Wildlife encounters on the rise

Staff Report

We are hearing more and more about the rise in wildlife encounters in many states. When the economy was thriving, in particular, the construction of homes and roads, we were able to blame human land-use choices for the continuing rise in human and animal encounters. Today, we are at the mercy of some unbelievable weather patterns across the United States, not to mention an enormous wildfire or two.

Here in northern Illinois, we do not have to worry about large wildfires, although brush fires are not out of the question. The extreme drought pattern is forcing animals to be more visually exposed while searching out water and food. Though they coexist with humans all the time, being discreet takes a backseat to their need for survival.

Peggy Doty, University of Illinois Extension educator, explained, “Wildlife is more at the mercy of the weather than humans and must adapt more drastically to survive.”

Doty suggested making sure all garbage cans are securely sealed and domestic pet foods be picked up each evening so no unwanted conflicts occur between pets and wildlife.

You cannot deny an outdoor pet their water, especially in this heat, so if necessary place another water source outside of your home perimeter, which would hopefully encourage a wild animal to avoid a domestic pet’s water bowl,” Doty suggested.

Doty herself has experienced this problem and said: “Last week, I let my two dogs out into our fenced back yard, prior to going to bed, when unbeknownst to me I had a pair of young skunks getting a much-needed drink from a ground-level bird bath. The information above is well researched, as the score at my house stands at skunks two and dogs zero.”

This particular type of encounter requires the use of a cleaning agent, and the following works well. Mix one quart, 32 ounces, of hydrogen peroxide with one cup of baking soda and a teaspoon of dish soap in a bucket. Do not put this in a sealed container. Use a rag to sponge onto the animal, avoiding the eyes and ear canals. You may find you have to bathe some animals twice, depending on the accuracy of the skunk. Doty added, “You will never get all the oil off your pet, but be assured it will wear off eventually.”

University of Illinois Extension has a website, livingwithwildlife.extension.uiuc.edu, to help identify wildlife as well as answer more wildlife-related questions.

From the Aug. 1-7, 2012, issue

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