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Know How, Know More

Furred and Feathered Townies

I once had a squirrel enter my house from an upstairs window, which promptly ran downstairs to finish my breakfast of eggs and toast on the dining room table. My dog and two cats watched from the sidelines incredulously; no doubt asking themselves why they didn't get invited to breakfast.

Homeowners and gardeners are often confused and sometimes irritated with encounters of wildlife on their property. At Extension, we get phone calls each year from concerned people who have found a fawn on their front lawn, a (literal) bat in their attic or Canadian Geese encroaching on the pond behind the house.

Many of us have had occasional annoyances with our local wildlife, they don't want to respect the property lines, and who pays the taxes here anyway!? It first helps to remember that wildlife belongs here; it is actually us encroaching on them. With pressures of increased habitat loss and fragmentation, many animals are adapting to the environments we have created to survive. The truth is, as urban sprawl continues and subdivisions expand, so will our encounters with wildlife.

There is a strong body of scientific research suggesting we should embrace living with wildlife to support biodiversity. This notion is gaining popularity. In fact, London is set to be the first major city to become a national park in 2019.

To reduce nuisance problems, properly screening attics and under porches to prevent bats or skunks from setting up residence, fenced gardens, not allowing pet food to sit around outdoors and keeping garbage cans well covered are all great strategies to prevent unwanted mammal visits to our personal spaces.

For more information on co-existing peacefully with wildlife, here are a couple of good websites:

Proactive measures to keep encounters on the up and up are not just beneficial to us - let's turn the focus on its head for a minute and think what to do for the animal's best interests. Outdoor cats, ingested poison, barbed wire, windowpanes and of course cars are major threats to our urban furred and feathered friends.

When wild animals get injured or we find baby animals who appear to be orphaned, we don't know what to do (clue, they very likely are NOT orphaned and should be left alone). At any rate, we are lucky there is a place nearby specializing in this topic. The U of I Veterinary School of Medicine has a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center with trained volunteers and students to help!

They will be visiting with a few of their charges at the upcoming Piatt County Master Gardener program From the Ground Up at Allerton Mansion on March 9.

Delphine the Virginia Opossum and Vara the Barred Owl and a variety of other animals may be coming, depending on which ones feel like visiting. Come meet them in person and hear their story!