Skunks are one of the most common sources of wildlife problems experienced by Connecticut homeowners. Skunks will dig up lawns and gardens searching for insect larvae and grubs. They leave cone-shaped, divet-like holes, three to four inches in diameter and may also turn over larger pieces of sod. Controlling lawn grubs may reduce skunk damage to lawns. Lawn treatment advice and materials are available from garden or hardware stores.
Turtle nests are also dug up by skunks searching for the eggs. Skunk predation on turtle eggs can account for a significant portion of egg mortality. Eggs of ground nesting birds will also be eaten if encountered by skunks.
Skunks will raid garbage cans for a variety of food scraps. Garbage cans should have tight-fitting lids and should be inaccessible to wild animals.
Skunks which have taken up residence under the porch or house can be excluded by covering all foundation openings with woven wire fencing. One opening should be left uncovered until no skunks remain under the building, such as when they have left to feed in the evening. This can be verified by seeing the skunks leave or flour can be sprinkled on the ground by this opening and checked periodically for footprints leading out of the opening. Once the skunk leaves, seal up the doorway with more fencing. You must be careful when using this technique since sealing burrows from early May to mid-August may leave young skunks trapped inside. Be sure all animals are out before sealing the final opening. Because skunks are adept at digging, any fencing may have to be buried at least one foot deep. Fencing will also help keep skunks out of gardens because they are not good climbers.
If a skunk happens to find its way into the basement or garage, leave a door open and let the animal come out on its own. To prevent future problems with skunks or other curious animals, keep basement and garage doors closed.
Skunks often become trapped in window wells. A flat, wide board placed at a low angle will usually allow the animal to climb out on its own.
Because skunks can carry rabies, they can no longer be live-trapped and relocated. Animals that appear sick or that are acting abnormally should be avoided. The following symptoms may indicate the presence of rabies or other neurological diseases in mammals: unprovoked aggression, impaired movement, paralysis or lack of coordination, unusually friendly behavior and disorientation. If you see this behavior, avoid the animal and notify your local animal control officer.
Raccoons: Because of their ability to coexist with humans, raccoons can become a nuisance when they damage gardens, raid garbage cans or inhabit human structures. They can be especially destructive on farms, where they feed heavily on crops. Because of their susceptibility to rabies, problem raccoons cannot be relocated and wildlife rehabilitators can only accept them for rehabilitation with certain restrictions. However, some raccoon problems can be controlled using preventive measures.
To deter raccoons from raiding garbage cans, several modifications can be made. Snaps can be attached to the lid and the handle can be secured to a stake driven into the ground. Placing cans in wooden bins or in the garage may also eliminate raccoon raiding problems. Some people have had success with placing ammonia directly in the can to repel raccoons.
Pet or livestock food should not be left outside where it is available to raccoons. Bird feeders should be placed away from trees or other structures that can be climbed by raccoons.
Raccoons can easily access roofs by climbing trees, downspouts, vines, or a trellis located near the house. Therefore, to prevent raccoons from entering houses, roofs and chimneys should be well-maintained. Replace loose shingles, repair any holes near the eaves of the roof and securely place a chimney cap over the chimney. Limiting the access to the roof by trimming trees and shrubs may also be helpful.
The simplest and most effective, permanent solution to the problem of raccoons living in a chimney is to cap it. However, there may be young present, depending on the time of year. If the young are old enough to climb out, cap the chimney after the raccoons have left for the night. Sometimes, a female raccoon can be encouraged to move her young to another location by the use of repellents, such as ammonia or moth balls, combined with a light and noise from a portable radio placed near the damper.
Electric fences may help to keep raccoons out of gardens. The wires must be spaced close together and close to the ground in order to be effective.
On farms, where more effective methods are needed to control a large number of animals, hunters and trappers can harvest problem animals on the property during the regulated hunting and trapping seasons or by special permit at other times of the year.
Raccoon Rabies: Since "raccoon rabies" reached Connecticut in March, 1991, thousands of raccoons have become infected. Other species, including dogs, cats, skunks, foxes, woodchucks and livestock, have also been infected. The following symptoms may indicate the presence of rabies, distemper or other diseases in raccoons or other mammals: unprovoked aggression, impaired movement, paralysis or lack of coordination, unusually friendly behavior and disorientation. Just because a nocturnal animal like the raccoon is active during daylight hours doesnt necessarily mean that it is sick. Raccoons often adjust their feeding schedules, especially in the spring when rearing their young. Contact with any wild or stray animal should be avoided, especially if it is behaving abnormally. Report sick or strange-acting animals to your local police, animal control officer or the DEP. For more information on rabies, contact your local health department.
Raccoons may also serve as host to a number of other disease pathogens which are transmissible to humans and domestic animals, including trichinosis, tuberculosis, round worm, infectious enteritis and coccidiosis.
The term "deer" can apply to several different kinds of animals in North America, including moose, elk, and reindeer. But on this continent, the animals most people think of when they think of deer are the white-tailed, black-tailed, and mule deer. While black-tailed deer and mule deer are found in the middle and west of the continent, white-tailed deer can be found pretty much everywhere, except for the northern tier of Canada and parts of the far western United States.
Deer are one of the most easily recognized wild animals in North America, and in many places they are the largest type of wildlife people encounter. Not long ago, deer were hunted so intensively they were almost extirpated from many parts of the United States. Today, thanks to years of effort to restore populations, white-tailed, black-tailed, and mule deer are thriving.
Although they are traditionally thought of as a woodland species, deer can exist in many habitats and are ideally suited to exploiting "edge" habitat. Edges are created where a natural or human-made habitat break occurs, such as from woods to croplands, or from woods to marsh. One areathe woodsprovides cover and shelter while the otherfarmland or marshprovides food resources. In northern latitudes, deer may have "summer" and "winter" home range areas that can be as far as 30 miles apart. Where winter snows are significant, deer "yards," where many deer congregate, may be found under evergreen cover.
Deer are faithful to areas called home ranges, areas that are apparently shared by related females who form matriarchies and that exclude related males after they have reached sexual maturity. The breeding season for deer occurs between October and January. This periodtermed the "rut"involves dramatic physiological and behavioral changes in male deer. Their necks swell to more than twice their normal diameter in preparation for the serious contests of strength that usually determine mating rights. Nervous and almost constantly active during the rut, males wander into residential areas and places where they would otherwise never be seen. Gestation is about 200 days, and one to three fawns are born in the spring.
Deer are primarily herbivores, although they occasionally have been observed sampling such incongruous foods as dead fish. Their feeding habits and preferences can vary widely from one location to another, but each local population seems to have preferred foods that are eaten first; "marginal" foods that are eaten only after the preferred foods become rare; and "starvation" foods that probably have no nutritional value, but are eaten because no other choices are available.
Deer eat an enormous variety of plants, and eat different parts of plants in all seasons. The succulent leaves of growing plants are consumed in the spring and summer, while fruits and seeds are eaten as they become available. The buds of woody plants are a mainstay of the diet in winter. Hard mast foods, such as hickory nuts and acorns, are an extremely important component of fall and early winter diets when deer, like many wild animals, need to establish fat reserves. Deer can be quite selective about certain foods, and are known to favor heavily fertilized ornamental and garden plants above others that have not been so well fertilized.
A fawn who may appear to be alone in the woods probably isn't; her mother is most likely nearby, attentive and aware. The strategy deer evolved to deal with their primary predators (which once were wolves and bears) is to keep their young hidden except when feeding them. You can be sure that an anxious mother will be nearby, and will be taking care of her fawn once you move along.