Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

Wildlife Comes To Residential Areas As City Grows

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

By Jeremy Johnson
HENDERSONVILLE, TN–As urban progress continues to turn once empty fields and wooded areas into subdivisions, the animals that once lived there do not always leave when the landscape changes.

From birds building a nest in gutters to Whitetail Deer eating the garden, to Raccoons turning over garbage cans, wild animals can often become pests to their new neighbors.

“Nuisance wildlife is very common and it’s been that way for years,” said Ed Warr, Assistant Chief of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s Wildlife Division.

Taking simple steps to remove the elements they need most to make an area their home can usually control problem wildlife, he said.  Warr said one of the most commonly seen problems is squirrels or Raccoons nesting in the attic of a home.

“Sometimes a city itself is a good habitat for raccoons. What they need is food, water and shelter, just like anything else. You’ve got to get rid of these ingredients,” Warr said.

Pet food should not be left out in the open and garbage should be kept secure in cans that cannot be easily tipped over or access by animals, the officer said.

“Just because it is pet food doesn’t stop a Raccoon or a skunk or a possum from feeding on it,” Warr said.

Attics and garages should be kept sealed so that animals like squirrels or Raccoons cannot crawl inside, he added. For those experiencing problems with nuisance animals, the TWRA can offer advice or refer individuals to a handler certified to remove wild animals when taking steps to prevent the animal from returning is not working.

“We’ve got people that are permitted to do that if you can’t handle it yourself,” Warr said, adding he does not recommend individuals attempting to remove wild animals from their property.

The Hendersonville Police Animal Control officers do not handle removal of non-domesticated animals such as deer and raccoons that are outside a citizen’s home, HPD Captain Terry Frizzell, who added the capture or management of such animals is usually turned over to the TWRA.

If the wildlife is inside a citizen’s home, animal control officers will come by and access the situation, but will typically turn the capture of the animal over to someone better equipped and trained to handling wild animals, the captain said.

The risk of wildlife in the Nashville area carrying rabies is very minimal, according to Warr who added the TWRA has not found any cases of rabies in raccoons or possums in the Nashville area in a long time. And while some cases of rabies have been found in skunks, he said there has been none discovered recently.

“If you’ve got household pets, you should get them vaccinated (for rabies) to keep your family safe,” Warr said.

A vaccinated pet will merely get sick and have to be quarantined for a few days if bitten by an animal infected with rabies, Warr said. A pet that is not vaccinated will have to be put down if rabies is suspected. — Hendersonville Star News

Wildlife Collisions in Top 10 Crash Causes

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

By Kathi Travers
ONE OF MY favorite thrills about living in Canada is to see a Moose along the side of the road. They are such magnificent creatures.

However, a few weeks ago my joy turned to tears when I saw a Moose being dragged off the road from a collision with an automobile. Over 17,000 animals perish every year in British Columbia (BC) due to wildlife collisions. All too often, humans also get seriously hurt or perish as a result.

Wildlife collisions are among the top 10 factors in crashes in BC every year. In 2005, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) paid out in excess of $13 Million on more than 3,200 animal crashes in the North Central Interior region. “For every wildlife collision reported, three more go unreported” states Alyson Gourley-Cramer Regional Coordinator, Marketing and Communications, BC Interior of ICBC

People are just not paying attention to the roads. Speed is a big factor. Drivers see wildlife along the roads and still keep the speed up assuming the animals will not move. If you hold that opinion, changing it could save your life. You never know whether they will bolt across the road.

Wildlife is attracted to sides of the roads for several reasons. One is that it’s a windy area due to the speed of the vehicles passing by. Wind provides a relief from insects that plague the animals. Road salt is another attraction over the winter season. In the spring the ditches have new, lush grasses that make for good grazing. Another interesting factor is that wildlife shares the same travel corridors we use.

Collisions with wildlife occur more often on long stretches of road that offer good driving conditions, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Sgt. Guy Tremblay of the Prince George Traffic Services urges drivers to “slow down and be cognizant to the fact that we live in an area with lots of wildlife. You should pay particular attention to early morning hours and dusk when the animals are more prevalent.”

There are many signs posted, warning drivers to beware of wildlife. Keep your car in good working order. Your windshield, headlights and taillights should be kept clean. Use your high beams when safe there is not oncoming traffic. Keep your head lights properly aligned.

If you see one animal, chances are there are more as they often travel in groups. Slow down. Animals are unpredictable. When you are driving at night, have a buddy along with you so they can watch for wildlife. This could save your life and the life of our precious creatures of the forests.

There is a wonderful working group called The Wildlife Collision Prevention Program (WCPP) which was founded in 2001 in partnership between the British Columbia Conservation Foundation (BCCF) and the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). They research, evaluate and implement projects that will educate the public on good transportation safety practices effecting humans and wildlife. Check out their website at www.wildlifecollisions.ca 

So, back to the big question: to swerve or not to swerve? You must try your best to not put yourself or your passengers at risk. If you swerve, you could either end up in a ditch, as my friend did, or drive right into oncoming traffic. If you see a deer, your brakes would be the best solution. With a relatively light creature such as a deer and lower speed, it will lessen the effect of an impact.

In the case of a Moose, according to Water Capital, Inc. (WCPP), consider swerving if you feel a collision is imminent. As they state: “A collision with a Moose, which can weigh up to 500 kg, carries a significant risk of injury or death to motorists and passengers. If a crash with a Moose is inevitable, crouch as low as possible in your seat, or under the dash, as a Moose’s body usually ends up crushing the roof of a car completely flat.” –AP

Wildlife Biologist Tries To Make Project Bat-Friendly

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

HOLLIDAYSBURG, PA— Wildlife biologist Cal Butchkowski has spent the last 23 years tracking bats across the state. Now, he’s trying to clear a path across a highway for them.

Butchkowski has been working to protect a nursery colony of the endangered Indiana Bat that he discovered in an old Mennonite church in Blair County. He and highway engineers are working to make a proposed bridge reconstruction project on nearby Route 22 more bat-friendly.

Although the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has made changes to its construction plans, Butchkowski said he remains skeptical.

“The ideal thing would be to design the highway to fit the species,” Butchkowski, who works for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Instead, we’re trying to make the species fit the highway.”

Butchkowski, 49, discovered the Indiana Bats about eight years ago in a 19th century church near Canoe Creek State Park. Members of the species, which has been on the federal endangered list since 1967, were hidden within a mass of the state’s most common species, the Little Brown Bat.

For more than a decade, Canoe Creek State Park has protected the 20,000 female bats of various species that stay at the church from April to October. It’s the largest known bat maternity colony in the state and one of a few colonies in the Northeast, wildlife researchers said.

When Butchkowski discovered a few Indiana Bats in the crowd in 1997, it marked the first time anyone had documented the species using a man-made structure to roost. Usually, Indiana Bats make their homes under the peeling bark of dead or dying trees. Since then, Butchkowski has counted about 100 Indiana Bats living in the church and another 50 living in a nearby garage and a “bat condo” that Butchkowski built. Only about 350,000 live in the eastern half of the country, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Butchkowski has studied the bats’ feeding habits by gluing tiny radio transmitters onto their backs. As many as eight times a night, the animals travel from the church, across Route 22 and to a wooded area near the Juniata River to forage for insects.The bats’ travel habits conflict with PennDOT’s plan to build a bridge to the river. The $14 million project calls for clearing a tree canopy along the highway, raising the roadway and moving it south, said Bob Cassarly, a PennDOT environmental project manager.

The problem is that the bats use the tree canopy to protect themselves from predators. Without the cover, bats prefer to travel close to the ground.

“By eliminating more canopy, it’s possible the bats will drop down to be close to the road and get hit,” Cassarly said.

Highway engineers and Butchkowski have suggested planting trees beneath the bridge to funnel the bats under the roadway. It could be possible to lure the bats to roost in an area that wouldn’t require them to cross Route 22 to feed, Butchkowski said.

PennDOT must get environmental clearance before it can move forward with the project. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could rule on the matter this summer. –Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Wildlife Are Here To Stay

Saturday, June 26th, 2010


MOST PEOPLE take the indigenous wildlife in stride. It’s fun to see the occasional deer, raccoon, opossum, or maybe even a coyote.

We need to remember that wildlife was here first. The western expansion has limited the area for wildlife to live and raise their young. As life in the woods and storm sewers becomes more crowded, wildlife will spread out into homeowners’ properties, such as attics, sheds, decks and woodpiles to nest and raise their families.

