Empty Nesters

When asked to give a list of greatest fears, most people start off with the standard list: Heights, Spiders, snakes, Dying, and all that stuff. Rarely do they think of fire ants. For those of you who are lucky enough to be unaware of the existence of those little buggers, allow me to enlighten you. Fire ants are almost the exact same as other ants, except worse. Instead of being black and looking friendly because all they want to do is find food to take back to their families, these minions of Satan are red and just want to invoke pain upon the innocent.
You see, although they seem too small to inflict any pain, when irritated fire ants sting and can cause extreme pain and irritation. When infected, the sting of a fire ant can become infected and will form pustule’s and will cause scarring. They are called fire ants not only for their flame like color, but also because of the feeling their sting can leave with you.
Now that you have a solid background on fire ants, allow me to share with you the scene that seemed to come straight out of a horror movie. My aunt Sharon, who recently passed bless her sole, had a frightful encounter of her own with fire ants. A few years ago Sharon began to get awful rashes all over her body, her doctor was unsure of what was causing the mysterious rashes began to treat her for allergies. After several weeks of the allergy medications had no affect, she decided to get her bed inspected by a pest control specialist for bed bugs. Good news: there was no sign of bed bugs. Bad news: Her bed had become a nest of fire ants. They had migrated from a main colony in the attic and were using her bed as a stopping point for food. Sharon immediately threw away her mattress and was sure to get her fire ant infestation taken care of as soon as possible.

Stink, Stank, Skunk

There are many stories in this world about people getting sprayed by skunks, most of the time it’s because they accidentally frightened a skunk or they just tried to shoo it away and got a face full of spray. Unfortunately for me, the reason I was sprayed with a skunk was due to my own stupidity.
As an avid photographer, I leap at every chance I get to build my portfolio. Of course, this means that on occasion I am often put in precarious situations in order to get the best shot possible. Often times I have to get fairly up close and personal with the subject of my photos, and as you can imagine that can be a little hazardous when it comes to wild animals.
One morning while I was eating my disgustingly healthy oatmeal, I was looking out my glass back doors when a small movement in the corner of my eye caught my attention. Now not to brag, but I have a beautifully lush garden that is always perfect for taking pictures. So when a wild animal wanders into my small slice of garden of Eden, I always take advantage and snap a few pictures. I grabbed my camera and flung open my back door, eager to get a few shots in before the thing moved along. As I crept up, I saw the iconic black tail with a white stripe down the center. It was a skunk! I was beyond ecstatic, not very many photographers were brave enough to try and capture photographs of skunks, but they were beautiful animals and I couldn’t wait to snag a pic.
I slowly edged my way forward so as not to scare the skunk away. I brought my camera to my face and began to snap away, still edging ever so slowly towards the skunk. Unfortunately, now that my focus was on the camera and not on the ground, I made the fatal mistake of stepping on a stick. *SNAP* The skunk whirled its butt towards me, and before I knew it, Pepe la Pew’s cousin had doused me with foul smelling liquid. I stank for weeks after the encounter, lucky for me, I got the shot.

Snoozing Snakes

As an avid gardener, I’ve become accustomed to seeing the occasional wildlife in my garden. I’d come face to face with little rabbits who just want to munch on my radishes, or raccoons who like to make homes among my hydrangeas. I always like to do the best that I can when it comes to protecting my gardens. I had wire fencing installed around my vegetable garden to keep animals from using it as a salad bar, and I planted marigolds around the perimeters of my planting boxes because I’d heard that animals didn’t like the smell of them. And when the situation called for it, I would occasionally call for back up from a wildlife control worker, trapper, or pest control specialist. On one particular day, I was elbow deep in my dahlia’s, pruning and such, when I heard a faint hissing sound. I let out an exasperated sigh if I had broken another hose that meant that my flowers had been getting overwatered. I shoved my arm into the back of my dahlias and began to feel around for the broken hose. My hand brushed against something vaguely rubbery and cylindrical. I grasped onto it and gave it a yank, YOUCH!! I immediately recoiled and fell back onto my bum and ripped off my gloves. On the back of my hand were two bleeding pinpricks. I ripped off my other glove and pulled back the foliage and shoved my face right in, determined to find what had stabbed the back of my hand. Almost instantly, I took off running in the opposite direction. I had just shoved my face into a nest of sleeping (and now agitated) garden snakes. I ran all the way into my house where I grabbed my phone and immediately called the first wildlife company I could think of and demanded they drive down to my house immediately. Sure, I can handle the occasional cuddly little bunny rabbit. But a nest full of garden snakes? You’re out of your mind!

