Our Wild “Next-Door” Neighbors
by Amy Lignor
The population grows and grows and it’s becoming clear, as new wildlife neighbors arrive on the street, that being able to coexist with nature is far more important than it once was. Wildlife actually supports humankind and when a species becomes extinct, problems for humans ensue. Example: If bumble bees come to an end, you can basically kiss that garden you love “so long.”
Coexistence is the key; not extinction. And because this earth is running out of so many excellent homes for a huge variety of species, there are places now where you can spot anything from a hummingbird to a very large raccoon in peoples’ backyards as you take a walk through the neighborhood. These streets, however, are not upset by them in the least.
Coexistence comes with learning. Once educated, anyone can live side-by-side with the animals. One creature that can be anywhere is the raccoon. Even though they prefer woodland and wetland areas, due to urbanization they’ve adapted to a more “citified” life. Nocturnal, choosing to sleep in dark, quiet areas when the sun’s out, the raccoon will feast on insects, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and some small mammals, like rats, that you don’t particularly want around the house.
To prevent having issues with the raccoon, making sure all pet food is inside at night will help immensely, and closing off the pet doors at night will make sure raccoons are not allowed inside. Garbage cans should be secured, and if your garden is the problem, pick up all fallen fruit. Remember, as with all animals, if coming upon a wild one like the raccoon, simply continue on your way and they will do the same. If they’re injured, call up your closest refuge and they’ll come retrieve the animal for you.
When it comes to opossums, we’re talking about the world’s oldest living mammal (the Virginia Opossum), and for a creature to live that long, you have to expect a very good built-in defense system. “Playing possum” is a slang term used by humans, but for the creature it means if they see something dangerous, their heart rate and breathing slows in order for them to appear “dead.” Once their predator is gone, they’ll simply roam back to their home.
What you may not know, however, is that for this creature that defense is actually a last resort. The opossum, a very non-aggressive animal, will choose to open its mouth and let you view those razor sharp teeth; but if you’re still not intimidated, the opossum may go to Round Two, drooling and blowing bubbles through its nose to appear diseased to a predator.
When the opossum is born they’re only around the size of a honeybee, which means it doesn’t take much digging in the backyard to come upon one. Climbing and swimming are skills they have ten-fold. Like the diet of the raccoon, pet food attracts them; but with their climbing ability, simply by putting up a small fence around your fruit trees will stop that problem in its tracks. By closing off entrances, like vents into the house and shutting the garage door at night, you can better prevent running into one.
There are bigger animals causing a stir, of course, such as the Bobcat. Being the most common wildcat, it’s seen in almost all locations. Its size depends on the supporting habitat around them, but their reddish brown coat, typically striped and spotted with black, provides excellent camouflage from any would-be predator.
Learning to coexist with the Bobcat is easy; unfortunately, hunters and the automobile have become the Bobcat’s worst enemies. If you see one, simply call the local refuge before ending a life. You never know how many little bobcats are waiting at home.
The major species found in the U.S. is of the deer variety. When it comes to the Black-tailed Deer, it’s important to note that their numbers have gone down considerably. The most important things to know about the deer is that if you find a fawn alone, leave it that way. Mom will return before dark, but seeing as that the babies are born without a scent, the mother can go off and forage for food and not worry about other wildlife sniffing them out. They will panic easily, as well, so never get too close or touch a deer in any way no matter how tame it may seem. Even attempting to herd one out of your backyard, because of its sharp hooved feet, can cause the deer to injure you or itself. By simply leaving the gate open, the deer will leave on its own.
Preferring to eat all kinds of grasses and new growth, a deer fence (appx. 8 feet tall) is the perfect answer to keep your rose bushes or garden intact. Not to mention, that barking dog is a very good deterrent.
From the Gray Fox to the Mallard Duck, coexistence is more than possible. So…before you decide on your own how best to “clear” your backyard, make one call to your local refuge and you will learn all you need to know to become a very good neighbor!
Source: Baret News