MFOA's Living With Wildlife Series

 2017  Beaver - Nature’s Engineers

 2011  The Misunderstood Coyote

 2008  Living in Harmony with Wildlife 

 2007  Building a Wildlife Friendly Backyard

 

MFOA“s Living With Wildlife Series #4: Beaver - Nature’s Engineers

By SLR, 2017      

Beavers were almost eliminated from three continents before people realized the value of “nature’s engineers.” According to Beavers: Wetlands and Wildlife, hydrologists blame the uncontrolled trapping of beavers in the 1700s and 1800s, followed by intensive drainage for agriculture, for most of today’s major environmental problems in North America, i.e., water pollution, damage from flooding, droughts, erosion, species extinction.

Although beavers are known to cause property damage when they build dams in places that are inconvenient for humans, the ecological and environmental benefits provided beavers greatly outweigh any “nuisance” issues caused by them. Landowners are often not aware of the value of these wonderful animals or of the alternative humane management options available to them. There are many effective methods of managing beavers that are humane, provide long term solutions and enable peaceful cohabitation without the negative ecological and environmental consequences of “management” through killing.

Beavers are our allies in combating climate change and other major environmental problems. Because their dams create mini-reservoirs that keep water on land longer, they can alleviate both droughts and regional floods. They are nature’s way to restore fresh water wetlands, our most valuable ecosystem. In addition, these slow-leaking dams create water nurseries for fish and many other organisms. They promote filtration of silt and other toxins from waterways, resulting in healthier downstream habitats and reducing the costs of producing clean drinking water for humans.

The wildlife “management” practice of trapping/killing nuisance beavers is inhumane and is not a long-lasting solution, potentially creating more problems long term.

Trapping is inhumane, dangerous, and non-discriminating. “Kill” traps intended to provide a fast death often do not catch the beaver in the right position to kill it instantly. Drowning traps are inhumane as beavers can hold their breath for 10+ minutes. Snare traps can eviscerate victims. 

Trapping beavers is cruel from beginning to end - a horrific death to an innocent animal. Animals other than beavers (pets, wildlife, protected species such as eagles, and sometimes even children) can fall prey to traps, leading to injury and even death to unintended victims.

Trapping/killing adult beavers leaves behind vulnerable kits. Beaver kits are born between May and June; they stay with their parents for two years to learn survival skills. Trapping “nuisance” adults often leaves helpless kits behind, resulting in death due to predators and lack of survival skills, or in the best-case scenario, rescue for wildlife rehabilitation.

Beaver removal is rarely a lasting solution and may impact the environment. Once beavers are “removed” from a pond, others in the area tend to resettle the empty habitat within a year or two. If dams do remain vacant, they will disintegrate. The pond will be drained; fish, amphibians and reptiles will die from loss of habitat. Wetlands and associated environmental and ecological benefits will be lost. 

We can co-exist with beavers by utilizing humane, ecologically and environmentally friendly alternatives which tend to be successful, long-term management strategies. 

Protect trees by:

Spraying the bark and foliage with a taste repellent, such as Ropel and Deer Away.

Installing barriers around tree bases by wrapping them with heavy wire fencing 2” x 4” and 3’ high, placed 6-12” out from the tree so the beavers can’t get their teeth into the bark. Anchor the fencing to the ground to prevent them from crawling under; adjust the wires every few years to make sure you don’t girdle the tree. 

Coating tree trunks with a sand/paint mixture to prevent beaver gnawing as they dislike the gritty feel of sand in their mouths.

Planting other trees. Wildlife 2000, a Colorado-based beaver management group, plants beavers’ favorite trees next to the water, the theory being that if you give them what they really want, they’ll leave your trees alone. 

Protect against flooding by: 

Installing proven, cost-effective devices such as beaver pipes, in dams. Road flooding can be solved with methods such as “exclosures” or beaver fences, such as the Beaver Deceiver.(Visithttp://www.beaversww.org/solving-problems/manage-flooding/ for more d...)

Funding is available to help landowners offset the costs of implementing humane beaver management strategies. The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program provides financial and technical assistance to help conserve agricultural lands and wetlands and their related benefits. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Partners for Wildlife program can provide funding or materials for flow devices to qualified agencies or organizations. 

Wetlands are decreasing worldwide; the importance of their preservation is becoming a priority. We need to focus on conservation strategies that preserve our precious animals, their habitats and our environment. Learning to co-exist with beavers is one effective way we can preserve our shared wetlands and critical ecosystems for ourselves and future generations. 

Sources:

www.beaversww.org

www.hawriver.org

www.apnm.org/campaigns/beavers/BeaverLandOwnersGuide.pdf

www.maine.gov/ifw/wildlife/human/lww_information/beavers.html

 

MFOA Living With Wildlife Series #3: The Misunderstod Coyote 

by Jayne Winters, 2011

Coyotes have lived in North America for centuries - years before European settlers arrived. Native American cultures view them as powerful mythical figures, venerated for their intelligence and mischievous nature; Navajo herders call them “God’s dog.”  