The Coon and the Birdbath

I don’t want to say that I’m a trespasser because I’m not, but on the rare occasion, I’ll find an old building or a mysterious house and of course, my curiosity gets the best of me and I have to go investigate. As the saying goes, “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back.” Not very many people know about the second part of that phrase, but it’s one of the phrases that directs my life. So my story starts on a hazy August afternoon, I was riding my bike down a new dirt path, when I came upon an old Victorian era style house that had fallen into disrepair. It was obvious that no one had lived there for a very long time. There were broken windows, the yard was more of a jungle, and the fence was falling apart faster than a Nature Valley granola bar. I rode up the driveway, determined to see every inch of this place I could. Starting in the front I walked up the large porch and let out a small screech as a small family of mice darted across my feet on my way to the front door. I decided instead to start in the backyard. I walked around the side of the house, admiring the tall gables, and long thin windows. When I came around the back side of the house, the first thing I noticed was an overturned birdbath. The pedestal was lying on its side, and the basin of the bird bath was overturned about half a foot away from where the stand was. I went and turned the gleaming white marble pedestal to its original position, but when I tried to lift the basin, I found it to be too heavy. I searched for a moment for something to use as a lever to turn it over. I found a large tree branch and wedged it under an edge of the basin and gave it a forceful push upwards. It seemed to have worked, but my excitement was short-lived because a large beast of gray and black fur leapt right at my throat! I screamed and ran from the raccoon that had been freed from its marble prison. I didn’t stop running until I made it to my bike, and even then I didn’t stop. Possibly haunted houses? Sure. Angry raccoons that had been trapped underneath a birdbath? NO WAY!

Urban Outsiders

On more than one occasion, I’m sure you’ve heard the term urban, so what does it mean? The definition of urban says “relating to, or characteristic of a city or town” So now I want to present an idea to you, the readers. One that you may be unfamiliar with. Urban Wildlife. Maybe you’ve heard this term before, maybe you haven’t. But I’m here to talk a little about what urban wildlife is, and how it affects you. Urban wildlife can be found anywhere that supports human life. Just in case you aren’t sure what some good examples are, raccoons, rats, pigeons, mice, and squirrels could all be considered urban wildlife. Think about how often you’ve seen raccoons digging through the dumpster in a back alley, or a squirrel snitching some food off of the ground in front of a trendy food truck. Many people wouldn’t consider this wildlife, in fact, to many people they are simply vermin. You even see animals like deer attempting to cross a busy road, so now I’ve got you thinking, what has this got to do with me? Well, pal, I’ve got news for you, you play a major part in this whole urban wildlife mess.
An increase in the number of wildlife encounters you have could come from a number of factors. A few of those reasons could be habitat loss, noise or light pollution, pollution, or invasive species. This could mean you run into more less than friendly faces while you’re out and about during the day. Fortunately, there are ways you can help minimize the damage this might cause. You can start by locking all of your outdoor garbage cans. This might not seem like a large thing, but having a source for food could draw more unwanted pests. You should also regularly dispose of fallen fruit, use spill-proof birdfeeders, and keep your pets indoors at night. This will do a lot to protect your property. Remember, most of these animals have adapted to be able to handle human encounters, so don’t be afraid to call for extra back up from trained professionals if things get out of hand.

