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Dealing with nuisance urban wildlife

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By JAMES WATKINS
Fort Knox Natural Resources

While most people enjoy viewing wildlife, animals can become a problem around homes and housing areas. 

With urban expansion and development, wildlife encounters have become more frequent in recent years. Many wildlife species have become very successful at coexisting with humans in urban and suburban environments: in particular, raccoons, opossums, skunks, gray squirrels, deer, and even foxes and coyotes. 

Many of the problems can be minimized or eliminated by doing a few simple things around the house.

Do not feed wild animals!

Wild animals are fun to watch, but feeding them only draws them closer to homes and increases the likelihood of a troublesome encounter.

Avoid feeding pets outside.

Do not feed pets outside if possible. If you must, remove food bowls immediately after your pet has finished eating.

Secure garbage.

Find a way to prevent entrance into garbage cans. Use cans that have latches, or use bungee cords to secure lids.

Block entrances into the home.

Seal all cracks and crevices in your house and outbuildings, especially the soffit.  You would be surprised at how small a crack a bat or mouse can get into, not to mention snakes. 

If you have a chimney, be sure to install a chimney cap or use ¼ inch hardware cloth to cover it.  Also, use the hardware cloth to cover all house vents.

Prevent food buildup.

Keep bird feeders clean to prevent disease transmission and clean the ground under feeders regularly to prevent seeds from building up and attracting unwanted rodents.

If you have an encounter or conflict with wildlife around the home, don’t touch the animal. Touching them can be potentially dangerous for you and the animal. 

Most of the time, if left alone, the animal will simply move on without any problem, especially if the precautions outlined are followed and potential food and shelter is removed.

Most wildlife poses an extremely low risk to people. However, if the animal does not leave on its own and continues to be a problem, contact a pest management professional. If you live in housing at Fort Knox, contact Knox Hills Maintenance at (502) 799-6565 for any pest or wildlife problems. For wildlife problems in the cantonment area, call in a service order at (502) 624-1171. For deer killed on the road in the cantonment area, call the Provost Marshall’s office at (502) 624-1070 or the Fort Knox Natural Resources Branch (502) 624-7373.

If bats are encountered, contact the Natural Resources Branch. Do not attempt to remove them.

Fort Knox has three threatened or endangered bats — Indiana bat, northern long eared bat, and gray bat. Any bats found in offices or houses must be released alive and, if possible, identified by Natural Resources Branch biologists. Do not kill bats; they are very beneficial, consuming almost half of their body weight in insects each night. 

Snakes also are beneficial, eating lots of mice and other small rodents. If a snake is encountered, don’t kill it. Let it go, or call the appropriate pest management office for your area.

Hopefully by doing some of these relatively simple things around homes and offices, we can minimize or eliminate any problems with wildlife.