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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Mice and squirrels can cause problems if they take up residence in your spaces. © Tony Geiger
Mice and squirrels can cause problems if they take up residence in your spaces.

© Tony Geiger

August 2008

Creature comforts

When wildlife moves in

Natasha Kassulke

Whose home is this, anyway?
Bird feeder refreshers
Tick check

Whose home is this, anyway?

As fall arrives, wildlife will be seeking out warm places to spend the winter. But will you agree with their choices? What if a mouse makes a nest in that wet vac in your garage? What if a squirrel gets a little too cozy with the comforter in the attic? Mice and squirrels can cause problems if they take up residence in your roof spaces. They can tear away insulation and chew through wires causing a risk of fire.

Several sources can help when you encounter nuisance wildlife. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services and Wisconsin DNR provide some nuisance wildlife assistance.

If you have a problem with nuisance bears, wolves and birds, please contact the USDA's Wildlife Services. The two district offices in Wisconsin are located in Waupun and Rhinelander.

USDA-WS, Waupun District
1201 Storbeck Dr.
Waupun, WI 53963
(800) 433-0663
(920) 324-4514
USDA-WS, Rhinelander District
PO Box 1064
Rhinelander, WI 54501
(800) 228-1368
(715) 369-5221

If you aren't certain which office to call, try the toll-free number at (866) 4-USDA-WS (866-487-3297) and you will be directed to the right office for your area.

Questions about other species? Contact your local DNR Service Center from the online link at Local DNR staff will provide advice and technical assistance over the phone to help you legally solve your nuisance problems. Many private pest control operators are also listed in your local yellow pages under "Pest Control Services." Some municipalities have animal control officers and UW-Extension also has some county staff available to assist.

don't take wild animals out of the wild. Young animals in captivity become dependent on people and may not survive when reintroduced to the wild. They do not make good pets.

Do not attempt to handle a sick or injured animal. Wild animals can injure people and carry diseases. Children and pets should also be kept away. If the animal appears vicious and presents a concern for safety, contact your police department or local DNR office for advice and assistance.

Bird feeder refreshers

Birds can become sick from moldy seeds and decomposing hulls. Bird droppings may also spread infectious bird diseases. That's why it's important to clean your feeders once every two weeks and more often during heavy use. To clean, wash your feeder in hot, soapy water, then soak or rinse it in a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water. Dry the feeder before refilling.

don't forget to clean the ground below the feeder to prevent a build-up of birdseed hulls and other waste. Bird food scattered on the ground can attract unwanted rodents.

It's also important to make sure your bird feed is stored properly to keep it fresh. Store seeds in secure containers (such as metal cans) to prevent squirrels and mice from getting to it. Keep the containers in a cool, dry place. And discard your bird food if it gets moldy.

Tick check

Swelling, tenderness and joint pain, limping and fever are a few of the signs. Lyme disease, transmitted through the bite of the tick, Ixodes scapularis, can strike dogs and cats, too.

Smaller than the head of a pin, these very tiny ticks, commonly called deer ticks or black-legged ticks, are hard to see. After each outdoor excursion, do a complete tick check of your pet. Check paws, around the collar, behind and in the ears, around the tail and all about the head. Brush your pet after each outing, preferably outside. Check for bumps. If you do feel a bump, tease the fur apart to identify the cause. An embedded tick will vary in size, from a pinhead to a grape.

If you find a tick, wear rubber gloves, then use tweezers to gently grasp the tick as close to your pet's skin as possible and gently pull away from the skin. Try not to crush the tick. If it looks like some of the tick did not come completely out (the tick's mouthpart has a barb that makes removal more difficult), use an alcohol sterilized needle to remove the remaining pieces. After removal, cleanse the area with antiseptic.

There are a few Lyme disease vaccines approved for canines that can decrease your dog's chances of contracting the disease. Many tick products and medications are available over the counter and from your veterinarian. Sprays, collars and dips repel and kill ticks to some degree. Tick collars are considered less effective than some of the preventative pills. Several antibiotics are available to treat Lyme disease and are especially effective if administered in the early stages of the disease.

Natasha Kassulke is creative products manager for Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.