The One With the Woodpecker

It was a typical Tuesday afternoon, I had returned to my dorm room after a long day of classes and labs. Okay, I had two classes and one lab, but for a college student, that’s a lot. Anyways, that is most definitely not what this story is about. I had returned home, and all I was looking forward to was taking a nice three-hour nap before I had to go to work. I had it timed out perfectly so that by the time I got home and actually fell asleep I would be able to sleep for three hours and have 45 minutes to get ready for work and get there with ten minutes to spare. As a med student, this hardly ever happened. Unfortunately, my dreams were about to be crushed. I walked into my dorm to see my roommate quietly studying in the other room, headphones in. Peace and quiet, just what I needed. I had just put my bag down and fell onto my bed when all the sudden: RATTATATATATATAT!!! I shot up in my bed, what on earth was that sound?! I walked over and peeked into my roommate’s bedroom, but he was still diligently studying. Deciding it was probably just someone passing by, I went back to my bed to resume my nap. I couldn’t have been asleep for more than a few minutes when again I heard: RATATATATATA. I jumped up out of my bed and marched out into the hallway to see if some passing frat boy was just being dumb, but no one was there. I resumed my spot on the bed, this time staying diligent, with the intent of catching whoever was making the sound. I was only silent for a few moments and again came the sound RATATATATAT. It was coming from outside my window! I ran to the window and threw it open and when I looked down, I identified my attacker. It was a red and black spotted woodpecker. The bird looked up at me, I was sure it felt guilty about drilling into the stucco of my dorm building. Because I knew just how destructive woodpeckers could be, I immediately called our building attendant to take care of the mess. Unfortunately, I never got my nap.

The History of Rattus Norvegicus

People always assume that the sight of a rat means filth. They couldn’t be more wrong. Some of the most common things that people have problems with when it comes to rats are as follows: They don’t like the look of the tail, they carry diseases, they are aggressive and mean, or they are dirty animals. Although rats can be harmful in certain situations, they are often friendly, shy creatures who are just trying to fit in.

For people who find themselves repulsed by a rats tail, they are there for more than just looks. A rats tail is actually an evolutionary trait that assists in balance. It also works as a personal cooling system, allowing heat out, or constricting to preserve body heat when it gets cold.

Another common misconception is that rats carry deadly diseases. Of course, everyone always mentions the bubonic plague when speaking ill of rats. When in reality, the rats weren’t the cause of the bubonic plague. It was actually a breed of fleas who began the outbreak, they rode on the fur of the rats, and due to the unhygienic times, the disease spread rapidly. Luckily, because we have come so far as a society, we have become a lot more hygienic. Therefore, our chances of contracting that kind of disease are not as likely.

So when people find themselves saying that rats are disgusting, filthy creatures. It’s not that they’re awful people who don’t know what they’re talking about, they’re just uneducated. Of course, rats are still wild animals and deserve respect. So remember that even though they most likely will leave you alone, they still have a fight or flight reaction much like ours. It’s up to us to be smart about how we react with wild animals to make the world a better place for all of us.

The importance of protecting the protected

Although it may seem like many wild animals are nuisances that we are itching to get rid of, it is very important to remember why they are here in the first place. Many people overlook the importance of keeping balance in our ecosystems. Although it may not seem like it, as people we are a huge part of the ecosystems where we live. Everything from disposing of our trash, to how we decide to landscape our yard has an effect on the environment and how well it functions. Here are some examples on how you can help to support a healthy ecosystem in your area.
Learning how to properly dispose of waste is one of the biggest impacts you can have on your local ecosystem. One of the biggest mistakes people make when disposing of trash is overfilling their garbage receptacles. Not only does this attract animals that carry harmful diseases such as raccoons, feral cats, and skunks, but it also increases the risk of airborne illnesses. There is nothing that ruins the curb appeal of a beautiful house like an overflowing trash can swarming with flies. Frequently washing out your outside garbage can is also a great way to help prevent these things.
Another great way to help keep the environment of your hard healthy is to grow and maintain a garden. Growing vegetables and fruits allow the soil to become and maintain a healthy PH level. It can also attract good wildlife such as bees, humming birds, and necessary decomposers such as worms. Installing a small fence around the perimeter of your garden can keep out unwanted visitors. This is a great way to help boost the ecosystem and give your lifestyle a healthy boost. Any produce that is not used can be used as compost to further the health of your soil.
Many misconceptions say that being eco-friendly say that it costs lots of money and that the only way you can help is to purchase a hybrid car, and buying organic food. While these things are great options, they aren’t the only ways you can better the area you live in. Watching out for the little things such as picking up trash, keeping beehives, or even planting more flowers. Allowing our spaces to become safe spaces for other creatures will benefit our environment in multiple ways.

