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WildKind Specific Animal Information

Specific Animal Information

Snakes

HUMANE SOLUTIONS TO SNAKE PROBLEMS

Natural History:

Snakes are classified as reptiles and rely on the outside temperatures to reach a certain minimum body temperature before becoming active

On most occasions, snakes try to avoid contact with people.

    • Snakes are protected as a non-game species in most states.
  • There are two types of rattlesnakes in the Colorado area.
  • Snakes are deaf but can detect vibrations. Vision and smell are their primary senses.
  • Only 1,000 people are bitten annually with 3% or less being fatal. Most human snake encounters occur where mice and insects abound.

Public Health Issues:

Snakes are not known to transmit any diseases to humans. Non-poisonous snake bites that break the skin should be treated like any puncture wound with potential for infection. Victims of poisonous bites should stay calm and inactive, if possible, and should seek a doctor immediately. Physicians now urge people not to administer first aid for a snake bite since most procedures do more harm than good.

Legal Status:

In most states snakes are classified as protected nongame species under the wildlife law. A non-poisonous snake may not be harmed except under the special conditions set by the game department. The regulations governing the control of snakes can be obtained from a Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife.

Positive Benefits:

Snakes are extremely important and beneficial to the natural environment because they are a vital element in the control of insects and small vertebrate pests such as mice. Their diet consists entirely of such animals.

Enemies:

Snakes have many enemies in the natural world, such as livestock, (chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys), and other snakes, raptors, cranes, herons, skunks, bears, badgers, and raccoons. Their worst enemy however, is humans because of habitat destruction and human fear. Humans kill many snakes each year solely out of fear and ignorance; most of the snakes are later identified as harmless species.

Problems and Solutions:

Snake in the Yard

The presence of a snake indicates that there is appropriate habitat available, and it may have lived nearby for years without being observed, if left alone, the snake may never be encountered again. A homeowner may minimize the chance of a snake taking up residence in the yard by making the area unattractive to it. This means removing potential hiding places for snakes and their prey, which are piles of rocks, wood, or other debris, tall grass and undergrowth, cracks around concrete porches and sidewalks, and storage sheds with space under the floor. Pet foods and household garbage left unprotected outside overnight attract rodents, and, in turn, the presence of rats or mice may attract snakes. Grounds that are manicured and kept free of debris generally make poor snake habitat.

It is possible to construct a snake proof fence around a yard out of 1/4 inch mesh hardware cloth that is buried 2 inches at the base, and angled outward approximately 30 degrees, and 3 feet high. Gates have to seal tightly if the fence is to be truly snake proof.

Snake in the House

When a snake is discovered in a house, remain calm and avoid any act that might disturb it and drive it into hiding. It may be possible to carefully open a nearby door and use a broom to gently, and quietly, herd it out. Or it may be possible to place an empty pale or waste basket slowly over a small or coiled snake and then put weight on it to contain the snake until an experienced handler can come to remove it. You can also try and confine the snake to a room or corner it with barriers such as boards or boxes so that it will be available for capture when the snake handler arrives.

Snakes usually enter a premise at ground level, perhaps through a tiny crack or hole no more than 1/8 inch wide. An intensive inspection of the foundation for unsealed wire or pipe conduits or basement windows or doors that do not seal tightly will usually reveal the snake entrance. All such openings should be sealed immediately.

Prairie Dogs

HUMANE SOLUTIONS TO PRAIRIE DOG PROBLEMS

Natural History:

Black-tailed prairie dogs weigh 1-3 lbs and are 14-17” long

Color: Yellow tan fur with a lighter beige shade on their underside. Their name comes from the Black that tips their tales.

Habitat: Short grass prairies

Home Range: Prairie dog towns are 20 acres (on average) in size, but they may be smaller or significantly larger.

Reproduction: One litter of 1-6 pups per year in March or April.

Life Span: 3-4 years in the wild:

Other Characteristics: Prairie dogs are Large Burrowing Ground Squirrels. They are only active during the daylight and while black-tailed prairie dogs do not hibernate they may stay in their dens for multiple days during inclement weather.

Public Health Issues:

Prairie dogs are susceptible to Sylvatic plague (bubonic plague in humans).  Plague can be transferred to humans through the bites of infected fleas, and while uncommon, is also possible to contract plague through direct contact with an infected animal. Plague leads to the eradication of infected prairie dog towns.