Wildlife is here to stay, so we need to learn to adapt. Trapping and relocating is not the answer to eradicate a species from an area, and trapping is really not the business of animal control. So it is necessary to look for other alternatives.

Homeowners need to look at what drew the animal in the first place. Until that particular problem is solved, you will always draw opportunistic critters just looking for a place to live and raise their young. No yard is completely wildlifeproof, but measures can be taken to minimize a chance of an animal staking a claim on your property.

For some, adopting a dog will solve most of the critter problems. In other cases, you will need to take a good look around your property. See what might be drawing the critters to your home, which might include a low deck, a shed, or even wood or brush piles. Food for other wildlife like birdseed, or even food left out for your own dog. The grease from barbecues has also become a big draw in recent years. Find the potential problems and you can limit your wildlife visitors.

Wildlife ?Ain’t? So Wild And Other Critters

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

By Tom Wharton
THESE DAYS it is possible to find about anything on the Internet. So, when researching a column about official critters, it should have come as no surprise to find www.stateanimals.com.

This certainly would be a useful site for kids who have delayed writing a term paper on some aspect of U.S. geography. It also proved a good place for an outdoor columnist interested in such matters.

While I have never been a big fan of Texas, the Lone Star State has great official critters. These include the Nine-banded Armadillo as the state animal, the Mexican Free-tailed Bat and Longhorn Steer as state mammals (hey, it’s a big state so it needs two), the Blue Lacy as the state dog and the Texas Horned Lizard as the state reptile.

You have to feel sorry for Indiana and Iowa, which have no state animal, reptile, amphibian, insect or fish to represent them. Iowa has an Eastern Goldfinch as state bird while Indiana claims the Northern Cardinal. Guess the fourth-grade students who study their states and often lobby legislatures to create a state animal have work to do in those two states.

Delaware lacks an official animal, but it has the Horseshoe Crab as its marine animal and the Weakfish is its state fish.

And why haven’t American religious groups forced Connecticut to change its state insect, the European Praying Mantis? Aren’t there any home-grown American mantises that pray?

Utah’s state insect, the honeybee, is as common as a cold. We share that distinction with probably a dozen other states whose residents are as busy as, well, a bee.

In Minnesota, the state bird is the Common Loon, perhaps another name for former Gov. Jesse Ventura.

The Lahontan Cutthroat is Nevada’s state fish. It is a native, after all. But, having lost more than a little money in that state’s casinos, the sucker may have been just as appropriate.

Some states, like Tennessee, can’t seem to make up their minds. That state, for example, has three state insects–the ladybug, honeybee and firefly–as well as a butterfly, the Zebra Swallowtail.

My votes for the coolest state animals, in addition to the Nine-banded Armadillo in Texas, include the Killer Whale in Washington, the Appaloosa Horse in Idaho, the Racking–not rocking–horse in Alabama and the dairy cow in Wisconsin.

South Dakota and New Mexico ought to get their animal and bird together. You would then have a great cartoon featuring coyote and roadÂrunner. Or has that been done?

Some places, in addition to Texas, have a state dog. Those would include the Boston Terrier in Massachusetts, the Catahowla Leopard Dog in Louisiana, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever in Maryland, and the Great Dane in Pennsylvania. Massachusetts’ state cat is the Tabby, while Maine has the Coon Cat and Maryland has the Calico.

In several places, you might not want to run into their state symbols, such as the Ridge-nosed Rattlesnake, which is Arizona’s state reptile, the American Alligator, which is Florida’s state reptile, the Carolina Wolf Spider in South Carolina or the Grizzly Bear in Montana. –Salt Lake Tribune

Wild in Wildlife Means Wild

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

By Kevin Hays

WALDPORT, OR–For 11-year-old Amber Staron of Salem, seeing wildlife “up close and personal” is something that happens frequently on her aunt and uncle’s 70-arce property just outside Waldport on the Oregon coast. (Amber with “Baby” just before the attack. Photo by Kevin Hays)

What is normally a great thrill, turned to near tragedy Sunday when the 4-yr.-old deer, who has been raised since it was a fawn around adult and kids, turned from friendly to wild in the blink of an eye.

The deer, named Baby, was raised by her aunt and uncle after they found her on the side of the road east of Waldport. Baby, at the time was 4-months old, and it’s mother had been hit by a car and killed. They took the young fawn, nursed it, cared for it, raised it as a pet, and up until Sunday, it had NEVER attacked anyone.

Some local loggers had a more typical up close visit from the deer Friday during their lunch break. Baby walked over to them to find out what was for lunch. One of the loggers said, “man that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, it is so tame, It has to be someone’s pet.”

Sunday morning, the fawn was outside the aunt and uncle’s home walking around looking for something to eat, when Amber’s mom and dad went outside to look at her. As they stood there, baby came walking right-up to them, sniffing and licking them, just acting like she always has.

Mom and Dad went back inside the home to help to prepare breakfast, while Amber and her sister Christina, took their clothes and things to the truck to get ready to leave for home. The deer followed the girls. Then, while walking back to the house, the deer suddenly went into attack mode, and pinned Amber against a wooden trellis!

“She had me where she wanted me, I just covered my face and yelled and screamed at the top of my lungs for help, I thought that running would just make the situation worse,” Amber Staron said.

Hearing the yelling a screaming, her dad saw the deer on it’s two hind feet, it’s body holding the girl against the trellis, while using it’s to front feet to beat her like a drum.

“It was the wildest thing I’ve ever seen in my life, Amber’s father said. It was like watching “When Animals Attack” only in real life. I ran out of the house yelling that the deer was attacking Amber, and without really thinking, I just ran straight at the deer to get it to stop, then when she did, I realized that the deer’s new focus was me, so I stopped, turned tail and ran, looking back and seeing the deer coming right after me, I found a tree, ran around it, confusing her, and the aunt was able to get the deer to run off in another direction.”

While all of this was going on, Amber’s mother was able to grab her, wrap her up in her arms, and get her into the house. She was very shaken and scarred from the attack, fortunately she only sustained some minor cuts and scrapes to her back and hands, and a big bump on her head.

“She is the friendliest deer in the world, always very gentle around kids and adults, never, ever, did I think something like this would ever happen” Amber’s mother Carmen said.

Wildlife experts say wild animals (including deer, bison, sheep, elk, and moose) are individualistic and unpredictable. Animals that ignore you, look calm, or appear friendly, may suddenly and without warning charge or strike out. Human injury often occurs when an animal responds to a perceived threat with instinctive “fight or flight” behavior, and people get injured simply because they are in the animal’s way. A car horn, barking dog, or excited children can trigger an animal into fight or flight behavior.

Unlike zoo, farm, and captive animals, wildlife pose special dangers to children. Explain to children the differences between wild and domestic animals so they will know why it is important not to approach, touch, or feed the wildlife.

For their own safety, children should:

  • Always be within close reach and sight of guardians
  • Avoid playing in or near dense cover
  • Refrain from squealing or making other animal-like noises while hiking or playing
  • Be warned not to approach animals, especially baby animals
  • Never pet, feed, or pose for a photo with a wild animal, even if the animal appears tame

Many mistakenly believe that there are specific gestures and warning signals wild animals make that will give people time to retreat to safety.
Wildlife experts recommend keeping at least 100 yards or farther away from bears and 25 yards from other large animals.

As for Amber, she said she has no ill feelings towards Baby. “Something must of spooked her and I was in the wrong place at the wrong time when that happened, and she saw me as a threat.”

Either way, Amber says she will probably have the best “what did you do over the summer story” for her classmates when she returns back to Mary Eyre Elementary School this fall.

“I can say I got attacked by a deer, what did you do?” –Salem-News

Why Do We Rehabilitate?

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

By Sue Hammer
SACRAMENTO, CA—I’m sure many of you have said, “Why bother to save it, it’s just another bird (or animal)?”

Wildlife rehabilitation can probably best be described as the undertaking of caring for injured, orphaned or displaced native wildlife with the expectation of returning them to the wild to live their lives free and wild.

Others might see it as an attitude whereby we can validate accountability for preserving an adequate ecosystem. Conceivably, it just may be a therapeutic way for ourselves to minimize our impact on nature.

