Rushville Republican

April 22, 2014

How to deal with nuisance wild animals

By Jack Spaulding
Rushville Republican

---- — Most people enjoy watching wildlife and sometimes even interacting with critters on occasion. One of my favorite activities is keeping the bird feeder well supplied and seeing Hoosier song birds up close and personal.

Sometimes there are situations when it becomes difficult to appreciate wildlife. Especially should you find your expensive landscape plants ravaged by deer, your riverside timber fallen by beaver, your grape vines in your arbor ringed by rabbits or the inside of your garage or home vandalized by raccoons.

Years ago, we had the memorable experience of having a skunk invade our basement. Those years ago, there weren’t a lot of resources or avenues available to deal with problem wildlife… it was pretty much every man for himself when it came to critter control. Fortunately, I was able to construct a ramp to the basement window and entice the skunk to exit the house with little bits of hard boiled eggs and grapes.

Today, Hoosiers have several options for dealing with nuisance wildlife.

If you encounter a nuisance wildlife situation, you can start by calling a licensed wild animal control company. For the name of a licensed company, visit wildlife.IN.gov/2351.htm.

Hoosier landowners or tenants can also trap and release or kill raccoons, skunks, opossums, squirrels, beavers, muskrats, minks, long-tailed weasels, and foxes on their own property without a permit if the animals are damaging the property.

Live traps for capturing animals can be purchased from garden-supply or home-improvement stores. Be careful when live-trapping wild animals in the spring because they may have young.

If the animal is to be released after capture, it must be released in the county of capture and cannot be kept as a pet, sold, traded or given to another person. Releasing wild animals on a city, county or state property may be illegal or require written permission. Contact proper officials before releasing wild animals on public property.

A few years ago, I had a good friend who investigated the disappearance of his father-in-law’s dog food. It seemed the father-in-law had his two pet dogs on “full feed” where 50 pounds of dog food was dumped into a hopper and the dog food flowed out into a bowl on demand. With the handy arrangement, the dogs could come and go as they pleased and eat whenever hungry.

All was fine until the father-in-law realized he was going through an awfully large amount of dog food. He called his son-in-law to investigate.

Thinking it might be a raccoon or two raiding the dog food, my friend emptied the hopper and baited the live traps with dog food. Sure enough… the next morning there was not one, not two, but three raccoons.

My buddy loaded up the live traps and drove the raiding raccoons to a new home releasing them about three miles away from his father-in-law’s house.

Thinking there could well be more raccoons involved, the live traps were reset. Sure enough, the next day the three traps held three more raccoons.

At this point, it came into question whether or not these might be the same three raccoons relocated the day before. Being a man of ingenuity, my friend came up with an idea to make sure the effort wasn’t simply recycling raccoons.

Sorting through the supplies in the garage, he found about a dozen old cans of left over aerosol paint amounting to a nice array of pastel colors including hot pink and egg shell white.

The next three raccoon raiders each received a stripe of paint sprayed on top of their head. The pastel paint stripe gave the raccoons a punk rocker like look, but would make them easy to identify.

Resetting the traps after hauling away the three “bedazzled” dog food raiders, another full house emerged. Amazingly, after two weeks of catching and transporting head painted raccoons, the final count came in at 26 with no tie-dyed repeat offenders.

It was a good thing relocating the raccoons, or his father-in-law would have gone broke buying dog food.

To keep wild animals from becoming a nuisance, DNR wildlife officials recommend the following:

• Pick up dog and cat food at night and keep birdfeeders out of the reach of wild animals or bring in birdfeeders at night.

• Install a commercial chimney cap made of sheet metal and heavy screen. Repair soffits to prevent access to attics, and install strong, metal vent covers.

• Prune tree limbs at least 10 feet away from the roof.

• Buy heavy metal garbage cans with lockable lids; otherwise, keep garbage cans indoors as much as possible.

• Install metal skirting around the bottoms of decks.

• Provide shelter structures for fish in ornamental ponds and water gardens; cover the pond during the night with metal screening.

Nuisance Canada geese also can create problems in the spring when nesting. You can oil the eggs of Canada geese or remove their nests after registering with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. A link to the USFWS goose egg and nest destruction registration page is at wildlife.IN.gov.

A list of licensed nuisance waterfowl control operators who are trained to remove adult geese is at wildlife.IN.gov/files/fw-NuisanceWaterfowlControlOperators.pdf.

Pond owners experiencing problems with otters should contact their district wildlife biologist for more information or to request a special control permit. Information is at wildlife.IN.gov/2716.htm.

‘till next time,

Jack

Readers with questions or comments may contact Jack Spaulding by e-mail at jackspaulding@hughes.net or by writing to him in care of this publication.