Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

How are you going to spend these waning days of fine fall weather? © Mary Kultgen

How are you going to spend these waning days of fine fall weather?
© Mary Kultgen

October 2009

Creature Comforts

Changing seasons

Natasha Kassulke

The days may still be nice, but no doubt the nights are getting cool. So, how are you going to spend these waning days of fine fall weather? Creature Comforts has suggestions to get you, your pets and your backyard in shape for winter.

Happy trails

Having a well trained and behaved dog will help make the time you spend together hunting or heeling more enjoyable and safer for both you and your dog. To get in shape, allow your dog to sniff out a good time while visiting a state property. Pets are permitted in most state park campgrounds, trails and roads plus some other public lands allow pets as long as they follow the rules: keep your pet on a leash, under control and clean up after it. Make sure your pet has a current rabies vaccination and an identification tag.

Dog-friendly picnic areas are found at Flambeau River State Forest (Connors Lake), Governor Dodge State Park, High Cliff State Park, Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest (at Muskie Lake day-use area) and Pattison State Park.

Some areas, such as the Richard Bong State Recreation Area, offer opportunities for training animals for bird hunting. The Kettle Moraine State Forest Northern Unit has designated pet picnic areas with tables and grills at Mauthe Lake and Long Lake, plus a wet dog training area where dogs can be trained in water skills and a dry dog training area where dogs can be trained in upland bird skills.

Some of the best duck hunters wear fur, after all. But you have to be committed to putting in the training time and have patience. You also must abide by Wisconsin dog training and trialing regulations. Teaching a dog to trail scent and quarter to the gun are some good early steps in training a hunting dog. Dogs will need a dog training or trial license (cost $25). Find the form at Dog Training, Dog Club Training and Dog Trial Application and License.

Donít forget to take your dog with you as you scout out a hunting spot. The exercise may do both of you good and it never hurts to have a second opinion.

Visit Enjoying Wisconsin State Parks with Your Pet for more information.

Backyard basics

Just as you winterize your home for the winter, itís time to get the yard ready before the flakes fly.

That means covering plants with raked leaves and straw, planting bulbs, cleaning out the garden and removing annuals. Birds and small mammals who share your backyard will appreciate it, too, if you conduct a few winterizing acts with them in mind.

Place bird feeders where they will be protected from the wind and fill them with high-calorie foods like sunflower seed and suet. Remember to keep feeders clean to protect birds from diseases caused by moldy seed or seed contaminated by bird droppings. You can decorate trees in your yard with garland made of popped popcorn, peanuts with the shell, cranberries, grapes and apples.

Water also is important for winter bird survival. Since most of us don't have a creek running through our yards, consider providing water in a heated dog dish or bird bath. In any case, itís important to have water that's not frozen and not served in a metal bowl.

And fall is a great time to create a brush pile shelter. By collecting yard debris like branches, twigs and leaves, you can create cover for birds and small mammals, like rabbits, and at the same time offer a hibernation place for turtles, salamanders and insects.

Autumn advice

Cats like to nap on warm places, including car engines. Knock on the hood of your car or truck or tap the horn, then wait a few minutes before starting the engine. If in doubt, open the hood and look.

Antifreeze smells good and tastes very sweet (so weíve been told), but even very small amounts can kill your pet. If a cat or dog walks through it and then licks its paws, the damage is done. Thoroughly clean up any spills, store antifreeze in tightly closed containers and store where pets and children canít get to them. Do not dispose of antifreeze by pouring into the gutter and never let your pet drink from the gutters.

Hazards of fall yard work include mulch made from cocoa hulls, which, like chocolate, can cause stomach upset when ingested and can be toxic to pets if ingested in large enough quantities. Always read and follow label instructions exactly and keep pets away from freshly fertilized lawns and gardens.

Natasha Kassulke is Creative Products Manager for Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.