Wildlife rehabilitation is not just a hobby because we have nothing better to do, but a worthy vocation. Take a moment and just think about it … we literally hold the welfare, health and care of these creatures in our hands.
We devote our precious time and resources to this new and accepted profession and as such dedicate ourselves to do the very best we can.

These are living beings and when they come to us for care we control everything – their social, psychological, emotional and physical needs. We not only have the power to control their lives but all too often their deaths as well.

The vast majority of the critters treated are as a direct result of questionable activities caused by humans. Motives for these injuries are: hitting windows, encounters with power lines and fences, domestic pet attacks, trapping, shooting, pesticides, poisoning, automobiles and orphaning. Did you know that more critters are killed on the highways in just one night than are released by rehabilitators in one year?

Now, ask yourself, “Are we interfering?” You betcha, in this situation, rehabilitating our wildlife neighbors is a compensation rather than butting-in.

Caring for injured or orphaned wildlife is merely a minuscule part of what we do, even though it does take most of our time. Education has become an intrinsic role in rehabilitation. Therefore, wildlife rehabilitation can no longer exist without education.

We need to give up unreasonable fears and learn tolerance. By becoming involved with nature, people can learn to develop a respect and understanding of what goes on around us. It is time for people to acknowledge the impact that they have on the environment as well as the consequences associated with these attitudes and actions.

For in the end, we will be judged not by the progress we have made but by what we will allow to endure.

Education, either with each other or in groups and one-on-one with the general public, affords us the unique opportunity to learn from the animals. With each creature we treat we learn new medical procedures, natural history, husbandry protocols and we learn about ourselves.

If one person comes away learning that baby birds don’t get milk or cereal, how to reduce vehicle/ wildlife encounters, that it’s better to keep pets away from wildlife or that we should let mother nature take its course, then rehabilitation has been successful.

Wildlife rehabilitation itself has its own rewards. There are no words that can express the feelings one has when the broken or orphaned critter that came in is now taken back out and released into its own natural habitat.

So why then do I do rehabilitation? Simple … I’m only trying to make right what went wrong and give our wildlife neighbors a second chance. –Ledger-Dispatch

Why Do We Rehabilitate Wildlife?

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

By Sue Hammer
SACRAMENTO, CA—I’m sure many of you have said, “Why bother to save it, it’s just another bird (or animal)?”

Wildlife rehabilitation can probably best be described as the undertaking of caring for injured, orphaned or displaced native wildlife with the expectation of returning them to the wild to live their lives free and wild.

Others might see it as an attitude whereby we can validate accountability for preserving an adequate ecosystem. Conceivably, it just may be a therapeutic way for ourselves to minimize our impact on nature.

Wildlife rehabilitation is not just a hobby because we have nothing better to do, but a worthy vocation. Take a moment and just think about it … we literally hold the welfare, health and care of these creatures in our hands.
We devote our precious time and resources to this new and accepted profession and as such dedicate ourselves to do the very best we can.

These are living beings and when they come to us for care we control everything–their social, psychological, emotional and physical needs. We not only have the power to control their lives but all too often their deaths as well.

The vast majority of the critters treated are as a direct result of questionable activities caused by humans. Motives for these injuries are: hitting windows, encounters with power lines and fences, domestic pet attacks, trapping, shooting, pesticides, poisoning, automobiles and orphaning. Did you know that more critters are killed on the highways in just one night than are released by rehabilitators in one year?

Now, ask yourself, “Are we interfering?” You betcha, in this situation, rehabilitating our wildlife neighbors is a compensation rather than butting-in.

Caring for injured or orphaned wildlife is merely a minuscule part of what we do, even though it does take most of our time. Education has become an intrinsic role in rehabilitation. Therefore, wildlife rehabilitation can no longer exist without education.

We need to give up unreasonable fears and learn tolerance. By becoming involved with nature, people can learn to develop a respect and understanding of what goes on around us. It is time for people to acknowledge the impact that they have on the environment as well as the consequences associated with these attitudes and actions.

For in the end, we will be judged not by the progress we have made but by what we will allow to endure.

Education, either with each other or in groups and one-on-one with the general public, affords us the unique opportunity to learn from the animals. With each creature we treat we learn new medical procedures, natural history, husbandry protocols and we learn about ourselves.

If one person comes away learning that baby birds don’t get milk or cereal, how to reduce vehicle/ wildlife encounters, that it’s better to keep pets away from wildlife or that we should let mother nature take its course, then rehabilitation has been successful.

Wildlife rehabilitation itself has its own rewards. There are no words that can express the feelings one has when the broken or orphaned critter that came in is now taken back out and released into its own natural habitat.

So why then do I do rehabilitation? Simple … I’m only trying to make right what went wrong and give our wildlife neighbors a second chance. –Ledger-Dispatch

Why Did The Moose Cross The Road?

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

By Nick Timiraos

STATES HAVE pondered why critters cross the road and are spending taxpayer dollars to get them safely to the other side.

Transportation and wildlife departments are designing a series of “critter crossings” — underpasses, overpasses and fences — so that animals aren’t fenced in by roads. The goal is to reduce the harm highways inflict on habitats as suburban sprawl carries roads deeper into forests and wetlands while making roadways safer for humans and animals.

Scientists locate potential crossings in areas where animals are known to travel by identifying migration paths or simply noticing stretches of pavement littered with roadkill. They try to create an opening that looks natural and safe for animals. Jeffrey Collins, an ecologist at the Massachusetts Audubon Society, said animals respond better to shorter and wider tunnels and can take months to become comfortable using underpasses.

In Maine, the threat is Moose. In Washington, Elk. In Massachusetts, deer. Florida has led the way in critter crossings with a series of 24 underpasses and 10-ft. fences to protect the endangered panther along 40 miles of Florida’s I-75 Alligator Alley constructed beginning in the 1980s. The wildlife crossings and fences have decreased panther road mortalities, according to a 2001 study by the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission.

California underpasses in the Mojave Desert protect the region’s tortoises. Two tunnels in Amherst, MA, help guide migrating salamanders across a road to warm, fishless mating ponds.

Washington state is scheduled to build a series of wildlife passages in 2011 in the Snoqualmie Pass, a 15-mile stretch of land through dense mountainous forests along I-90. At $100 million, the seven-year project would be the most extensive and expensive of its kind in the United States. But a Washington ballot measure this November to repeal the state’s gas tax would strip funding from the project, part of a larger highway-widening effort.

Tony Clevenger, a wildlife ecologist at the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University, said a similar series of 22 underpasses and two overpasses along the Trans-Canada Highway in Alberta’s Banff National Park have helped decrease elk and deer deaths by 95 percent. Total roadkills are down by 80 percent, Clevenger said.

Now cars aren’t killing elk, wolves are. “With these measures in place, we’ve seen that these predator-prey relationships have been restored,” Clevenger said.

Vermont and Maine both have struggled with the deadly combination of increased traffic and a growing moose population.  Moose pose a particular problem because they are slow, large and so tall that headlights often go under their legs, so their eyes don’t reflect light at night the same way that deer do.

Maine averages three motorist fatalities each year in moose collisions and warns drivers that they have a one-in-four chance of being injured if they hit a moose. Maine saw 2,068 collisions caused by moose from 1999-2001, with eight human fatalities and 583 human injuries, said Keel Kemper, wildlife biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Numbers that show the effects of moose-crossings are not yet available. Over the same period, the state saw 12,872 crashes with other wildlife, resulting in two fatalities and 647 injuries.


An experimental project in western Maine uses infrared technology to set off flashing lights on warning signs along the highway to alert drivers when a moose is on the road. A similar project in western Washington uses radio collars on elks to trip flashing lights along Highway 101.

But Richard Forman, landscape ecology professor at Harvard University, remains skeptical of systems that use technology to modify human behaviors. Forman said that critter crossings, which began in Europe nearly a decade before the United States adopted them, are still the most effective at reducing roadkill.

Besides reducing the animal death toll, however, wildlife fences and culverts reduce habitat loss by preserving ways for animals to move about, Forman said.

With critter crossings as a starting point, ecologists are encouraging states and the public to reduce further the effects of highways on sensitive habitats. That thinking has made its way to Congress, where last month’s reauthorization of the federal transportation bill included funds to consider the effects new and existing highways have on sensitive habitats. –Stateline.org

When Wildlife Gets Too Close To Home

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

By Michelle Theriault

BELLINGHAM, WA–Raccoons hang out on mailboxes. River Otters slither under the foundations of houses. Squirrels burrow into attics.

