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Animals can be especially active this time of year
Sterling and Princeton animal control officer Louis Massa reminds residents that with the arrival of spring and warmer weather, all wildlife is becoming more active, including black bears, which usually start coming out of hibernation in April, depending on the weather.
“It’s been a long winter for all wildlife, with deep snow cover, so they are all out in force looking for food in people’s yards,” said Massa. “To keep them out of your yard and in the woods where they belong, take down bird feeders, don’t throw bread around for the birds, and put trash out for pickup in the morning instead of the night before, especially if you use trash bags.”
Cleaning up thoroughly after backyard barbecues and trimming back bushes around your house foundation also helps to keep wildlife away.
Coyotes and fisher are especially dangerous for domestic pets, said Massa. He urges owners to keep an eye on their pets when letting them outside. “Also, this is mating season for many wildlife, so many of them are more active,” he said. Mating season makes coyotes especially vocal, which causes people to call Mass Wildlife with questions, he said.
Fox litters are born around this time of year and it is not unusual to see fox hanging around residents’ yards, especially if there is a lot of brush and good hiding places, he said. “Those are perfect places for a den. The male fox can be very protective of the den and can get real bold and make noises to protect and alert the female of possible danger in the area.”
People will see all kinds of wildlife, from skunks to fisher, said Massa. He cautions people not to overreact if they see a skunk or raccoon during daylight hours. That isn’t unusual in the spring.
As long as the wildlife doesn’t act like it is ‘drunk,’ act aggressively, or have glossy eyes, it most likely is all right,’’ he said. As long as the animal walks in a relatively straight line, the animal is likely fine. “Some wildlife, such as skunks, do waddle,” he added.
“If there is wildlife living or hanging around residents’ property, people can make a lot of noise to scare them off by banging pots and pans together, use an air horn or a loud radio, which would make it uncomfortable for the critters to hang out there,” said Massa.
If people find they have a critter living under their porch or deck, they can wait until they see it out and about, then tack something like chicken wire over the entrance, making sure the wire is placed four to six inches under the ground, because most wildlife can dig their way in and out.
“If people have wildlife getting into the basement of a house, obviously they have to find out where they are getting in,’’ said Massa. “Block up the hole and leave doors open so the critter can get out. If it is persistent and won’t leave, call Critter Control out of Worcester that will come out and remove it for a fee.”
He said that the only time he would remove a critter from a resident’s property is if it sick, likely with rabies.
Rabid raccoons display specific signs. A raccoon with rabies may lose its natural fear of humans and may venture out in the daytime which would be normally unusual for this nocturnal creature. It may become aggressive, attacking other animals, people and even inanimate objects, wander aimlessly and appear disorientated. It may also have one or more paralyzed limbs.
Facial symptoms can also be apparent. The eyes and nose of the raccoon may be caked with mucous and the lower jaw may also show signs of paralysis. The animal may display increased salivation and foaming at the mouth.
Make sure dogs have a 2013 license tag on their collars. “If your dog gets loose or in case of an emergency, it will be much easier to contact the owner,” said Massa.
Credits: By Phyllis Booth - TheLandmark.com