July 19, 2017 at 4:07 pm

Working on the Wayne | Nuisance Wildlife Aren’t Really A Nuisance

Family of raccoons investigating a tree that had been baited with skunk lure.

Family of raccoons investigating a tree that had been baited with skunk lure.

By Devon Cottrill
Biological Sciences student and Wayne National Forest intern

What is the first thing you think about when you hear the phrase “nuisance wildlife”?

Deer, raccoon, opossum, coyotes?

What if I were to tell you that coyotes, along with other nuisance wildlife, were not as horrible as we perceive them to be. Now, I am not saying having these animals in your neighborhood or even in your backyard is not annoying because it is.

I couldn’t tell you how many mornings I have walked out to my car to leave for work to only become angry because raccoons and/or opossum’s have gotten into my trash. But, every time that has happened, it was my fault (or someone in my household) who failed to place the garbage bags in the garbage cans, allowing easy access to our leftovers. Yes, you read that correctly, it was OUR fault that raccoon’s and opossums got into our trash.

Lets get back to nuisance wildlife and why they aren’t as horrible as we perceive them to be. Yes, they get into our trash. Yes, they can make a heck of a mess of your gardens and yard. And yes, they may even eat your cats or kill your livestock. All of these are annoying, horrible and a pain in the butt to deal with but try and think like them.

Look at it this way, before Athens was around, before New York City and every other city here in the United States, wildlife were free to roam where ever they pleased. Food sources weren’t as scarce, territories weren’t torn through with excavators and bulldozers, and invasive species weren’t as prevalent… until we traveled across the oceans and took these beautiful lands.

Wildlife evolved along side other wildlife, not people. Now that large Metropolitan Cities have taken over North America and motorized vehicles allow for easier access to remote parts of North America, wildlife have had to try and adjust to us. Instead of dodging predators, they are having to dodge cars, people, bikes and buildings.

An opossum hugging a tree baited with skunk lure, looking absolutely adorable.

An opossum hugging a tree baited with skunk lure, looking absolutely adorable.

Instead of focusing on all the negatives, lets talk about the benefits of having raccoons and opossums around. Believe it or not, they do not go looking for our trash; they would much rather eat fruit, insects, nuts, and TICKS!!! We all have heard horror stories about diseases ticks can transmit to us: Lyme, Rocky Mountain Fever, etc. A single Opossum can eat approximate 5,000 ticks in a year. That may not seem like a lot, but when you start adding up their population size, it really puts things into perspective.

Ticks aren’t the only pest raccoons and opossum enjoy consuming. They also eat wasp larvae and their nests, and those nasty cockroaches. Raccoons also eat small mammals like moles and voles, you know, those pesky little critters that burrow through your backyard, making tunnels and sink holes. If the opportunity is there, raccoons will eat those little guys; I call that a win-win. Guess what else? Opossums also eat small moles and voles, but will also consume small mice. How amazing is that!?!


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