each success at getting the "easy meal" bears get bolder and more determined to defeat attempts to protect private property.

In several cases last year bears entered residences and made a shambles inside the houses. Bears that habituate to human food present a significant threat to public safety. Those showing aggressive tendencies will be humanely killed. It's much easier to prevent a bear problem than it is to correct it once it develops.

Hikers need to be aware of wildlife in the springtime as well. Sow bears with cubs and cow moose with calves are not fond of human intrusion. They are even less fond of Fido walking at your side. The lesson here is make sure they know you're coming, make lots of noise, and they will move out of your way.   

Like old Ben Franklin said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Take inventory of your situation and decide how to best protect yourself from nuisance animals.

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