When habitat and homes intermingle, wildlife bumps up against settlement and cute animals become urgent problems. That’s when Dave Vinke gets involved: he’s the guy you call when wildlife gets too close for comfort.

As a nuisance wildlife control operator licensed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Vinke runs interference between wild animals and humans.

“With our urban sprawl, it’s a big old mess for everybody,” says Vinke. “They’re cute and cuddly until they’re causing problems.”

Requests for special trapping permits are expected to reach 1,000 by year’s end, up from 789 in 2005, according to Sean Carrell, who issues special trapping permits for Fish and Wildlife. The increase is an indication that nuisance wildlife complaints are on the rise, says Lt. Richard Mann.

Today, Vinke is barreling down the road in his beat-up Toyota 4Runner, on his way to save the day for three traumatized homeowners.

His job involves some unpleasantness—like fending off angry Raccoons and spending time in crawlspaces filled with animal feces —but it allows him to be outdoors and among the wildlife he often finds as breathtaking as his clients find problematic.

“I love my job,” he says. “Well, most of it, anyways.”

Tools of the trade
In the back of Vinke’s SUV are the essentials he needs to do his job.
They include a biohazard suit, rubber gloves, marshmallows, granola, Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul brand dog food, a cooler full of tilapia fish, Fig Newtons, cages and a vial labeled “otter scent.”

Vinke, who lives “out in the county” near Ferndale, is a tall rangy man who has the weathered looks of someone who spends a lot of time outdoors. He has giant, calloused hands that look too big for his skinny frame and a loud, kind manner that puts his clients at ease. His career as a trapper started on his grandpa’s farm in Omaha, where he’d get Pocket Gophers that were wrecking mowers and harassing cattle.

He’s one of five nuisance wildlife control operators licensed in Whatcom County to take care of problem wildlife, which is defined as an animal causing damage to private property or posing a threat to public health, says Mann.

Vinke and other nuisance wildlife control operators don’t work for (Washington) Fish and Wildlife but are licensed by the agency, which means they’ve taken courses in trapping and animal control. They charge a fee for their services but are not paid by the state.

A day’s work
A bunch of River Otters have been terrorizing a Birch Bay waterfront home, his first stop of the day. River Otters are the most commonly found type of otter in the Northwest. They’re cute, but they can cause more damage to a home than almost anything else. These homeowners have been complaining about smells and sounds coming from underneath their house.

“Otters, if they travel, are bad news,” Vinke says.

After checking out the perimeter of the home, Vinke puts on his bright blue hazardous materials suit, slips on gloves and a respirator to protect him from the fumes, and folds his lanky body into the crawlspace under the house.

“This is a giant otter toilet,” he says, muffled by his respirator. He disappears completely under the house. After a few minutes, he comes out.

“Yuck.”

After inspecting the slope from the water up to the deck, he finds the otter’s route. He baits a cage with a dangling rubber duck toy and spears a whole tilapia, arranging the trap where he thinks the otter is entering the yard.

“They’re smart,” he says. “But I’m smarter.”

Vinke gets paid to remove the animals. In accordance with state wildlife laws, that often means euthanizing them with the same lethal injection method that dogs and cats are “put to sleep” with. It’s the part of the job that Vinke hates, but he says it’s necessary.

“We do not authorize relocation of nuisance wildlife,” says Mann of Fish and Wildlife. “The reasoning for this is that we don’t want problem animals just moved to a new area to create the same problems. (That) does not benefit the wildlife already filling those niches.”

Meanwhile, Vinke leaves the house, hoping the otter will take the bait.
At the second house, also in Birch Bay, a neighbor has been feeding Raccoons fat saucers of dog food for years, and now there are 12 or 13 around. Others in the neighborhood want the Raccoons gone and say they’ve been threatening their dogs.

They also worry about disease and the Raccoons seem to have become more brazen, with whole families walking across the street like the Beatles crossing Abbey Road. Some perch on mailboxes or hide in trees. Homeowner Brock Barron says a Raccoon jumped out of a tree at her miniature poodle, Marco.

Vinke sets a trap with Fig Newtons and stops to smoke a cigarette. Neighbors watch from the street.

Suddenly, a head pops up with the unmistakable bandit eyes and alert ears of a Raccoon.

“Already,” he says. It smells the trap and wiggles up. Vinke is pacing and the Raccoon is snuffling the ground. If this animal is trapped, it’ll be euthanized. Many animal problems such as this are avoidable, says Mann.

“It’s a tough one with the growth in our state,” he says. “People ask, ‘Why do you have to kill them?’ Well, they wouldn’t be with us if they had other places to go. We fill their habitats, and they don’t have anywhere else to go.”

Closure
In the end, the Raccoon takes the bait.

“He’s in the trap!” Vinke says.

“Oh my gosh, he got one already!” Barron cries, clutching her poodle in her arms. “I don’t want Marco to see it. I don’t want him to think it’s OK to go near those.”

Vinke carries the cage over to his truck. The Raccoon lunges and growls and nearly bites him. It’s breathing fast.

“I’m sorry little guy, I really am,” says the neighbor, Liz Keith, whose driveway they stand in. “But that’s the way life is.”

“If I didn’t have dogs, I wouldn’t care,” says Barron.

Everyone looks at the Raccoon, which has backed himself into the corner of a cage and is baring his teeth. Vinke sighs. “This is the part I hate.” — Bellingham Herald

When Pets and Wildlife Collide

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

By Jerry Large

PEOPLE like to draw neat lines.

There’s a line between cities—where humans live, sometimes with their little tame friends—and the outdoors, where wild creatures live. But sometimes other animals have their own ideas about boundaries.

Recently, three species of animals have been quarreling over the little patch of earth my family occupies. There’s a gray cat, a family of Raccoons and some crows.

The cat has another home nearby, but he’s made our house part of his territory, inside and out. The other day, he was lying just outside the front door when we heard a big crash and a howl.

A large Raccoon had displaced the cat, who arched and hissed. A couple of crows were cawing loudly, swooping across our deck like Blue Angels. The cat and Raccoon vanished in the seconds it took us to get out the door. We’ve been worrying that the Raccoon might kill the cat. She didn’t, but this was not their first run-in.

We’ve been seeing a lot of the big Raccoon lately. She moved into our neighbor’s rockery under some bushes next to our deck, and one of the neighbors said he saw her with babies. He also said he saw a coyote running down the street early one morning.

We live near Seward Park, so I asked Annie Morton, education director at the Seward Park Environmental and Audubon Center, about the Coyote sighting in the area.

“They are part of the natural ecosystem,” she said. “If we want to have balanced, healthy ecosystems, we have to have predators.”

One of the reasons Coyotes have been successful here is the absence of Cougars and wolves. They would keep the Coyote population down.

“They’re part of the urban habitat just like people are,” Russell Link told me. He is a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Since we’re going to be living together, he said, we need to make it work.

He and Morton blame people for many of the problems between animals and people. They say we should keep our cats indoors, walk our dogs on leashes and quit putting pet food outdoors.

Pets act like animals too. Dogs sometimes bite. Cats kill rats and birds. But we worry more about wild animals, especially this time of year when we’re out more, and so are lots of other animals.

About the Raccoons, Morton said, “They’re overworked parents, which is why you are seeing them. They’re out trying to feed the family.”

Washington Fish and Wildlife has a web site full of information about urban wildlife and tips for managing our relationships: wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/living/index.htm.

I learned that Raccoons like to change dens often. So once those babies are a little older, our masked neighbor will be moving on. Maybe to your yard!–Seattle Times

What Wildlife Lurks In Central Park By Night?

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

By Margot Adler
NEW YORK’S Central Park might not seem like the sort of place you’d want to hang out after dark, but journalist Marie Winn says there’s a whole other world in nature that comes alive.

In Central Park in the Dark, Marie Winn explores the urban wild when the sun goes down and looks at the animals that play in the shadows: bats, owls, moths and slugs. There is even a Russian lady in an electric cart who comes out every night to feed peanuts to a group of rambunctious Raccoons.

In her follow-up to a book that chronicled the lives and loves of the park’s most famous residents —Pale Male and Lola , two Red-tailed Hawks—Winn uncovers the mysteries that make Central Park come alive when most people are sleeping.

