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  • Cindy Pellegrini

Please Don't Feed Wildlife!

On Tuesday, 24 October, Fairfield residents were treated to what I hope will be an annual wildlife presentation by Chris Kent, Wildlife Biologist for District 2 of the NC Wildlife Resources department. Chris’ focus was on human conflict with wildlife, wildlife habitat, and wildlife management specifically as it pertained to alligators and coyotes, but also deer, geese, and bears. The cardinal rule for humans, he stressed repeatedly, is simple: Don’t feed wildlife!!

When we feed any wildlife, Chris emphasized, we create problems for them and us. Wildlife fed by humans lose their natural fear of us, increasing the likelihood of dangerous encounters between humans and wildlife such as coyotes, bears, and alligators. Human food disrupts their natural diet, causing developmental problems and lowering their resistance to disease. Below, a photo of a Canada goose with angel wing, a deformity particular to waterfowl caused by a diet high in protein and carbohydrates such as bread, corn, and popcorn. These foods raise the bird’s sugar and protein levels, and decrease levels of manganese and vitamins D and E.This goose can’t fly and now is easy prey for any predator.

Angel wing mainly occurs in waterfowl and it's much more common in geese than in ducks.

Unless kept scrupulously clean, bird feeders can spread disease from an infected bird to others. Uneaten seeds left on the feeder platform or on the ground below can spread salmonella. From April through mid-November, when natural food is plentiful, Chris urged, bird feeders should be kept indoors to avoid attracting bears. Taking feeders down at night does no good if the droppings remain.

Only mammals can contract rabies, Chris told us. A rabid animal staggers, reels, and gulps at the air. Raccoons moving naturally in the spring are not rabid but searching for food for their newborns. If an animal’s behavior is problematic, or there is any other problem with animals, contact him. (See below)

Even with precautions, humans and wildlife are bound to conflict. The recent housing boom here has reduced their natural habitat, and animals and humans are seeing more of each other. Chris suggested several steps to reduce undesirable wildlife encounters. Planting “deer-resistant” plants, netting susceptible plants, using motion-detection lights and deer repellant sprays all help to discourage deer from nibbling the landscaping. Keeping trash can lids tightly secured, pet food inside the house, and closely supervising small pets after dark will discourage coyotes and other predators. He also stressed the importance of signage by detention ponds to warn of alligators and nesting geese.

Chris suggested other deterrents, as well. Grating culverts will prevent alligators from traveling from pond to pond. Purple martin boxes and bluebird boxes will encourage these mosquito-eaters and help control the mosquito population.

Fairfield Harbour’s own Wildlife Committee members are licensed by NC Wildlife Resources to addle goose eggs in the spring, and issue licensed bowhunters permits to cull the deer. Both practices benefit wildlife by controlling populations in the place of now-absent natural predators. Our Wildlife Committee also erects signage for alligators and nesting geese.

We love our beautiful wildlife. Let’s all keep them safe and healthy!

Problem with wild animals? Contact Chris Kent at 252-617-0019

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