It is important for people to provide adequate protection for themselves, family members, and pets in areas where there has been a possible plague outbreak. This includes the use of insect repellent and avoidance of these areas if possible.

Legal Status:

Black–tailed prairie dogs are not directly protected through protective regulations. Because prairie dogs are a primary prey species for the Black-footed ferret, in many areas, population control methods must be approved by the Division of Wildlife, and may require a Black-footed ferret survey prior to application of any population control method.  Please contact the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife office for specific regulations in your area.

Positive Benefits:

Prairie dog burrows provide shelter for a number of species, including burrowing owls, snakes, and cottontails. Black-Tailed prairie dogs are also a major food source for black footed ferret, foxes and a number of raptor species

Enemies:

Enemies include predator species such as black-footed ferrets, foxes, coyotes, badgers, and a variety of raptors.  Humans have also become a hazard to prairie dog survival. In the Late 1800s an estimated 700 million acres of North American Rangeland was populated by Prairie dogs.  Habitat destruction and extensive eradication has reduced acreage by 90-95 percent from historic levels.

Problems and Solutions:

Prairie dogs are unlikely to become a significant problem in urban or heavily residential areas because of their preference for open spaces. They have become accustomed to the open spaces that often boarder urban or residential areas.

Common Problems with regards to Prairie dogs include burrows that can be hazardous to pasture animals and may have the potential to damage pasture availability for livestock. The role of prairie dogs on rangeland and grass availability is not completely understood. Depending on land factors current research varies from a 20-30% decline in forage grasses to an increase in grasses preferred by livestock. There is virtually no research on the frequency or severity of injuries to livestock animals that step into prairie dog burrows.

Controlling the growth of or reducing the numbers of an established population can be very difficult, and may lead to major expenses depending on the size of a property. Because Black-tailed prairie dogs prefer open areas landscape modifications that provide visual barriers are the primary means of limiting the presence of Prairie dog towns. The barriers can be made out of a variety of materials such as Vinyl barrier fencing (such as Griffolyn® Prairie Dog Barrier from Reef Industries), or slatted privacy fencing. It is also possible to use sturdy, fast-growing trees or shrubs to create the visual barrier. These Barriers can also be used to limit the growth of an established prairie dog town. All barriers should be buried in the ground at least 18-24 inches (to prohibit burrowing under the barrier) and should reach at least 36 inches above the ground.

Prairie dog populations can also be controlled through the tolerance of natural predators such as raptors. Raptors can be attracted through the presence of artificial nesting sites and perches near the colony. The presence of predators can reduce the number of prairie dogs in an area, but this solution may not work in all areas and is dependent on the continued presence of enough predator species to control the population.

Geese

HUMANE SOLUTIONS TO GEESE PROBLEMS:

Natural History:

Size: Wing Span: 20 inches

Length: 25 to 45 inches

Color: Long black neck, black head and bill, white cheek patches.  Body is grayish brown; lower belly, upper and under tail converts to white; tail and rump black.

Habitat:  Most ducks and geese are migratory, although local populations may become resident and remain year round at a location.  All waterfowl require bodies of water, such as rivers and lakes, at some time of the year.

Reproduction:  Geese lay 4 to 8 large white eggs from mid March to May.  Incubation for the eggs is 25 to 30 days.

Food: The diets of waterfowl are varied, but the birds whose activities conflict with the interests of humans are those that feed chiefly on grass, grains, and other vegetation.

Public Health Issues:

When they occur in large numbers, geese and ducks often contaminate areas with droppings, which can be a problem if left to accumulate.  Botulism outbreaks in waterfowl involve a strain that is rarely injurious to humans.

Legal Status:

All wildlife, including geese, is protected by local, state, and federal regulations.  It is unlawful to keep indigenous animals as pets.  It is illegal to tamper or move eggs of waterfowl without written permission from the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife.

Positive Benefits:

Canada geese provide several ecological benefits that may aid other plants and animals.  They can serve as seed dispersers by eating in one area and then depositing seed in another area when defecating.  Goose feces, in moderation, can contribute to soil fertility by adding nutrients, and eggs provide food for animals such as fox, snakes, raccoons, and turtles.

