Living with Wildlife: A Conversation with ACO Judy Umstead
Spring is finally bringing the greening of the landscape, a sight Connecticut residents have been looking forward to after our cold, snowy winter. But, for our stalwart Connecticut Animal Control Officers, it also means the onslaught of daily phone calls from concerned residents about daytime wildlife sightings. To try to dispel some long-standing myths surrounding these sightings, we checked in with Watertown and Woodbury Animal Control Officer, Judy Umstead.
Q: Do calls about wildlife sightings tend to increase as spring approaches?
A: Yes, mainly because there’s a long-standing myth that when you see nighttime animals during the day, such as skunks and foxes, it’s because they’re rabid or ill. That’s not necessarily true. As spring approaches, these animals spend more time during the day hunting for food for their newly established families. And, if you haven’t blocked off the bottom part of sheds and outbuildings by now, don’t be surprised if raccoons, skunks, and possibly fox, deliver their babies there. Once the babies are born, please do not attempt to move them. Please contact your local ACO for further instructions.
Q: Can homeowners help by feeding these creatures?
A: No one should feed any wildlife. They may become dependent on that source of food preventing them from hunting for the appropriate diet for their growing families. As wildlife becomes accustomed to being around and trusting humans, they may lose their natural fear of humans making them more susceptible to hunters and predators.
With spring’s arrival, you are going to see more wildlife, such as skunks, deer, foxes, rabbits, and possums, with and without their offspring.
Foxes: Although foxes are harmless to humans, they will prey on small pets, rodents, rabbits and chickens. If you see them during the day, they are most likely looking for food including squirrels, chipmunks, birds, and their eggs. Please do not leave pets outdoors unattended.
Skunks: Skunks will not attack you or your domestic pets and will only spray defensively. They’re extremely gentle creatures and will not bother you. Please keep pets away and give skunks their space.
Fawns: Another of the common wildlife myths is that if you see a fawn left alone for hours, the mother has abandoned the baby. Does often leave their fawns close to structures to keep them hidden from predators while they go off for hours to hunt. Please leave the fawn where it is, do not attempt to move or feed. Mom should return after several hours of hunting
Rabbits: Unfortunately, rabbits often make their nests completely exposed in your front or back lawn. A good plan for homeowners is to inspect your lawn before you mow to check for a possible nest of rabbit kittens.
Birds and Bears: All bird and suet feeders should be removed now to avoid attracting bears who are just about to appear in our New England landscape. Its also a good idea to secure your trash cans or lock them in a garage. There is plenty of food available naturally for birds in spring, summer, and fall
When in doubt about wildlife sightings or an animal appears to be ill, please call your local Animal Control Officer. And. . .watch the road for crossing wildlife. Let’s live peacefully with our wildlife neighbors.