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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.