Sunday, July 12, 2009

Rabbits, raccoons and bears, oh my

Summer brings out all kinds of critters.
Now, in July in Merry Oaks, the visitors appear to be mainly cute and harmless, like the rabbit that hangs out in my front yard.
But earlier in the spring, the neighborhood had its share of raccoons, which often carry rabies and wreak havoc in garbage cans. And friends in the mountains have had larger visitors this summer, as bears wander beyond sanctuaries into private property.
How do you encourage the unwanted critters to go elsewhere?
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission issued some reminders in late June about bear behavior, designed to give the humans a few tips on encouraging critters to leave. North Carolina’s bear population has rebounded in the last 30 years, and the bears often wander.
The bear rules will work for raccoons in urban neighborhoods as well. The big idea: If the humans provide no food, the critters will go away. (If you’re lucky.)
What’s hard: Many city dwellers and rural friends love to encourage certain wildlife visitors, and compost piles have gained popularity. But hard choices have to be made when unwanted visitors won’t go away. Outside food attracts the unwanted critters as well as the wanted, so listen to tips from the Wildlife Resources Commission:

  • Keep bags of trash inside cans stored in a garage, basement or other secure area, and place them outside for pickup as late as possible – not the night before.
  • Use a secure latch on the garbage cans. (Bungee cords work great for keeping out raccoons; I’ve heard of using ammonia on and around trash cans to deter bears.)
  • Stop feeding wild birds during spring and summer.
  • Avoid leaving dog or cat food outdoors. If you must feed pets outdoors, bring the empty bowls inside after all the food is eaten.
  • Clean food and grease from barbecue grills. Bears (and other critters) are attracted to the smell.

With luck, the removal of food will make unwanted critters go elsewhere. If that doesn’t work: Some people recommend borrowing or owning dogs to mark the territory.

If all else fails in urban areas with raccoons, various companies offer critter control services. In rural areas with consistent bear visitors, a hunting season does exist, and the population is not endangered. Personally, I wouldn't want to face that decision.

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