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DeKALB, IL – The smell was overpowering.
|Andy Faber of Critter Control does business in five counties including DeKalb. Faber uses live traps about 99 percent of the time to capture animals such as raccoons and squirrels. Faber lifts a skunk back into his vehicle on Friday after showing it to a reporter. It had been caught earlier in the day.|
It wafted down from the attic and met the noses of Sycamore residents Larry and Joanne Nolin as they walked through their front door in May after returning from a trip.
“When I came up here the smell was enough to knock you out,” Joanne Nolin said Friday as she gave a brief tour of her second-floor sewing room.
The smell was soon joined by noises in the attic, prompting the Nolins to call Andy Faber of Critter Control of Northern Illinois. He soon found the problem – a raccoon had moved in during their absence, and had a litter of six babies, four of which survived. Their food and droppings didn’t make the smell any better.
It cost the Nolins about $1,000 to have Faber catch the animals and make improvements to their home – such as installing metal mesh cages over the vents on their roof and sealing holes in the house – plus another $4,000 to get new insulation and a ceiling installed for the second floor of their home. They’re lucky – their insurance covers damage by raccoons.
The University of Illinois Extension office has created a Web site, Living with Wildlife in Illinois, that hopes to educate residents how to coexist with wildlife in urban areas, as well as prevent situations such as the Nolin’s.
“I think the initial premise came from the housing growth,” said Peggy Doty, a natural resource educator for the DeKalb County Extension Office. “You are removing and/or pushing out the initial inhabitants when you build. We are taking over their homes. Technically, we are moving into their space. … We need to learn with them, and not just get out of the way.”
While he said the new Web site could be more detailed in some areas, Faber called the new online tool great, noting it often confirms to homeowners what he has told them about state laws concerning animals.
It is illegal, for example, to remove an animal or bird that is not causing property damage or causing a safety issue. If you plan to remove an animal yourself, you need an animal removal permit to do so. State law requires all captured skunks to be euthanized.
Or that caught raccoons can be released back on the property they were trapped on, taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center that is also a veterinarian, or euthanized, Faber said.
Both the Web site and area professionals who work with wildlife said there are simple steps that can be taken to keep critters out of a home.
Every crack and crevice in a house should be sealed, Faber said. Like he did with the Nolin’s home, Faber recommends putting caps on roof vents, which was echoed by Rob Erickson, owner of On Target Animal Damage Control in DeKalb.
“Once raccoons figure out how to pop a roof vent, they are going to stop looking for hallow trees and come into homes,” Erickson said.
Birdfeeders attract other animals besides birds, Erickson said. Sandboxes for children can become toilets for raccoons if not covered and monitored, he added.
Doty and Kathy Stelford of Oaken Acres Wildlife Rehabilitation Center both advocate for safely evicting animals and helping them to move along whenever possible.
“Animals are habitual,” Doty said. “If a raccoon knows what day you put your garbage out and you have really good stuff, it’s going to come back. If someone offered you a free meal every Monday, you’d take it. It’s kind of common sense.”
Don’t want crows picking through your trash on garbage day? Don’t use clear bags because they can see through it. Use darker bags or better yet, put your trash in containers with lids.
Geese don’t like tall grass or barriers over 18 inches tall. Raccoons don’t like the sound of human voices, Doty said, so she recommends putting on talk radio near where you know they stay.
Stelford said humans are often the cause of a problem with animals – like birds that fly into windows. She often gets calls about what people assume are orphaned animals that are actually OK. Bunnies, for example, only stay with their parents for a few weeks before striking out on their own, she said, so smaller rabbits often are already independent.
What one shouldn’t do, several said, is relocate an animal. Taking a raccoon to a forest preserve could result in the overpopulation and lead to fighting amongst the animals or starvation because there isn’t enough food to support them. Many starve because they are used to eating out of trash cans and don’t know how to survive in the wild.
On the Net
Living with Wildlife in Illinois
Credits: By Kate Schott - Daily Chronicle