As a woman of a “certain age,” you might think that Winn is crazy to wander through the wild and wooded parts of Central Park at night—even though it’s gotten somewhat safer. But it turns out she is part of a whole band of city folk who follow the night mysteries of urban wildlife.

On a recent trudge through last fall’s leaves, Winn admits that “10 or 20 years ago, this was not a place that anyone would venture into.”

Winn says dusk is the time she loves the most. She meets many people who regularly come to the park at night, including owl watchers and “mothers”—people who look for moths. “It rhymes with authors,” Winn notes.

Among the owlers are Jean Dane and Bruce Yolton, whose Web site features pictures of Screech Owls. He’s been taking photos of them for years, photographing the owls as babies, and as they grow up and learn to fly.

Night is when the owls are awake and go hunting, but they’re difficult for people to see in the dark.

“We have only a half-hour of light to look at them, ” says Yolton. “We have only seen them with prey a few times, and that makes it nice—there is still a mystery about them.” Arrive at the park a few minutes too late, and the owls are gone.

One of the strangest night mysteries in Central Park In The Dark is something Winn calls the “Robin’s male dormitory.” It’s a special linden tree in a very populated part of the park. Joggers run by, and people pass with their dogs, but no one notices it. But at dusk, hundreds of male American Robins fly into this tree to sleep, while the females and the babies stay in nests spread across the park.

“It’s a little bit like Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds,” Winn says. “First you see one or two birds, then five and then 10, and then you realize there are a lot of birds heading for that tree.”

And just as she says this, a mass of robins flies toward the tree: 10, 12, 15 of them. Once they are all tucked away, it’s hard to see them because the foliage is so thick. But with a tiny flashlight, you can make out their little bodies and beaks.

Winn describes the different songs and sounds the robins make, including a very quiet sound just before they go to sleep.The tree is filled with robin song. But then, quite suddenly, the song dies down. It only takes about a minute until all is still, and the robins are asleep.

Once it is totally dark in the park, Winn walks to the Shakespeare Garden, where a group of people have gathered to look at moths at night. They have a special battery-powered light that attracts the moths. Once, a few years ago during hurricane season, a Black Witch—the largest moth in North America—spent several days in the park.

It was quite a find. Jim Lewis, whom Winn describes as a “master mother,” has put a white sheet over a park bench and turned on the light. Winn trains her binoculars on a tiny tan moth.

“Would you believe that little creature, here, looks plain tan,” she says, “but if you magnify it, it has a red band and these white speckles.”

Winn says that it is normal to be afraid of the dark—that it is part of our human heritage, and that everybody has to overcome it.

“Night is very beautiful. It is magical, and people who are interested in nature miss a lot if they only look at nature in the daytime,” Winn says. “At night, a whole other world is unfolding, one that most people don’t even know exists.”

What To Do When Wildlife Comes Calling

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

By C. Boyd Pfeiffer
BALTIMORE, MD–Geese seem friendly enough, except when they are guarding a nest.

Unfortunately, they eat a lot at the front end and do unmentionable things at the back end, messing up lawns, driveways, walkways, parks, docks, etc. In short, they can be almost as much as a nuisance as deer eating you out of hedges and hibiscus.

Scares of avian bird flu, noise, lawn damage, agriculture destruction and traffic problems are just some of the additional concerns over geese. Coupled with that is the fact that we now have a too-high nuisance population of resident Canada Geese. The best solution is to not let geese get established, according to Larry Hindman, a waterfowl specialist for the MD Department of Natural Resources.

Easy for him to say. The problem is how to do this, since federal permits are required to deal with birds.

“Every bird, with the exception of pigeons, starlings and house sparrows, is protected by law,” said Kevin Sullivan, project leader for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services.

For example, you can’t harass, kill or trap woodpeckers even when they are making Swiss cheese out of your cedar shake siding. Professional help is needed.

One solution with geese is to plant high shrubs and grasses in areas where you don’t want geese, Hindman said. Geese don’t like living where they can’t see oncoming predators such as people, foxes and coyotes.

Coyotes are another problem, according to DNR furbearer project leader Robert Colona. They are now found nationwide, including the Eastern Shore and the central Piedmont region.

“They can destroy plants and eat livestock,” Colona said.

Unfortunately, the repellents that may or may not work for deer are mostly in the “may-not” category with furbearers. Colona’s suggestion for problem coyotes and furbearing wildlife such as Raccoons, skunks and opossums is basic preventative measures.

Don’t allow pets to roam. Coyotes eat cats and small dogs. Keep dog food indoors. Don’t feed pets outdoors where spillage can attract wildlife. Secure garbage cans and lids—a must when Raccoons are around.

The only way to solve furbearer problems once they develop is to remove the animal, according to Colona. During legal seasons, if hunting is allowed in the neighborhood, this can be handled by the homeowner. Naturally, this is only possible in rural areas. Some furbearers—Raccoons and foxes, for example — can be found in cities and are prevalent in suburbs.

For added tips, you can also call the Nuisance Wildlife Hotline (877-463-6497) jointly operated/funded by the Maryland DNR and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. A Web site link for other ideas is www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/wauninvited.asp.

If all else fails, professional invasive wildlife cooperators can legally trap and remove nuisance animals. Most of the animals are destroyed. To prevent this last-ditch solution, think preventative measures and don’t let them get a paw-hold. — Examiner

EDITOR’S NOTE: C. Boyd Pfeiffer is an internationally known sportsman and award-winning writer on fishing, hunting, and the outdoors, and is currently working on his 25th book. He can be reached at cbpfeiffer@msn.com.

What To Do When Baby Wildlife Cross The Road

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

By Steve Metsch

ALMOST everybody loves rabbits, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’s crazy about opossums because, let’s face it, even as babies they’re kind of creepy.

Cheryl Beste doesn’t fall into that category. She loves the critters, and as a licensed rehabilitator, often helps raise baby opossums when their mother is killed.

“I care for them because a lot of people don’t like them and I feel badly for them,” Beste said. “Actually, they’re very much needed. They’re the little scavengers of the earth. Without them, the earth would be a much dirtier place.”

In the early days of spring, there are lots of opossum babies around–and raccoon, bird, squirrel, rabbit, skunk and deer babies, too. That makes it a busy time for folks like Beste. When people find motherless baby animals in their yards, they seek out local veterinarians and animal shelters.

Beste works with the South Suburban Humane Society Shelter in Chicago Heights, IL. She lives in the south suburbs, but won’t say where “because I’d be flooded with callers seeking help if I told you.”

Baby opossums can be as small as a kidney bean and require constant care. They suffer from a condition similar to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and need to be given antibiotics and kept in an incubator, set at 110 degrees, for several weeks.

Beste also cares for baby squirrels, which aren’t as high maintenance but still need special care. Forget about giving baby wild animals an eyedropper of cow’s milk. Despite the good intention, the milk could kill them.

“It’s more work than people think,” she said.

Her advice for anyone finding wild young in their yards is: “If they’re not afraid, scoop them up in a towel in a cardboard box and keep them warm until they get to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.”

Dispelling An Old Myth
While it’s not surprising at this time of year for homeowners to find baby wild animals in their yards or houses, it is a common misconception that you shouldn’t touch them or move them to safety.

“That’s a widespread myth, if you touch a wild animal you’ll wind up killing it,” said Laura Simon, field director of urban wildlife for the Humane Society of the United States. “We’ve all heard that we should not touch a baby bird because the mother will know and abandon it. Birds have a poor sense of smell, and the mother will never know you touched the baby bird.”

And that applies to all the wildlife you might see.

“Mammals don’t really care if a human touches their baby because the maternal instinct is strong,” Simon said. “The only animal that might notice is the rabbit because they are sensitive to disturbances and to the human scent. I tell people to wear gloves if they’re concerned about it, but even the mother rabbit, if she smells a human, will be happy to have her young back.”

The humane society and local animal control businesses are flooded with calls this time of year from people who find young animals in their yards, and sometimes it’s best to do nothing at all, she said. Mother Nature has been doing quite fine for centuries without human help, she said.

And even if an animal appears to be abandoned, that may not be the case, she said. Rabbits and deer, for example, often leave their babies alone for hours, lest the mother’s scent attract predators.

In other words, it’s OK for the babies to be alone.

Adapting To Humans
Mike Klinger, owner of Trap This in Western Springs, IL, thinks wildlife has done a better job adjusting to humans than the other way around.

