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Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ April 2009

Catching Up on Our Animal World

By Tom Termini

  Bat  
  Beaver  
  Bee  
  Cat  
  Chipmunk  
  Dog  
  Fox  
  Mice  
  Mole  
  Opossum  
  Possum  
  Rabbit  
  Rat  
  Vole  
  Links  

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, Voles

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:

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?

Foxes

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.

Beavers

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.

Rabbits

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 www.opossum.org.

Bats

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 dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Pages/plants_wildlife/bats/index.aspx.

Bees

You could take a class or three on bees (I did!).  Check out www.mdbeekeepers.org.

Domestics

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/.

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.]   ■


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