Despite what the title may suggest, the following has nothing to do with some questionable characters on the grounds of the White House.
It relates to occasional visitors to places where we live, work and play. They are visitors that, in many cases, are becoming more frequent. For example: While taking care of some business in a nearby town a few years ago, I noticed
a small group of people standing on the far side of a grassy area adjacent to a strip mall parking lot. They were looking toward a muddy slough that channels water under a busy street. Every once in awhile, one of the persons would point and say
something. Suddenly, the crowd scattered like a covey of quail flushing, several of them hollering as they went. What they were watching had made a quick move.
Around that same time, in a residential area about 90 miles away, an elderly woman was startled when a motion-sensor yard light outside her back door suddenly came on. She lived alone and was concerned about the possibility of
intruders. When the light was triggered two more times within the next hour, the lady was certain something sinister was going on and dialed 911. With a trembling voice, she asked that an officer be sent out to check on things. Then she sat there listening to the house creak - and waited.
What do these incidents have in common? They both involved wild creatures that somehow ended up in close proximity to where humans live and work. The first was an alligator about 8 feet long that had taken up residence in one of
Jacksonville’s busiest business districts. The “intruders” in the second case were whitetail deer that had developed a taste for flowers growing at the elderly woman’s backdoor in Smithfield. As North Carolina’s human population increases (about 10.5 million at present) and the state’s landscape becomes more urban, run-ins with wildlife are becoming more frequent. Certainly, alligators in town are not an everyday sight but, in many areas, deer are. It’s not unusual at all to see them strolling around residential areas.
I spotted the largest buck I’ve ever seen while it stood under a street light in front of my house late one evening. Ironically, I was planning to go bow hunting way out in the country the next morning.
The increase in human-wildlife interactions is a product of growing numbers of some wildlife species in at least a few cases. For example, wild turkeys are more numerous in most places now than they’ve been at any time since the turn of the 19th century. And, over the last two decades, flocks of non-migratory Canada geese have taken up residence at nearly every golf course and public park in the state.
The most significant factor, however, is the intrusion of people into areas that have traditionally been wildlife habitat. Commercial and residential development is forcing deer and other animals into smaller, more fragmented sites. At the same
time, the landscaping that accompanies new construction is often seen by wildlife as a very tempting buffet.
Biologists with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) say it isn’t really an animal problem. It’s a people problem and, in many cases, people are going to have to learn to live with wildlife that has been there all along. They get calls all the time about wild critters showing up in yards or attics. Often, the concern is about animals eating valued shrubbery or other vegetation. Deer, in particular, have a fondness for certain decorative plants such as azaleas, English yew and hydrangea.
The biologists say there are a number of possible solutions, including exclusion (fencing), repellents, frightening devices and, in extreme cases, shooting. The best one, though, is also the simplest – plant things that deer don’t like. According to a
NCWRC publication titled “Deer Problems in Residential Area,” if you choose to plant species that are attractive to deer you will always have deer predation problems.
In respect to keeping some other animals such as foxes, coyotes, opossums and bears away from your home, they offer the following tips: - Never intentionally feed wildlife. This can cause wild animals to lose their natural fear of humans, which in some cases might lead to bold or aggressive behavior.
- Eliminate unintentional food sources by removing food when your pet is finished eating outside, securing garbage inside a building or in wildlife-resistant containers, and using bird feeders that keep seeds off the ground.
- Keep your yard as free as possible of debris piles, dense grasses or shrubs, or other areas that could provide shelter for animals you don’t want around.
- Clean fallen fruit from around trees. For example, deer really love persimmons, black cherries, apples and the like. So do a number of other wild animals. Hoping they will ignore such treats is like hoping your kids will leave bowls of M & M's
- Close off crawl spaces under sheds, porches, decks and houses so foxes and other wildlife can’t use those areas for resting or raising young.
- Cover openings to attics that might allow bats, raccoons or opossums access.
(Just make sure there are none in there when you do so.)
- Share these tips and reports of wildlife in the neighborhood with nearby residents. The Wildlife Commission’s web site, www.ncwildlife.org, lists several sources of information relative to dealing with deer in the driveway, a bear in the backyard
or possums on the porch. They are accessible through the “Coexisting With Wildlife” tab at the bottom of the web site’s home page - www.ncwildlife.org.
In some instances, living with wildlife simply means understanding that, if we are going to live and play in their natural habitat, we are going to have to make some concessions. It may be as easy as golfers waiting for geese to cross a fairway
before they hit their tee shots, or slowing down when driving at night through areas frequented by deer and other species. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of accepting that the animals were here first and are part of the natural landscape.
Ed Wall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-671-3207. His web site is www.edwalloutdoors.com