Here in Wisconsin north woods springtime, like in Vermont, can bring out the wildlife. The following article has some common sense advise on living around wildlife habitats.
Source: Brushes with wildlife make people nervous
By Kayla Friedrich | Stowe Reporter
April is one of the best times of year to see and hear wildlife in Vermont, with the waterfowl returning, spring peepers chirping in the ponds at night and animals coming out of hibernation.
Unfortunately, those animals can spur conflicts with humans, as they are frequently out during the day looking for food.
“So we have a coyote problem,” Mary Collins — an Elmore resident — said on Facebook March 13. “Earlier this week, Don was spreading manure and saw a coyote out by our brush pile — far from the house, by the riding ring. This evening, the coyote was standing just beyond the manure pile, just yards from the barn and him. It was not frightened in the least. Does anyone have any ideas about what we should do? I’m concerned.”
The coyote has since left Collins’ property of its own volition, but the incident incited a litany of responses from her friends and neighbors about what she should do. Shoot it? Leave it alone? Does it pose a threat to the animals, and could it be rabid?
A few weeks later, residents of Waterbury posed similar questions about a wandering skunk that was seen on a number of properties during the day.
Wild animals “live around us all the time; we just don’t see them,” said Eric Nuse, a retired game warden in Johnson. “It’s a hard thing, coming off of winter pretty hungry, and because they are hungry, they are often bolder than normal. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are sick.”
Foxes and skunks are the biggest rabies threats in Lamoille County, and Nuse recommends that people watch wild animals from a distance to determine whether they may be rabid. If they look suspicious, anyone can call the rabies hotline at 800-472-2437 to report the sighting.
The signs of rabies can differ depending on the animal. However, generally an animal with rabies will be unstable on its feet, may have paralysis in some of its limbs or its throat, and nocturnal animals may be more active during the day.
Some daytime activity is normal in nocturnal animals, though, especially when they are feeding their young this time of year.
Unprovoked aggression is usually seen in skunks, foxes, raccoons and dogs that have contracted rabies, while rabid bats usually exhibit unusual friendliness, and may be unable to fly. That can be dangerous for children, who are more apt to touch a wild animal than adults.
If an animal is trapped for suspicion of rabies, the animal has to be killed, because the only way to diagnose rabies is to test the brain tissue in a lab.
“Before picking up the phone to call a trapper, think of ways to cohabitate with wildlife or convince them to move on on their own,” said Brenna Galdenzi, executive director of Protect our Wildlife, a Stowe nonprofit. “There haven’t been many cases of rabies in Lamoille County in the last few years, and there weren’t any reported in 2014 or 2015.”
Over the last five years, Lamoille County has had 14 cases of confirmed rabies, nine of them in 2012. There were no cases reported in either 2014 or 2015, but two cases have been reported in the area so far this year.
A rabid big brown bat was trapped in Stowe just last week, April 14, and a rabid raccoon was picked up in Waterbury back in February. The majority of the rabid animals in Lamoille County have been raccoons and skunks.
“If we get a call that an animal is acting strange,” said Bob Johnson, state public health veterinarian, “the decision is usually made to test the animal if it has been in contact with other animals or humans.”
The Vermont rabies hotline is 1-800-4-RABIES, and information about positive rabies tests can be found at bit.ly/Rabiesdata.
Tips for living with wildlife
Coyotes are one of the most maligned animals in Vermont, according to Galdenzi. There is an open season on coyotes in the state, and it’s not curtailed during breeding season.
Pups are generally born in late April or early May, remain in the den for two months, and follow their parents throughout the fall and winter to learn from them.
Coyotes have adapted to live close to humans, and they sometimes do have conflicts, but people can do things to discourage coyote behavior.
Some people opt for livestock guardian dogs — pastoral dogs bred for the purpose of protecting livestock from predators — or even guard llamas. Llamas are instinctively alert and will walk or run toward an intruder, and chase or kick it. Some llamas may also herd the animals they are guarding into a tight group or lead them away from danger.
Electric fencing can also be a deterrent.
Skunks don’t generally bother livestock, unless they get scared and spray, but there are also ways to curb their behavior.
“Skunks come out in the spring, and they have their babies in April or May,” Galdenzi said. “So, you have to be careful when calling a trapper, because if trapped, the babies will not survive without the mother.”
One way to deal with skunks on your property is to make their den unlivable. If people shine a bright light into the den during the night or play loud music, the skunks will likely move out on their own and find a new place to live.
Galdenzi had a skunk living under her deck, and her husband used those tactics to coax it to leave. After three to four days of lights aimed at the den, and a stereo playing on the deck, it was gone.
“Protect our Wildlife will help people with those types of things,” she said. “A lot of animals are out at dawn or dusk right now — don’t be alarmed; they are foraging for food. People fear what they don’t understand, and a lot of it is embedded in not being knowledgeable.”
Bears and bird feeders
Because animals are foraging for food more right now than any other time of year, Vermont law states that residents must take reasonable measures to protect their property from animals, especially bears, before lethal force can be taken.
Just recently, two bears got into the Dumpsters at Brewster River Pub in Jeffersonville, and strewed garbage everywhere.
“Bears can pose a threat,” Nuse said. “So, people should get food sources under cover, especially bird feeders. If you used to feed the birds, bears have a great memory, and will remember where feeders were in the past. Bears also love chicken food — they are not necessarily after the chickens.”
Bird feeders and Dumpsters are just two of the things that can attract hungry bears. Others are pet food, campsites with food left outside and barbecue grills.
People can protect themselves against bears by keeping chickens and honeybees secured inside electric fencing, storing trash in a secure place, and feeding pets indoors.
“Animals are the least wary of people this time of year, because they are hungry,” Nuse said. “It’s a good time of year to see wildlife; people just need to use common sense.”