Northwood News ♦ April 2009
Catching Up on Our Animal World
By Tom Termini
Spring is here! Let’s catch up on information to help us
co-exist with our animal friends.
Mice, Rats, Chipmunks
Avoid poisoning. After all, owls and hawks eat them! We live
alongside an awesome bird habitat (Northwest Branch), and these little guys
are a prime food source.
To help keep mice out, cram steel wool in any crevice or hole you might find in
your garage or the outside your house. Don’t leave foodstuffs
around, including bird seed. Don’t compost near your house (only
compost uncooked vegetable matter, not animal foodstuffs).
Moles can drive you nuts! If you’re like most homeowners,
you’re probably confused by all of the conflicting “advice”
on mole control. The common mole is an insectivore, not a rodent.
Its diet is restricted to ground invertebrates such as grubs, millipedes, ants,
and the like. They eat nematodes and other subterranean pets that harm
your garden and lawn. They don’t eat plants. Repeat, they
don’t eat plants.
While they may uproot a plant, they actually
aerate the earth, as well. Don’t
kill moles and voles.
They are beneficial
Moles can be found around our residential properties because of:
- Restrictions on or loss of habitat through construction,
drainage changes, and possibly chemical runoff into the mole’s
natural habitat. (Moles are woodland animals. Suburban construction
gobbles up or modifies hillsides and pastureland, leaving little or no room for
woodland creatures. Combinations of pesticides, herbicides, and
fertilizers as chemical runoff may directly effect surrounding woodland biomass
restricting the mole’s natural food sources.)
- Artificial biomasses created and maintained through current landscaping
practices. Most landscaping depends on artificial or chemical means of
maintaining lawns and beds. These soils are kept rich with chemical
nutrients as well as heavy applications of organic materials such as mulch and
top soils. Watering or irrigation is common, as well as the use of
manmade borders, edgings, and other appointments such as timbers and stones
— all super environments for worms and insects. Whether natural or
unnatural, this type of landscaping provides a perfect food source (insects)
The mole has an unusually low birth rate for a small mammal. Litter
sizes are three to four pups once a year. Natural survival rate is less
than half in the wild and we have a problem with moles?
Red foxes are small (10-14 lb.), dog-like animals with a sharp pointed nose,
erect ears, and a bushy tail. Although they can come in colors from black
to blonde, they are usually red, with black legs and a white tipped tail.
Active during the day and night, red foxes inhabit the entire
state of Maryland. Like many other wildlife species, they have become
“urbanized” and do quite well in our urban and suburban environments.
Any mammal can be infected with rabies. In Maryland, foxes and skunks
usually each comprise five percent of the confirmed rabies cases.
Raccoons make up 85 percent of the confirmed rabies cases in Maryland.
Once an animal is infected, the disease is fatal. Animals usually die
within 10 days once the signs of rabies are evident. It is important to
avoid physical contact with wild animals and immediately report any animal
bites to your local health department.
Fox eat rabbits, mice, rats, etc. They avoid contact with humans.
We will leave this one alone; the same advice is applicable concerning
human interaction with beavers. Leave them alone as they are beneficial
to the local ecosystem.
Even though rabbits can cause damage to gardens and lawns, they are providing
their predators with much-needed food. Also, without rabbits, many areas
might be overgrown with scrub. Rabbits suppress the growth of shrubs by
nibbling the growing shoots; the resulting turf encourages the growth of
low-growing plants such as vetch. In turn, these small flowering plants
attract many butterflies and the short grass is suitable for other insects such
as ants. The insects, in turn, attract many species of birds.
Possum (Well, Opossum)
Learn about North America’s only marsupial at
Of course, they eat mosquitos! If they get in your house, call a
bat remover who will gently remove the little flying mamals and return
them to the wide world. Read more at
You could take a class or three on bees (I did!). Check out
Don’t let dogs run loose. Call Animal Control if you see a
loose dog, which will get run over by traffic!
Of course, free-roaming cats are a problem for wildlife. Here’s
a good article on reasons to keep you cat an indoor one: www.wildliferescueleague.org/animals/cats-and-wildlife/.
Some Good Links
Remember: a diverse biosphere is a healthy one. Coexisting will
help us (human species) to last longer on this planet.
[Excerpted with permission from a listserv message to Friends of Sligo Creek. Many of the URLs above have been changed/updated from those originally published in the newsletter.] ■