Archive for Thursday, October 27, 2005

Keeping the wild at bay

October 27, 2005

Saturday evening my bored 13-year-old daughter, Katie, joined my wife, Lea, and I for our regular Saturday night date. We had a coupon to a popular barbeque restaurant in downtown Lawrence. We truly ate our fill and after dinner we window-shopped.

The ladies had a chance to go in a few dress shops so I found myself wandering into a coffee shop for one of those strong and exotic after-dinner coffees. I found a corner table and picked up an insert of the weekend addition of the New York Times.

I spied an article about the interaction of wildlife on our homes and especially on the New Yorker's get-away weekend homes.

The article pointed to an ever-present problem that is not limited to New York. I have had a first-hand frustration with something wild getting into my trash lately.

I'm sure all in the De Soto area have encountered wildlife in your suburban domains. Living out on the farm in rural Leavenworth County, we encounter wild critters on a near-daily basis. In fact, I think I expounded a while back on my wife's daylong ordeal to exterminate an opossum.

Over the course of the summer, something wild has been determined to upend, turn over, break into and otherwise disturb my trash. Now, folks, we generate a lot of trash in the course of a day. Generally, most of the leftover dog and cat food gets placed in the trash bin and thrown out.

One recent morning, I pulled up to my parking slot to find trash from the nearby trashcans spread on the lot. It really starts the day off on the right foot.

I began to curse the neighbor's cat and devised to place the trash in ultra secure barrels. I even placed bags in my cages out back, reasoning the cat could not enter to rip into the garbage.

To my amazement, the bags were opened, pulled bit-by-bit out onto the concrete below. I smelled a very musky smell and concurred the culprit was not a cat, but a "poll cat" of some sort. (Where's old Al Pingleton when you need him? Probably grinning down from up yonder.)

I instituted a mandatory in-house storage of all trash until I could get some trash barrels with combination locks.

Does this story sound familiar? I've had numerous calls from residents imperiled by the likes of opossum, skunk, raccoon or bats in or under their home. How come they seem to like us so?

My wife offered the likely reason as we ruminated on our Sunday meal.

"Honey, it's all the dog food and cat food folks leave out on their back porch," she said.

"Hum, that's true, dear, besides the trash stored out back, or even the bird seed everybody so diligently leaves out for the poor, starving resident bird population," I added.

It seems our wild friends are giving up survival of the fittest for ol'Roy and Friskies dinners after the lights go out. No wonder I keep seeing fatter raccoons and opossums crossing the road.

My Leawood in-laws have courted the likes of two groundhogs, one opossum and a family of foxes out back. I loaned my have-a-heart trap to my father-in-law recently. He has successfully caught a few varmints but I'm afraid his disposal is only a relocation. My problem now is my father-in-law is having such a good time trapping and relocating, I'll never get my trap back.

Seriously, living near wildlife is a very serious problem to the potential health of our pets. Raccoons regularly carry canine distemper. Skunks, raccoons, foxes and bats carry rabies. Wild felines can perpet water distemper, feline leukemia, feline immunosuppressive virus (flu), rabies and a host of parasitic diseases. Rodents carry fleas and tapeworms. So, yeah, they are cute, but there's potential for trouble.

Keep your pets vaccinated yearly if at risk of contact with the wild. Do not make available pet foods to the wildlife. Feed your pets what they can eat only and then pick it up. A self-feeder only is asking for a visitor. Check your pets regularly for parasites at the veterinarian's office.

The article from the Times recommended no more birdseed or feeding of deer. You be the judge. I know many of you enjoy birding and seeing the deer. Remember discontinuing deer feeding the next time you take out a 300-pound buck at 65 mph.

If all else fails call a professional to help rid your home and paradise of the offending critter. We can all live in harmony but be careful -- they are wild animals.

After a nice nap one recent afternoon, I took off with "Minnie," my 12-pound tracking rat terrier and "Jessie," my 13-year-old Shelta Dor retriever. We headed for the woods to check out the wild. I saw a lot of tracks, but no animals. Then I realized they had all headed to town to invade those trashcans and self-feeders. Those wild critters aren't as dumb as we thought.

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