Enemies:

The natural predators of geese are foxes, owls, raccoons, coyotes, and snapping turtles.  When geese are scared or threatened, they will stretch out their necks and honk loudly. Male geese are very protective of their female partners and will often stand between her and a perceived threat.

Problems and Solutions:

Too many geese congregating in an area:

The primary conflict between waterfowl and humans occurs over maintained lawns (or landscapes) and are an aesthetic, cosmetic, convenient, and (some say) sanitary issue.  The actual grazing done by geese is seldom an issue because they do not disturb or physically damage turf.  Most often it is the fecal deposits and the aggregation of numbers of birds that produce conflict.

Solution:

Habitat Modification:  Control of waterfowl requires awareness and sensitivity to potential problems before they get out of hand.  Supplemental feeding, while pleasurable and sometimes helpful activity, often leads to over-population and dependency.  Feeders should be aware of these possible negative effects, and strategies should be developed to prevent adverse situations from occurring.  Where waterfowl problems readily occur, exclusion and repelling practices can be applied.

TIP* if you want to discourage Canada Geese, respond quickly, stay persistent and try to use more than one method at a time.

Exclusion: Plastic netting or light wire fencing, such as chicken wire, in small areas, can exclude waterfowl.  The birds may also depart from an area if trees or tall shrubs are planted along their line of flight between a pond and adjacent property.  Provide more bushes and hedges to reduce the goose’s ability to detect predators.  Hedges will also discourage geese from walking between ponds and feeding areas.  Plant unpalatable ground covers, such as, Pachysandra, English ivy, myrtle, and Hosta.  Plant tall fescue grass instead of tender Kentucky bluegrass.  Place large stones, tall grass, or short fence around the edge of a pond to keep the geese from stepping up.

Frightening:  A variety of techniques can be used to scare waterfowl away from areas where they are causing damage, and the greatest effectiveness is usually achieved when a combination of these are used. 

Scarecrows and other foreign or novel objects work well and are most effective if designed to move or are relocated frequently.  Like most animals, waterfowl quickly adapt to consistent stimuli.  A number of automatic noise making or exploding devices are on the market, which produce loud noises to startle birds.

One of the most effective frightening techniques for waterfowl is a black plastic bag system.  A 2x3 foot plastic flag (from a black plastic garbage bag) featuring a V-shaped slot is stapled to a 4-foot wood lathe.  Several of these are distributed in the field or other area where problems are occurring.  When distributed at a density of 1-5 per acre, these flags are reported to successfully repel waterfowl.  With all waterfowl nuisance situations, it is important to begin early before birds establish feeding and activity patterns.

Nesting:  Breeding season begins in March when a pair seeks out a spot for the goose to lay her eggs.  The female builds the nest and adds down from her body when the eggs are laid.  Typically 5-6 eggs are laid and incubation lasts from 24-30 days, with the goose incubating alone and the gander standing guard.  At times geese may select a nest site that is in an undesirable location such as a walkway or building entrance.  Recognizing that they are preparing to build a nest and preventing them from doing so is essential.  Nests and eggs are protected and written permission from the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife is required before any interference with eggs can begin.

Hazing Method:  A permit is not required to scare, repel, or herd geese, as long as the birds are not killed or harmed.  Hazing geese can involve vigorously chasing geese with a broom or water hose.  Repeated hazing can cause geese to relocate, but you must begin again if geese return.  Hazing is most effective when geese first arrive at a location.

Coexisting with Geese:  Due to the rapid loss of habitat by development, many geese have found themselves forced to cohabit with humans.  We humans need to learn to coexist with this native species.  The problem of dealing with geese will not be solved by extermination; this would just disturb the ecosystem of the area.  Education and coexistence are the solution.

Coyotes

HUMANE SOLUTIONS TO COYOTE PROBLEMS

Natural History:

Size:  Coyotes vary in size depending on location, but generally are 4 to 4.5 feet long, including tail and stand 18 to 25 inches tall at the shoulder.

Weight:  20 to 50 pounds; males are typically heavier than females.

Color:  Gray, brown, or tan above, whitish underneath.