“Animals have adapted to urbanization,” Klinger said. “Some of these towns have been here for 100 years. It’s best to let Mother Nature let the animals be wild without man in the way. But everybody’s got a soft heart.”

His company is kept busy in the west and south suburbs.

“I was just in Orland Park, IL the other day getting a Muskrat out of a house. A window in a window well was open. The Muskrat fell into it, climbed through the window and was running around the basement,” he said.

And this is the time of year when baby squirrels are being born, perhaps in your attic, Klinger said. Squirrels and raccoons like attics that provide cover from the weather. If you spot a baby squirrel that has fallen out of its nest in a tree, it’s best to let them be, said Ty Holden, owner of Wildlife Police Inc. in Willowbrook, IL.

“The mother will find them and retrieve them, or they may not. In general, it’s best to leave them alone,” Holden said.

For the Birds
Marilyn Reid, of Crete, IL, is an approved human investigator for the South Suburban Humane Society Shelter. She nurses baby birds who have been orphaned, but said they are “are very difficult to raise” without the proper training.”

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, the parents are in the area and will come back. I don’t give any tips for raising them. My suggestion would be to call someone who is licensed to care for them,” Reid said.

If a bird is found on a sidewalk or street, it’s best to move them to a grassy area and then leave it alone.

“They will call out to their parents, and their parents will call to them. They’ll find the babies,” Reid said.

Tips On What To Do

Baby Squirrels: If they fall from a tree being cut down, stop the tree-cutting and leave the babies out for the mother to retrieve. If it’s cold, put them on a heating pad on “low” using an extension cord, and place a flannel shirt beneath them so they don’t overheat. Call a wildlife expert if the mother has not returned by night.

Fawns: It’s is normal for mother deer to leave their fawn alone for long periods of time to avoid attracting predators with the mother’s scent. The young are odorless and safer without mom around. Call for help if the fawn is wandering around or if the dead mother deer is found nearby.

Baby Rabbits: They are often left alone, and the mother tends to visit briefly twice a day, again so her scent does not attract predators. Call for help only if they have been attacked by an animal or injured.

Baby Raccoons: These are rarely left unsupervised, so if you find babies alone for more than a few hours, it’s a sign something happened to the mother. The mother will likely move them when they are around six weeks old.

Baby Skunks: Due to poor eyesight, they sometimes get separated from their mother. If you find a nose-to-tail line of baby skunks running through their neighborhood, place a laundry basket over them, upside down, to hold them in place and give the mother a chance to find them. If she does not retrieve them by the next morning, call for help. Remember, even baby skunks can spray if they feel they are in danger.

Baby Birds: Birds will not reject their young if touched by humans. Feel free to place them back in their nest. If the nest is too high or destroyed, you can secure a nest-sized wicker basket near the original nest. The parents should take over the new nest without a problem.

Fledgling Birds: If you see a bird on the ground, don’t think it has a broken wing. Chances are, it is learning to fly from the ground. How can you tell if its parent are around? If there are bird droppings on the ground, indicating the young bird is still being fed. –Sun Times

What Does A Wildlife Officer Do?

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

By Kevin Lynch

MIKE REED is the state wildlife officer in Muskingum County, OH since 1996.

“Prior to becoming a wildlife officer, I worked in wildlife management at Wolf Creek Wildlife Area, Salt Fork Wildlife Area, Woodbury Wildlife Area and Waterloo Research Station in Athens, OH” he said.

“I grew up in Deavertown, OH in Morgan County. As a young boy, I was in 4-H, and one of the projects I had taken was fishing. I met a wildlife officer when I was there for a day and I thought it was kind of neat,” Reed said. “When I got out of high school, I signed up for the military. I was in the Army National Guard for seven years. That paid for my college. “

Reed says the duties of wildlife officers vary from county to county.

“It changes county by county what your job duties are,” Reed said. “Some counties have very little if any public hunting, so their job duties are going to be a lot different than mine. In some counties, you have to go out and look for things to do to fill your 40 hours; in Muskingum County, things will find you.

“The people of Muskingum County are fairly lucky because there is so much public hunting here,” he added. “With so much public hunting ground and the Muskingum River, a lot of what I end up doing is law enforcement, because I get a lot of complaints.

“We can be out there looking and driving around and make our presence known, but the majority of our stuff comes from public complaints,” Reed continued. “The chance of something happening right in front of your eyes is pretty slim, with the exception of a routine hunting or fishing license check.

But there have been occasions…”Gee whiz, It never ceases to amaze me the things people do,” Reed said.

“Last year during deer gun season, we had a complaint that hunters were not wearing orange. It turned out there were eight adults and two juveniles; three of the adults were convicted felons; two of them hid on us and finally came out; they hid their firearms. I ended up issuing 25 summonses to that group. No orange, no licenses, no deer permits; after a search of the garage where they were staying, we found they had a marijuana growing operation. They had three pounds of dried marijuana bagged to sell. There was also cocaine.” It was not your typical wildlife encounter, he said.

“It’s sad to say that there is a large number of people that partake in drugs and or alcohol while hunting and fishing,” Reed said.

He recalled another group of hunters from Tennessee who were staying at Dillon State Park. “These guys had a boat that we were on the lookout for, and they were taking mussels,” he said. “The same group was spotlighting and illegally hunting deer.

“Last fall, at Holmes Limestone (formerly Peabody Coal Co.), where they allow limited hunting, there was a group of guys out of Cleveland, who, over the past five years had a hard time accepting the fact that the hunting was limited,” Reed said. “While patrolling the area during deer gun season, I saw those guys from Cleveland patrolling the area as well, cruising through the area. It was a very good area for deer and turkey hunting.

“They were going to hunt that area at whatever cost. They would drop guys off in the morning and pick them up later in the afternoon. I got back there early on the first day of gun season to see if they’re doing what I thought they were doing. Sure enough, 300 yards into the woods, there they were, three guys in camo and two little boys.

“I had records of what they had been doing over a five-year period and they admitted to everything,” Reed said. “They did 30 days in jail, they lost their equipment, and lost their hunting privileges for five years.

“It was one of those deals where we knew what they were doing and they knew we knew, but we just couldn’t catch them,” Reed said. “The odds of me catching them during deer gun season were slim to none, because I’m running around like a wild man from one end of the county to the other; and I didn’t have time to focus on what needed to be done. It just so happened that on that particular day, I was able to sit back and wait for them. It was very sweet.”

Not all of Reed’s duties include tracking bad guys.”I try to do a program going into schools and libraries,” he said. “This summer I just finished up at New Concord Library. For the past seven or eight years now I have been involved with their summer reading program. I do a frog-jumping contest with the kids. We talk about amphibians and reptiles and I give away prizes. We usually have 100+ kids.

“I talk at preschools, colleges, whether it’s Muskingum College or Zane State College at their criminal justice program; I talk about the different side of law enforcement. Normally, when most people think of law enforcement, they think of a deputy sheriff or state highway patrolman. I talk about being a wildlife officer, what we do and things of that nature.”

Reed says he talks at Kiwanis Clubs and other social clubs where he can educate the public.”I usually try and show up for an evening at the Hunter Safety Courses which are big at this time of year,” he added.

“I try and tell kids that we’re here as their friend. When they’re out hunting, fishing or trapping, we want them to enjoy the outdoors and have fun. But there are rules and regulations set up and we’re here to keep those in check.”

Reed reports good rapport with other law enforcement agencies.

“Law enforcement often requires interactment with other agencies, such as local police departments, the sheriff’s department and the highway patrol,” he said. “Law enforcement generates paper work, court appearances. I just finished a deer case in Muskingum County where the guy had 13 charges and he wound up paying over $4,000 in fines and forfeiture of equipment.”

Reed says his job is never dull. “There is a lot going on in Muskingum County simply because it is such a large county with a lot of recreation with a population of close to 100,000,” he said. “We also draw people from other surrounding counties as well as out-of-state people.

“I had a case last fall involving a couple guys from North Carolina that brought in about $6,000 in fines and forfeiture of their equipment. They even did time in jail,” he added.

“I get into a lot of different things here in Muskingum County. Some stuff I find on my own, but a lot of it is complaint driven,” Reed said. “I like the law enforcement part of it because, even though I work for the Division of Wildlife, I work for the public.