Yet today, reports indicate that coyotes are the most persecuted native carnivore in the US and generally considered not only a nuisance, but a threat to livestock/domestic pets and a serious competitor for game species. 

Despite decades of our extermination efforts (trapping, shooting, snaring, poisoning), coyotes have expanded their range threefold since the mid 1800’s, largely as a result of our extensive forest clearing and eradication of wolves and cougars, which has left a significant void in the predator/prey hierarchy. 

There are over a dozen subspecies of coyotes, found from California to Newfoundland. They utilize a wide range of habitat from grasslands to deserts to forests and more recently, urban parks and neighborhoods. In all locations, they play a vital role in maintaining healthy ecosystems and species diversity. 

By ‘regulating’ smaller predators like foxes, raccoons, skunks, badgers, and opossums through competition and direct killing, they have a significant positive impact on rodent control and water fowl/ songbird populations. Coyotes are opportunistic; they have a superb adaptability to environmental changes and survive based on available food sources. While a wide variety of mammals, insects, vegetables, and fruit are on the menu, rodents are their main food source. 

Surprisingly, coyotes are not considered a disease threat. Rabies outbreaks are rare and in fact, coyotes often serve as a buffer of the disease by reducing fox, raccoon and skunk, which are more often infected with the virus. In addition, they could consume enough mice, which carry deer ticks, to reduce Lyme disease, now at epidemic proportions in New England. 

People often don’t take into consideration that the appeal of moving out of the city into ‘wild land’ includes living with ‘wild life.’ Simply killing coyotes does not resolve the problem; in fact, the result is typically counterproductive as the birth rate can increase from 3-4 pups/year per female to 7-16 pups. Additionally, eliminating individuals from healthy, established packs often opens the area to wandering dysfunctional coyotes. 

Coyotes typically keep a low profile; they travel and forage at dawn and dusk/evening to avoid human activity. Stable, healthy coyote families are wary of humans. It’s the wandering, unhealthy or starving coyote that is more likely to seek out unprotected pets/farm animals. Once they make the connection of humans with food and easy pickings, coyotes minimize and/or abandon their hunting territories, which results in more coming into the area, increasing the population and the establishment of new packs. 

Irresponsible human behavior is most often the root cause of wildlife conflicts. There are many simple ways we can eliminate or reduce coyote interactions: 

- Keep cats & small pets indoors; bring small dogs in at night, especially in areas of coyote sightings
- Walk dogs on a leash, especially during spring when adult coyotes are territorial & protective of their young
- Don’t feed pets outside or leave food bowls outside
- Secure garbage cans by fastening lids with rope or bungee cords. Place bins inside a shed, garage or other enclosed area. Do not leave dumpsters uncovered/unsecured.
- Put garbage out the morning of pick up, not the night before
- Eliminate artificial water sources, such as koi ponds
- Clear brush & dense weeds to reduce hiding/den opportunities
- Close off crawl spaces under porches, decks, sheds
- Spay/neuter dogs as unspayed females may attract male coyotes & male dogs may roam with female coyotes
- Don’t overflow bird feeders (coyotes are attracted to seed and rodents) 

For gardens: 

- Use enclosed bins for composting rather than exposed piles; avoid adding dog or cat waste, meat, milk & egg products
- Pick ripe or older fruit off the ground
- Use heavy wire mesh fencing up to 6’ tall around gardens, with the bottom extending 6” below ground and outward   

For livestock owners: 

- Use multi-species stocking (i.e., sheep and cattle together)
- Protect livestock in predator proof enclosures, especially at night
- Utilize guard dogs, donkeys, or llamas
- Confine ewes & cows during lambing/calving & at night
- Provide rabbit wire covered enclosures with fencing buried below ground; rabbit cages are not recommended as they may be attacked through the cage or die of shock as they frantically seek cover. They need an escape shelter, just small enough for the rabbit to enter. 
- Use electric fencing & scare tactics/frightening devices, such as electronics which emit high bursts of sound or motion sensor lighting
- Develop composting or chemical means to dispose of livestock & wildlife carcasses
- Install motion activated sprinkler systems or coyote rollers along perimeter fencing. 

There are 70 million feral cats nationwide. Although the desire to assist them by setting up multiple feeding stations is well intended, this type of food subsidy attracts other animals, including coyotes. If you feed feral cats, do so in the day time only and on 6’ ledges, which are too high for coyotes to reach. 

Coyote attacks are rare; there have been only 142 reported in the last 40 years. Ninety-nine percent of encounters with coyotes are non-confrontational. When conflicts do arise, they are almost always associated with animals that have been fed. If a coyote stares at or follows you, it has probably had human contact and thinks you’ll feed him. Although there are no documented reports of coyote attacks in Maine, keep in mind the following: 

- A coyote’s normal behavior is wary; it will try to identify you & usually runs off.
- If it appears aggressive, treat it like you would an aggressive dog: don’t turn your back or run, stand your ground, shout at it. Act big & mean, wave your arms & make loud noises. If these actions fail, throw clods of earth or sticks near the ground, then the body, but never at the animal’s head
- Keep yourself between coyotes & small children or companion animals
- Walk trails with an air horn, whistle, walking stick or cane 

Coyotes are here to stay. As we continue to expand into wildlife habitat and coyote populations adapt to our increasing presence, encounters will occur. It is up to us to reduce, if not eliminate, negative interactions by educating communities about humane techniques for co-existence. The goal of this education is to foster understanding and appreciation of the role the coyote plays in healthy ecosystems and the need to keep them wild. Remember: feeding wildlife at the back door has its consequences. 