Habitat:  Coyotes live in deserts, lush waterway areas, rolling grasslands, high forests, cities, suburbs, rural towns, and agricultural lands.

Home Range:  Territories vary from 300 acres to 100 square miles, depending on food supply and coyote population density.  A normal home range is 25 to 30 miles in diameter.

Breeding:  The female bares one litter of 3-9 puppies a year, usually in April or May when food is abundant.

Life Span:  8 to 10 years in the wild.

Other Characteristics:  Coyotes are omnivorous and eat whatever is handy, including meat, garbage, insects, rodents, rabbits, birds, deer, pronghorn, and carrion.  In late summer and early fall, fruits and berries can make up a large portion of their diet.  Coyotes are important in controlling rodents; 80 percent of their diet consists of rabbits, squirrels, gophers, mice and rats.  Normally solitary hunters, they sometimes hunt in pairs and rarely in packs to bring down large prey.

Legal Status: 

All wildlife, including coyotes, is protected by local, state, and federal regulations.  It is unlawful to keep indigenous animals as pets.

Public Health Issues:

Coyotes are susceptible to a number of diseases that can affect humans and their companion animals, including rabies, canine distemper, and canine parvovirus.

Positive Benefits:

Coyotes help keep the balance of nature in order, and are great at rodent control.  An area with coyotes will not be overrun with mice, gophers, squirrels, or rabbits.  A lot of cattle ranchers in the west welcome coyotes on their lands as a way of controlling the burrowing rodents whose holes have injured cows and horses.  Coyotes love insects and many farms have been saved from massive large insect invasions (i.e. grasshoppers) by allowing the coyotes to roam the fields. 

Problems and Solutions:

Coyotes eating garbage, approaching house, or attacking pets:

Why it happens:  In urban areas, coyotes are less likely to fear humans and more likely to associate them with an easy, dependable food source.  Some have been known to come up to doors of homes if food is regularly present.

Suggestions:

1.       Do not feed the coyotes (This is illegal).  Observe food sources that are attracting them and take steps to eliminate these.

·         Never leave pet food outside.

·         Keep cats and small dogs indoors, supervise them when they are outside.  In addition to coyotes, small pets often fall prey to free roaming and feral dogs and Great Horned Owls.

·         Keep garbage in a sturdy container with a tight fitting lid.

·         Keep compost in an enclosed bin instead of exposed piles.

·         Pick your fruit as soon as it ripens and clean up fallen fruit.

·         Clean up around bird feeders.

·         If possible, eliminate outdoor sources of water.

2.       Chickens, rabbits, and other small animals often kept outdoors should be kept in well protected areas and in sturdy cages at night.  Cages made of chicken wire are meant only for keeping small animals contained.  They will not keep desperate coyotes or other predators from entering.  Stronger gauge wiring is necessary in protecting these small animals.

3.       Coyotes are attracted to, and can mate with un-spayed or un-neutered domestic dogs.  Un-spayed female dogs in season will attract male coyotes and un-neutered male dogs can be lured away by female coyotes in season.  There have also been cases of male dogs being lured by the female coyote and killed by the male coyotes.

4.       Use fencing to help deter coyotes.  The fence should be at least 6 feet tall.  It also helps to have the bottom extending at least 6 inches below the ground.

5.       Trim and clear near ground level shrubbery that provides cover for coyotes or prey.

Trapping and Relocating

Larimer Humane Society does not trap and relocate nuisance wildlife.

Relocating individual coyotes away from their home range without altering the habitat is merely a short term solution.  Relocating animals will cause more long term problems for the home owner by actually increasing the local population.  By removing existing coyotes, you invite others to come in and compete for the new resources created by the available territory, resulting in more coyotes than you had before.  Due to increased resources, litter size can also increase in those areas.

Coexisting with Coyotes:

Due to the rapid loss of habitat by development, many coyotes have found themselves forced to cohabit with humans.  We humans need to learn to coexist with this native species.  The problem of dealing with the urban coyote will not be solved by extermination; this would just disturb the ecosystem of the area.  Education and coexistence are the solution.

Cottontails

HUMANE SOLUTIONS TO COTTONTAIL PROBLEMS:

 Natural History

Cottontails are 12 to 15 inches in length and weigh 2-4 pounds

Color: Grey-Brown, white tail; juveniles have a white spot on forehead

Habitat: Bushy hedgerows, edges of wooded areas, areas with dense cover and available grass.