“When people buy a hunting or fishing license, a percentage of that money comes back to the Ohio Division of Wildlife. They pay for everything I’m wearing, from my boots to my duty belt to my gun to the truck I drive. It’s always been my belief that I work for the persons out there doing things by the book. Everybody makes little mistakes, and after doing the job for a few years, you get a feel for someone who made an honest mistake and people who are not.”

What Do You Do With ‘Slobs’?

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

By Scott Shalaway

ONE OF THE BEST things about birding is the people.

They’re friendly, kind, funny, and eager to share information. If my assessment of birders sounds almost too good to be true, it is. Every few years a story reminds us that every group of people has bad apples, and that includes birders. Yes, I’m sad to report, there are slob birders…

The term “slob” in an outdoors story usually refers to hunters who trespass, litter or don’t close gates. Slob anglers are those who litter streams and lake shores with tangles of fishing line. Of course, every group has its slobs — obnoxious parents at school events, drunks at football games, and wildlife photographers who think it’s their God-given right to cut in front of watchers for a great shot, to name a few.

A few weeks ago an immature Purple Gallinule was reported in eastern Pennsylvania, and the location was posted on the internet. Though common in Florida, a Purple Gallinule in Pennsylvania is akin to an NFL player showing up at a high school football game. Everyone wants a peek.

In the Internet posting, birders were reminded not to trespass or harass the bird. Over the course of the next week the gallinule stayed in the area and many birders got to see it. And most behaved admirably. But a few were seen traipsing around the pond trying to flush the bird for a better view. That is exactly what not to do, and several outraged birders vented their feeling on PABIRDS.

Among the suggestions that emerged from the discussion was that ethical birders should engage offenders and explain the harm of improper behavior. Some people may simply not know any better. Of course, unsolicited advice often falls on deaf ears. But it’s worth a try.

Another suggestion was that, in this electronic age, anyone with a cell phone/camera should take pictures of the guilty parties and post them on statewide birding Web sites. Peer pressure and fear of exposure might be more effective than lectures from strangers.

Fortunately, slob birders are rare. But just as slob hunters give all hunters a bad name, slob birders can soil the reputations of all birders.

Since birders aren’t subject to official regulations, we must police ourselves. Here are some guidelines for birders to follow when in the field. (It’s good advice for hunters, anglers, and photographers, too.)

Respect private property. Ask permission before entering a farmer’s woodlot or someone’s backyard. Offer identification, and give the landowner a card with your name, address, phone number, and vehicle license number.

It may seem unnecessary to remind people to ask permission to enter a stranger’s backyard, but when a “good” bird shows up, some birders shed their common sense. It may not seem a big deal to take a quick peek, but after word of a rare bird spreads, literally hundreds of people sometimes show up.

After getting permission, don’t assume you’re free to tell the world. Ask for permission to tell others of the special location. Explain that dozens or even hundreds more birders might arrive within hours when word gets out. If the landowner doesn’t want to be bothered, respect his wishes.

On farms, leave gates as you find them, don’t trample crops, and don’t disturb livestock.

Get your vehicle completely off the road; park safely and legally.

Be aware that a group of people with binoculars strolling through a residential neighborhood arouses suspicion. Neighbors may call police, and you may be questioned. Be prepared to explain your passion for birding.

Don’t harass target birds. When birds show up in unexpected places, they are under stress to find food and cover. The last thing they need is a bunch of birders chasing them. Be patient. With time, most birds reveal themselves.

Tread lightly. Stay on trails. Even in parks and other public places, resist the urge to wander off trails. Ground cover is fragile and easily destroyed.

And if ever in doubt, keep it simple — do no harm. –Pittsburgh Post Gazette

West Virginian Provides 32 Bird Feeders

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

By Trish Rudder
BERKELEY SPRINGS, WV–Joseph Gentile has always been interested in nature. While growing up in Michigan, his mother taught him to take care of wildlife.

“One of my earliest chores was filling the bird feeders,” he said.

Since moving to Morgan County in 1990, he has provided a refuge for wildlife on his property, but did not meet all the certified wildlife criteria until this year. (WindStar requires food, water, cover and space to raise a family to qualify)

His two-acre property attracts a large variety of birds, butterflies, and other wildlife including deer, opossum, raccoons, squirrels and a couple of varieties of nonpoisonous snakes.

“It’s not just bird feeders and bird houses,” he said.

He had to cut out chemicals for weeding and feeding, and he does more composting for fertilizer. He also added a log pile to shelter larger mammals and brush piles to night shelter wild birds.

Gentile provides 32 bird feeders as well as roosting pockets and nesting cavities for birds. A small water pool is available for drinking and bird bathing, and a few salt licks are around for the deer.

He said he refills the feeders about every three days. Blue Jays get a mix of corn and safflower seeds in their feeder, and they don’t bother the other bird feeders, he said. Mourning Doves and Northern Cardinals are attracted to a mixture of sunflower and safflower seeds.

Gentile said he has seen or heard 58 species of birds, and the feeders and shelters can be viewed from many areas inside his home.

“I’ve always wanted to record my surroundings,” he said, and Gentile has kept a nature journal since 1990.

He listed rainfall and snowfall amounts, daily weather high and low temperatures, wildflowers, and the arrival and departure of different varieties of birds. His journal shows the hummingbirds arrived on April 27 in 1991 and on April 24 this year.

“It’s good, convenient record-keeping,” he said, and it’s all by hand.

He does not use a computer, does not watch television. He likes radio, news magazines and “lots of books.” Gentile is making his own hiking map of the Eidolon Nature Preserve in Great Cacapon, WV. .–Herald-Mail

Ways To Steer Clear Of Deer

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

By Scott Shalaway

NOVEMBER means many things to many people.

To hunters, it’s deer season–the highlight of the year. To the rest of the world, it’s the most dangerous time of year to drive because November is when deer-vehicle collisions peak.

If you’ve never hit a deer with your car, consider yourself lucky. But my insurance agent, Mark Crow, makes this observation about driving in rural West Virginia: “It’s not if you hit a deer, it’s when you hit one.”

Over the past 20 years, I’ve had two major collisions with deer, several minor bumps, and more close calls than I can remember. Two years ago I was on my way to a high school basketball game on a rural highway. I was traveling 45 mph when a deer jumped into the middle of the road, stopped, and stared at me–the proverbial deer in the headlights. Two weeks and nearly $3,000 later I had my car back.

My most memorable deer collision occurred just two miles from home. It was late and I knew deer were on the move, so I was vigilant and driving slowly. I noticed a deer ahead on the left side of the road, so I slowed down to a crawl. The deer was transfixed. As I passed it, the deer bolted right into the driver’s side door. It fell to the pavement, bounced back up and dashed into the woods. My car wasn’t scratched, and the deer seemed fine. But this time the deer had hit me.

The lesson is that deer along roadways are totally unpredictable. So the carnage continues. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, more than 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions occur in the U.S. each year. These accidents cause more than $1 billion in vehicle damage, and tragically, about 150 people die in these collisons annually.

The average claim cost is $2,600. The Insurance Information Institute reports that when claims involving bodily injury are included, the average claim jumps to more than $11,000.

Wildlife agencies that have compiled data on deer road kills invariably report that deer-vehicle collisions peak in November. This coincides with the peak of the rut (deer mating season) and deer season. Bucks are chasing does with abandon; both sexes seem oblivious to traffic. And hunters disrupt the deer’s normal movement patterns, so there’s no telling where they’ll appear. The net result is that from mid-October to mid-December, deer can appear on highways anywhere and anytime. They are most active, however, from dusk until dawn.

So, be careful, and keep these tips in mind.

  1. Deer are everywhere. You’re as likely to encounter one on a city street as on a rural interstate.
  2. Deer behave unpredictably. When you see one up ahead, slow down and expect it to cross the road in front of you.
  3. Deer are social and often move in groups. If you see one cross the road, expect several more to follow.
  4. Be especially cautious between dusk and dawn.
  5. When there’s no oncoming traffic, use high beams. They will illuminate the eyes of deer on the side of the road.
  6. If you see a deer on the road ahead of you, brake firmly, but stay in your lane. If you swerve to avoid a 120-pound deer, you may hit an on-coming 3,000-pound vehicle or lose control of the car.
  7. Don’t rely on deer whistles; research has shown they have no effect on deer behavior.

If there are young, inexperienced drivers in the family, have them read this column.

That’s what individuals can do. State wildlife agencies and highway departments should pursue several promising techniques to reduce deer-vehicle crashes.