Resources for this article: Animal Protection Institute, The Eastern Coyote: The Story of Its Success by Gerry Parker, & Tom Horton (BOSTON GLOBE, May 2010)

 

MFOA Living With Wildlfie Series #2: Living in Harmony with Wildlife

by Jayne Winters, 2008 

As urban sprawl increases, humans will continue to invade thousands of acres of natural terrain, often destroying wildlife homes in the process. Here are some simple tips for living in harmony with some of our wild friends:

Chipmunks & Squirrels

• In their search for nuts and berries, chipmunks or squirrels may unintentionally damage ornamental plants. If you want to protect flower bulbs, cover the dirt above them with coarse-gauge wire screen. This provides room for the plants to grow, but prevents damage from digging rodents. In addition, planting non-edible blowers -
like daffodils - is always an option.

Mice & Rats

• Deter rodents from places that can’t be mouse- or rat-proofed (i.e., car engines) with a mixture of salad oil, horseradish, garlic and cayenne pepper. After letting the mixture sit four days, strain it into a spray bottle and apply to the desired area.

• Moth balls and peppermint oil-soaked cotton balls, when tucked around the engine, can prevent rodents from munching on electrical wires.

Pigeons

• Screens or netting can be used in attics, vents, and rafters to discourage birds from flying up into nooks and crannies. Wire coils or spikes on gutters, pipes, railings, or building edges prevent birds from perching there and sheet metal or boards set at an angle against flat surfaces will create a slope that pigeons can’t grasp.

Raccoons & Skunks

• Skunks, along with raccoons, squirrels, moles and some birds, dig lawns and gardens in search of insect grubs. Eliminating the food source is the easiest way to resolve this problem. Commercial formulations of milky spore, the grub’s natural enemy, are available and can be applied to affected soil.

• Avoid chemical pesticides and fertilizers since they can also harm beneficial organisms.

REMEMBER THESE GENERAL TIPS:

• Poisons, sticky glue traps, and snap traps cause birds, rodents, and other animals intense suffering and agonizing deaths. Poison is deadly to non-target animals, like protected species, pets, and predators that may eat the poisoned victim. Sticky material meant to make birds feel uncomfortable when landing on surfaces can trap smaller animals that touch it, causing them to break bones as they struggle, starve to death, or be picked apart
by predators.

• If you use live traps, be sure to check them several times a day. Animals caught will be hungry, thirsty, and frightened and may die if left in the trap too long.

• An individual squirrel or other visitor inside your home? Don’t panic: once you clear
an escape route for it by opening a door or window, he’ll usually leave on his own. Shut off any lights so the natural light from the open door or window will lead it back outside.

• If you discover a family of squirrels, raccoons, etc. nesting in or around your home, it is important not to separate the young from
their parents. No animals should be removed until breeding season has ended. Not only is

it inhumane to let the babies starve to death, but the mother will frantically try to reach her young and may damage; your property in the process. Once you’re certain the babies have left the nest, you can use a portable radio and/ or a mechanic’s light to evict the animals.

• Never use smoke or fire to drive animals out of chimneys. This will almost certainly kill young animals whether raccoons, squirrels, opossums or birds who are not physically able to leave on their own.

• Install a chimney cap and repair/seal attic or other openings.

 

MFOA Living With Wildlife Series #1: 10 Steps to Creating a Wildlife Friendly Backyard

by Jane Winters, 2011

  1. Develop a plan. Check the library, bookstore and internet.
    Establish your habitat goals. Manage the habitat not the species themselves.

  2. Find out what species are present in your community.

  3. Contact landscapers or other resources with interest and knowledge in backyard

    wildlife habitats.

  4. All animals require four basic elements from their habitat in order to survive and thrive:

    food, water, shelter and a place to raise their young. Carefully select native trees, shrubs and other

    vegetation that provide the best habitat characteristics to attract wildlife. A variety of plants is good.

  5. Create staging areas, shelter from predators and escape from severe weather.

  6. Build bird houses, feeding areas and nesting facilities that are protected from cats, squirrels, coyotes

    and the elements.

  7. Food and water should be consistent as well as clean. Wildlife especially need your help during

    the cold winter months

  8. Habitat management. Learn animal habitats, diets and behavior. Keep human belongings and trash secure.

  9. Pet cats and dogs should be kept inside, taken outside with supervision / tether and/or allowed to run in a

    confined area.

  10. Respect wildlife, do not feed certain species, keep your distance and let them remain wild.

 

Share

© 2018 Maine Friends of Animals | 190 U.S. Route 1, Falmouth, Maine USA 04105 | 207-781-2187

web site design and hosting by Artopa, LLC | login