Home Range: 2-3 acres

Reproductions: 3 to 4 litters of 4-5 young per year

Life Span: up to 2 years in the wild

Other Characteristics: Cottontails are social and may live in groups, they do not dig their own borrows but will use existing burrows from animals such as Prairie dogs.

Public Health Issues

Some rabbits have been known to be infected with Tularemia, which may be transmitted to people if they eat undercooked, infected meat, handle a sick animal, or allow an open cut to contact the infected meat of a butchered rabbit. They may also serve as a host for the ticks that transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Legal Status

All Wildlife including cottontails are protected by Local, State, and Federal regulations.

It is also unlawful to keep indigenous animals as pets.

Positive benefits

Cottontail droppings serve as fertilizer and the rabbits are potentially food for endangered species of carnivorous birds, mammals and snakes. Cottontails are valued by humans for their beauty and grace.

Enemies

Cottontails have many natural enemies including hawks, owls, fox, coyotes, and snakes. Humans are also often considered enemies of cottontails; cottontails that live in areas of vehicular traffic are often killed on the road.

Problems and solutions:

Damage to Gardens

The most effective, permanent protection from gardens subject to cottontail damage is a well constructed fence. Chicken Wire supported by posts every 6-8 feet is strong enough to exclude rabbits. Such fences need to be only 2 feet high. Make sure the bottom of the fence is either buried 6-8 inches deep or staked tightly to the ground to prevent rabbits from pushing underneath.

Existing Deer Fences can be rabbit proofed by adding fine wire to the bottom 2-3 feet. Tight fitting gates with sills will keep rabbits from digging below the bottom of the gates.

 

If the presence of rabbits in a garden is only sporadic, new planting can be protected by 1 gallon plastic milk containers that have the bottom cut out and are placed over the seedling to protect it.

Repellants

If fencing is impractical, small plots and individual plants may be protected with the use of chemical or homemade repellants that rabbits find distasteful. Commercial repellants are available at most garden centers

Homemade repellant:

                - 1 bottle (small) hot pepper sauce or 1 can (small) cayenne pepper

                - 1 gallon Water

                - 1 teaspoon mild liquid detergent (i.e. dishwashing soap)

Mix ingredients well and apply liberally to any area which is being chewed by wildlife. All Repellants must be applied repeatedly as the plants grow or rain washes off the repellant.

Tree Protection

Barriers such as commercial tree wrap may be effective in preventing bark damage by rabbits. Cylinders of hardware cloth or poultry wire can also be used. These barriers are placed around the trunks to a height equal to the expected snow depth plus 18 inches. Young trees and saplings are more vulnerable than old trees. The barriers should fit loosely to allow for growth., Tree pruning's can be left as a decoy food source during the winter, Rabbits much prefer twigs and buds to tree bark.  Tree wraps are available in a variety of materials and can protect trunks from damage by wildlife.  Plastic wrap is easy to install but does not hold up as well as metal mesh.  Tree tubes are made of rigid solid plastic and provide a level of protection that falls between plastic wrap and metal mesh.

Scare devices

Under some circumstances scare tape or balloons might frighten rabbits away from an area. The pinwheel sold to repel moles might provide a visual deterrent to rabbits as well.

Habitat modification

It is also a very good idea to change a habitat populated by rabbits to make it less suitable for rabbits. This is your only permanent way to reduce their numbers or eliminate a local population.

Rabbits avoid areas with little cover

·         Mowing lawns, gardens, and orchards will help reduce damage.

·         Remove piles of brush, wood or stones accessible to rabbits

·         Seal off decks

·         Attracting natural predators such as hawks, owls, fox, and coyotes may also help control rabbit populations.

Trapping and Relocating:

Larimer Humane Society does not trap and relocate nuisance wildlife.

Relocating individual cottontails away from their home range, without altering the habitat is merely a short term solution. Relocating animals will cause more long term problems for the homeowner by actually increasing the local population. By removing individuals you invite others to come in and compete for the newly available resources and territory. This can result in more cottontails than you had before in a relatively short period of time. Due to increased resources, litter size tends to increase as well.

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