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Skunks an issue in Atlanta

August 08, 2009 at 07:23 AM


ATLANTA — Peeeww.

Something smells in the Logan County community of Atlanta, and Mayor Fred Finchum wants no part of it.

Addressing an admittedly unusual listing — “Living With Wildlife” — on Wednesday’s city council agenda, Finchum told aldermen about a recent incident involving some of Atlanta’s furrier citizens.

“We were contacted by a resident who had skunks under their storage shed … next to the garage,” said Finchum. “Public works employees caught and released them away from residences.”

What turned out to be a beneficial action for the residents plagued by the skunks may end up biting – or spraying, to use skunk terminology – local officials.

After hearing about the incident, Finchum said he visited the Web site of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to gather information on proper skunk-removal procedures. What Finchum learned was contrary to the actions taken by Atlanta’s public works employees: Captured skunks must be killed, a rule in place because of widespread cases of rabies in the Illinois skunk population.

Beyond IDNR’s regulations, Finchum said such issues might be a little too wild for city employees to handle.

“It’s time-consuming, it’s dangerous to employees, and we don’t know IDNR rules,” said Finchum.

Finchum added that skunks and similar animals must be removed by a trained animal control officer.

The problem is that no such government-paid wildlife control officer exists in Logan County. Logan County’s animal control unit is in place to handle only domesticated animals, such as dogs and cats.

The IDNR does list three independent contractors in Logan County who are authorized to remove wildlife – one in Mount Pulaski, one in Elkhart and one in Lincoln.

Although everything turned out for the best in public works’ efforts to remove the Atlanta skunk family, Finchum feels the city escaped a stinky situation.

“It really is a little scary, when you consider our lack of knowledge and non-equipment we had to do it with,” said Finchum. “They did throw a cover on them, so they didn’t get sprayed.”

Finchum asked the council if it wanted to start the process of having someone trained to make as an animal control officer, but council members did not seem interested.

“I have no problem with not (doing it),” said Finchum.

Atlanta residents who encounter problem wildlife in the future will be provided with the numbers of Logan County’s three independent contractors.

“If the problem worsens, we’ll keep track of it,” said Finchum.

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