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Illinois hunting and fishing

Urban wildlife: some visitors just won’t leave

July 10, 2011 at 06:27 AM

The State Journal-Register

There’s nothing worse than visitors that won’t leave.

Even in town, raccoons, squirrels, snakes, opossums, and groundhogs often take up residence in places where they can damage property or pose a health risk to people and pets.

“Right now it’s seven days a week. It’s non-stop,” said Travis Pierceall of A-All-Animal Control in Rochester.

This time of year, raccoons in particular vex homeowners with their penchant for finding ways into attics or under decks and porches.

“This time of the year it’s pretty much raccoons,” Pierceall said. “Raccoons that have had litters in people’s houses, now they’re probably moving out of the attics.

“And right now the skunks are picking up. One thing slows down and another thing picks up.”

Your home may be your castle, but it takes more than a moat to keep raccoons out.

“I’ve seen them go right through the shingles,” said Gary Lane of Loami. Lane runs Lane’s Animal Control Service, which handles wildlife problems in Sangamon and adjoining counties.

“They peel off the shingles and chew through the plywood,” he said of raccoons. “You really can’t stop them.”

But you can discourage them.

Wildlife nuisance control specialists say it is important not to provide food that makes unwelcome guests feel at home.

* Don’t leave pet food outside at night.

“Only feed pets what they can eat,” Lane said.

* Clean up under bird feeders.

“Seeds wind up on the ground, and raccoons come up and eat the seeds,” he said. “Once they find a food supply, that’s where they are going to want to live.”

* Keep lids on trashcans, and secure them with bungee cords if necessary.

* Make it tough for them to get into buildings. Keep roof soffits and the lattice beneath porches in good repair.

Catch and release

Catching an animal in a trap is not always the end of the story.

“People set out a live trap to catch a raccoon and end up with a skunk in the trap,” says Tom Magro, who has been trapping nuisance wildlife for 22 years. “The next question is, ‘Now, what?’”

Lane says the decision to trap depends on the time of year.

“If it’s early in the year, before they have their young, I trap them,” he said. “If it’s later in the year, there is a liquid I can put up there that usually gets the mother to move the babies. It makes them think there is a predator nearby.”

Not all animals can be released, however.

“Raccoons and skunks have to be destroyed,” Lane said. “That’s one good reason not to trap them.

Other animals can’t be released just anywhere.

“Groundhogs can be released, but I normally don’t because nobody wants them in their area, either,” Lane said. “You have to have permission to release wildlife on someone’s property.

“I have a place, but I release mainly squirrels on my property so they don’t come back and give me any trouble.”

Magro says animals that are trapped and released can cause more trouble down the road.

“People trap them and take them to the park to let them go,” he said. “Those animals have now been in a trap – and it’s not a good experience for them – so they are difficult to catch again.”

Health concerns

Handling wild animals can have public health implications. Animals in live traps, for instance, can bite or scratch the person handling the trap.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, wild animals that bite a person should be euthanized immediately and submitted for rabies testing.

Wild animals also carry other diseases.

“If you see a raccoon during the daylight hours, that generally is not a good sign,” Magro said. “We had an outbreak of distemper a few years back, and people would call and say, ‘There is a raccoon sitting on my porch.’

“The best thing to do is stay away.”

Pets also can be injured in confrontations with wildlife

Lane said the most unusual animals he’s removed were badgers that had burrowed into a front yard in rural Buffalo.

“Those were the first ones I’d ever seen and first ones I’d ever caught,” he said. “Their claws are a couple of inches long ,and they’ve got a mouth full of teeth.

“It would be bad for a dog to tangle with, for sure.”

Lane didn’t want to tangle with a badger either.

“I used a lethal trap, because they would tear my live traps to pieces,” he said.

Wild in the city

Chances are, there is a lot more wildlife activity going on in the city than most people would believe.

Magro said Springfield has even had trouble with beavers damming up waterways that were engineered to drain the area around the Stanford Avenue overpass.

Apparently, the beavers had their own ideas.

The dams were removed, only to reappear in other places, Magro said. The beavers even clogged up a culvert.

“They had to bring in a track hoe to dig up the culvert and clean it out,” he said.

Chris Young can be reached at 788-1528.


Not a do-it-yourself project

Removing wildlife from your home may not be a do-it-yourself job.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources recommends people in urban areas contact a nuisance wildlife control operator.

Those who want to do it themselves, however, can contact their district wildlife biologist to see if they qualify for a Nuisance Animals Removal Permit.

The University of Illinois Extension service website “Living with Wildlife in Illinois,” has information on identification, preventing problems, finding a person qualified to remove nuisance wildlife and contact information for wildlife biologists.

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