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updated: 4/2/2013 10:15 AM

Living With Wildlife

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Leslie Piotrowski

If you live in Lake County, you've probably seen deer, fox, coyotes and other wildlife in close proximity to your home. Due to the loss of habitat by development, some wildlife can be seen within residential communities.

People can coexist with wildlife peacefully. The Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center recommends the following ways for residents to avoid problems with coyotes, foxes as well as other wildlife:

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• Do not encourage wildlife to come in or near your home by feeding them.

• Keep pet food and water dishes inside to avoid problems with

raccoons, skunks, opossums, foxes and coyotes.

• To minimize conflicts between wildlife and household pets, make sure to turn on

outside lights, make noise and observe the area for any sign of wildlife before letting your pets outdoors.

• Supervise pets and children when outdoors and keep dogs leashed when not in a

fenced yard. Allow small dogs outside only under strict supervision.

• Keep cats indoors.

• Don't allow spilled birdseed to accumulate outside of bird feeders.

• If possible, do not keep garbage cans outside. Or, use sturdy cans and keep the

lids securely fastened.

• If you are walking your dog on a leash and are approached by a coyote, you

should restrain your dog, and scare away the coyote by yelling and waving your arms over your head.

One of the activities that can cause problems with wildlife is feeding them. Feeding wild animals teaches them that if they risk coming close to people and houses, they will be rewarded. This can lead to aggressive behavior once their natural fear of people is lost and makes them more likely to be a nuisance - potentially putting both people and the animals at risk. Also, the foods given to wildlife are often unhealthy for the animals (e.g., white bread). Never feed wildlife, even the ducks and geese in the park. In addition, small mammals such as rodents are attracted to food like birdseed and pet food and predators such as fox and coyotes are then attracted to the rodents.

Coyotes are the largest wild predator in the Chicago region and serve a vital role in the balance of our local ecosystems. They help maintain the populations of many small mammals including mice and rabbits. They also feed on deer fawns and Canada goose eggs. Coyotes shy away from humans, however, they have been known to infrequently

prey upon cats. Coyotes see dogs in their territory as a potential threat. If you walk your dog in an open space area, it is particularly important to keep your dog on a short leash. Do not let your dog approach a coyote, and keep in mind that a coyote approaching you or observing you is not typically a sign of aggression. Often the coyote is just curious. Simply shouting and waving your arms will scare it off and will reinforce its natural fear of people.

Often times people do not know who to call when there is an encounter with a coyote. For a list of agencies to call, visit: http://health.lakecountyil.gov/Population/Documents/coyoteswhotocallandwhen.pdf.

If wildlife gets inside your home, do not try to remove it. If the animal is in a room, animal wardens with the Health Department's Animal Care and Control program are available to assist residents in unincorporated Lake County or in municipalities that are specifically working with this program. Residents with nuisance wildlife nesting in a wall, attic or crawlspace, should contact a nuisance animal removal company that can not only help repair damage done by the wildlife, but also prevent it from happening again (such as installing chimney caps).

For additional information, contact Animal Care and Control at: (847) 949-9925.

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