Backyard Bluster

There’s nothing quite like making a fool out of yourself in front of your neighbors. Sure, they live right next to you, you probably see them quite often. So realistically, they’ve more than likely seen you humiliate yourself on more than one occasion. But I can assure you, there is nothing quite as embarrassing as finding out your neighbor saw you battling it out with your mortal enemy in your back yard. In your boxers. With a face mask.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. How on earth did I find myself in such a compromising situation? Well allow me to tell you. It was a Tuesday morning in mid-August. Normally on any other Tuesday, I would be at work. But I had taken the day off for a sort of “Self-Care” day. I had gone to bed early the night before, slept in a little, and made myself a hearty breakfast of strawberry crepes and bacon. After breakfast, I decided to treat my skin as well. So I found a DIY recipe online for an avocado face mask, meant to brighten and enhance the skin. I was relaxing on my day bed in my living room, when all the sudden I heard a crash outside!
I sprinted to the back door, armed with a metal broom. I peeked through the back door cautiously watching for the invader. THERE! I spotted him! A fat raccoon was digging around inside my trash cans looking for a treat. I threw open the door and ran outside baring my broom. I expected the raccoon to run off when he saw me! Much to my surprise, the animal attacked me! I began swinging the broom around, trying my best to keep the animal at bay. He was so fast I almost couldn’t see him. I thought I had lost the battle, when a well-aimed swing sent him flying across the back yard. He quickly scurried away after that. I smiled to myself smugly, proud of my survival skills. I turned to walk into my house and saw for the first time, the neighbors sitting on their deck. They had seen the whole ordeal. Not a single one was able to contain their laughter.

Wormy Wonderland

There are very few things I can think of that are worse than finding a dead animal in your yard. Animals are riddled with diseases and they can stink up an area in no time! When animals die, it is extremely important to get them taken care of as soon as possible! Failure to take care of a dead animal can lead to disastrous consequences! The scent of a dead animal can lead to other dangerous predators making their way into your yard. The last thing any of us want is to have dangerous animals hanging around our homes.
Dead animals can be carriers for a great plethora of diseases. Diseases such as rabies, bubonic plague, and West Nile encephalitis have all been found on dead animals of all breeds. Even though we may have treatments for diseases like these, would you ever want to take the chance? Now that we’ve gone over a few of the dangers that dead animals can pose when they’ve been found on your property, let’s talk about the best way to take care of them.
There are several courses of action that could be taken to remove dead animals. The first would be to call the state health and safety department, this will ensure that they dispose of the carcass in a safe manner. Another way (depending on the size of the animal) would be trash disposal. For many, this is the preferred method. Using a shovel and gloves, carefully place the dead animal in a garbage bag. It is often easier if you “double-wrap” the dead animal. You can then place the animal in the garbage cans or dumpsters in your neighborhood. The final option, and probably best way, is to call a local exterminator or trapper. They will take care of the mess for you and ensure that the animal is disposed of properly. They may also offer cleaning and sanitizing services depending on the situation.
Please remember that if you are going to take care of the body on your own, WEAR GLOVES! It is extremely important that you wash your hands, wear gloves, and avoid touching the animal at all costs. Even though the animal is dead, the bacteria and viruses that the animal carried can still be a threat to you and your health. Make sure that the tools you use to dispose of the animal are properly cleaned after the removal takes place. Take care to clean the clothes you were wearing when disposing of the animal, just as a precaution.