Keep roadsides clear of vegetation to make deer more visible and less likely to congregate near roads. This is labor intensive and expensive, but it makes common sense.

Seasonal deer crossing signs are more effective than permanent signs, which most drivers tend to ignore.

Signs that activate when deer get near a road may be the best solution. Infrared, radar, laser and radio beams can alert drivers only when deer are in the area.

So again, be careful. It’s a jungle out there. –Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Unexpected Urbanites: Cacophonous Coyotes

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

By David A. Fahrenthold
THE SOUND did not belong. It was high-pitched and keening, something from a prairie night or a Hollywood sound-effects reel.

Something one should not hear while sleeping in a bed, in a house, in Chevy Chase, (MD).

“AOOOOOOO!” said Lee Bernstein, mimicking the noise that woke her up at 4 a.m. March 31. “Like a cartoon or something.”

Other people have heard yipping in the woods near Cleveland Park, barking off Oregon Avenue NW and wailing that answers police sirens near Military Road NW. These are the sounds of coyotes, the Western predators that first colonized the city’s suburbs and now have established themselves in Rock Creek Park.

As the animals have moved in, neighbors have started hearing things that leave them startled, curious and suddenly worried about where the dog is. In the middle of the District: actual calls of the wild.

“It’s an eerie howl. It’s a little–what am I thinking of–like a monster-movie howl,” said John Northcutt, who lives across the street from the park. “It was just very strange to be in the city and hear that.”

Coyotes have recolonized most of the urban East in the past few decades — or perhaps colonized, since scientists aren’t sure whether they were here before European settlement.

Their proliferation is partly about the reforestation of the East Coast as farming has faded and woods have returned. But it’s also partly about the animals themselves. They have adapted well to the suburban environment, eating everything from garbage to fawns to small mammals. Coyotes are the most general kind of omnivore — like raccoons, if raccoons also ate rats and house pets.

In fact, scientists say East Coast coyotes often grow bigger than those in the West. The life, and the hunting, might actually suit them better here.

“Easy pickings,” said Paul Peditto, an official with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. “They’re highly adaptive, and they’re efficient, and what they learn is that it’s much easier to take a suburban small pet . . . as opposed to having to run down a wild cottontail rabbit.”

The first coyotes arrived in the Washington suburbs years ago.  
Biologists now estimate there are at least 1,250 in Northern Virginia alone. In Maryland, the picture is less clear: Peditto said there were more than a few dozen, but the state did not have a more exact estimate.

In both states, though, officials say they’re certain that the population is growing. To prepare residents in this area, the National Wildlife Visitors Center in Laurel will offer two “Living With Coyotes” presentations Saturday. During these sessions, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 1:30 to 5 p.m., coyote experts will explain ways to avoid coyote-human conflict.

In many places across the area, the proof of coyotes’ presence is in the howls: Hunters hear them in the woods near the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia. John Hadidian, director of the urban wildlife program for the Humane Society of the United States, said he heard a group howling near the C&O Canal towpath in Montgomery County.

“It is a strange sound. . . . It’s not like dogs barking,” Hadidian said. “This is a chorus. These are voices occurring in unison.  They’re kind of melodic, and they have kind of a musical touch to them.”

The District’s first coyotes were spotted in 2004, when a handful were found in Rock Creek Park. Officials don’t believe the population has grown much, but they say it’s difficult to study such an elusive animal in a park crowded with people, cars and dogs.

The park’s neighbors say it’s obvious the coyotes are still there. They see the animals, which can resemble tall, skinny gray dogs, loping along side streets. And they hear drawn-out whines and repeated yips–which they say don’t sound like the rasps and screams of the park’s red foxes and come from too deep in the woods to be dogs.

In some cases, the coyotes seem to howl at sirens blaring on Military Road or Nebraska Avenue NW.  Not everybody thinks the sound is melodic.

“I could tell there were several of them, because one sort of set off the other, and then they just started yelping at the same time,” said Bill Peter of Chevy Chase in Northwest. “It wasn’t that single yelp- howl that you hear in a western movie. It was a little more ominous than that.”

On 28th Street NW, Shelley Schonberger had her own ominous thought after she heard a chorus of yips early one morning.

“Kitty comes in at night now,” she said.

So what are the coyotes trying to say? Scientists have a few theories: The howls can serve to call a family group together or keep other coyotes away from their territory. The animals may respond to emergency sirens because they sound like rival animals or because the noise hurts their ears.Or maybe they just like an excuse to make noise.

“I do think that howling is also fun for them,” said Megan Draheim, a graduate student at George Mason University who has studied Rock Creek Park’s coyotes. “So, when they’re given the opportunity, they howl.”

Unless, of course, you’re trying to get them to do it. Last year, Draheim attempted to locate coyotes in Rock Creek park by attaching a loudspeaker to her iPod and playing recorded coyote howls. She never heard the reply she wanted.

And on a recent morning at the Quantico base, where coyotes live in the woods that the Marines use for training, Scott Simmons, a wildlife biologist who works on the base, had similar luck. Using a device the size of a large flashlight, he played a recorded coyote distress call and a “pack howl” — a cacophony of yips, howls and squeaks that sounded like an entire zoo full of animals but was really all coyotes.

But the woods were quiet. The only response he got was a gobble from a far-off turkey. Too bad, Simmons said. There’s nothing like hearing the sound in person.

“It’s pretty exhilarating,” he said. “It reminds you that there is wild out there.” –Washington Post

Twine Tangles and Hurts Wildlife

Saturday, June 26th, 2010


By Whitney Royster
JACKSON, WY–Baling twine is causing severe injuries and deaths to some wildlife, and officials are asking people to make sure twine is disposed of properly.

Erin Smith, information and education specialist for the Lander regional office of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said baling twine has always been a problem, but this year, people are seeing more of its ill effects.

“Baling twine is about as common in Wyoming as cowboy boots,” she said. “It seems like there’s more instances recently and more public outcry. We’ve seen an awful lot of it this spring.”

Osprey are particularly vulnerable to baling twine–usually orange and used to wrap hay bales. Osprey use baling twine to build nests.

Andrea Cerovski, nongame bird biologist with Game and Fish, said Osprey fly over trees with the twine–still usually tied together in loops–and those loops catch on trees and can result in the birds’ death. The birds find the twine as they build nests near streams, where hay fields are common.

“It’s such a shame to see these magnificent birds being killed by something that is so easy to prevent,” Cerovski said in an agency news release. “Something as simple as properly disposing of baling twine would be a boon to nesting Osprey.”

Smith said people can simply collect the twine and put it in their pockets, or just be sure to take it away from fields where wildlife can be ensnared. Or, the twine can be cut up into smaller pieces.

Game and Fish’s Bart Kroger received a reliable report in March of an Osprey with a wad of twine attached to its talons, according to Game and Fish. When the southern Big Horn Basin wildlife biologist got to the location on Owl Creek near Thermopolis, the bird could not be found and was feared dead.

A buck Antelope was also tangled in baling twine and wire May 12 near Jeffrey City. Three Game and Fish employees tried to catch the buck, which appeared to be tangled for “some time,” according to Stan Harter, Lander wildlife biologist.

“He probably weighed a third less than he should have and had little hair left where he was caught in the wire,” Harter said. “In addition, the animal had severe joint damage from the wire cutting into him and likely wouldn’t survive the resulting infection.” Game and Fish officials killed the animal.

Four days earlier, a buck Antelope near South Pass City was observed with barbed wire around its head. Although visibly distressed, the animal could move freely. A Mule Deer doe north of Buffalo has been sporting baling twine around its neck for three years. There have been other unofficial reports of big game carrying twine or wire this spring, according to Game and Fish.

“Everyone can do their part in preventing these types of wildlife injuries and deaths by cleaning up loose fencing materials and trash and by following wildlife-friendly fencing guidelines,” Harter said.

Those guidelines recommend that fences be no more than 42 inches high with at least 12 inches between the top two wires. The bottom wire should be smooth and at least 16 inches from the ground. The space between the top two wires prevents deer and elk from getting hung up when they jump the fence due to the way they kick their hind legs backward, and the space below the fence allows antelope to pass safely.

Cost-share programs are always available to landowners interested in making their property more wildlife-friendly. Information on these programs and additional information on fencing designs can be obtained from local Game and Fish offices. –Casper Star Tribune