The summer of 2012 will go down in the history books as one of the hottest summers on record. July has been the hottest month in recorded history. Drought conditions in 32 states have left over half of the nation’s counties dry with sunbaked ground cracking in the heat. There’s no two ways about it, most of us will be happy to kiss summer goodbye and welcome the cooler temperatures of fall. A long lasting drought affects not only crops in the fields, but also plants and grasses wildlife depend on for their survival, which in turn affects predators. And when food is in short supply for wildlife, that can create an increase in wildlife encounters for us and our pets.
More prey coming into yards
As water levels in ponds and streams fall, wildlife start moving into yards looking for water and food. This creates a greater chance of pets and other animals, like, raccoons, opossums, skunks, snakes, and deer running into each other. Animals that normally more active during the night are out in the daylight searching for food and water in your backyard. Droughts, especially long lasting and widespread ones dry up water sources and devastate their natural food supply. Animals react to a heat just like we do and can get grumpy during prolonged heat and dry spells.
People have a misconception when they see deer in their yard. Deer can be dangerous and have been known to attack and and seriously injure and kill humans. They are usually more aggressive during rutting season, but lack of food and water can also make an animal more unpredictable. Rabbits, deer, and other small animals are drawn to well irrigated gardens and can quickly tear up your well planned and cared for vegetable or flower garden. Deer carry deer ticks and that leaves you and your pets at greater risk of having one of these tiny ticks attaching itself to you or your pet. With more wildlife entering your yard, there’s also a good chance predators aren’t too far behind. Coyotes, birds of prey, bear, and mountain lions follow prey where ever they go and this can put your pets, children, and yourself at risk for an uncomfortable or dangerous encounter with predators.They will also come into yards looking for water.
Increased sightings of coyotes
Coyotes are opportunistic hunters and have no problem searching for an easy meal. As more prey make their way into yards and gardens in search of food, shelter, and water, the cunning coyote isn’t far behind. During periods of drought, it’s wise to be prepared when out walking your dog around your neighborhood or on a trail. Coyotes will attack a dog, especially one that’s smaller or of equal size to him. Keep your dog on leash when walking and don’t let him run ahead of you on a trail or in a wooded area. If you see a coyote in your yard, the best thing to do is scare him away. If you go back inside and wait for him to leave on his own, he feels comfortable and safe. Make noise, yell at him, throw rocks or sticks and make yourself look bigger by holding an empty trash can, towel, jacket, or anything you can find over your head. If you challenge him, he is more likely to find another area. Coyotes scare easily and a stout walking stick is a good weapon to use to protect you and your dog. If you encounter a coyote while walking, pick up a small dog and keep larger dogs behind you, if possible. Coyotes will hunt in packs as well as by themselves and you may find more of them on trails.
How to reduce the chance of encounters with wildlife
If you feed your pets outside, keep pet food picked up between feedings. Move bird baths and feeders far away from your home. Until the drought breaks, it would be best to make sure your outside cat is inside at night and supervise dogs when they are outside, especially small dogs. Keep trash cans covered tightly or store them inside a garage, in another outside building or inside the house. Coyotes will eat almost anything, including fruit. Put a sturdy 8 foot fence around your garden and make sure animals can’t dig under it. Keep woodpiles and compost piles away from your home and keep brush cleaned up around your property to discourage animals looking for shelter. You can’t keep all wildlife out of your yard, but you can try to eliminate areas they could move into for shelter.
Feeding deer or other wildlife
Deer can be harmed by what we feed them and their digestive tract isn’t made to process most types of hay and other foods. It’s illegal to feed deer in some states, but not in all of them. If you want to help out during dry times or in the winter, check with your local DNR office first to make sure it’s legal to feed them and then research proper food to feed. It’s best to find a location in the country and away from roadways, and it will keep them away from your yard and your neighbor’s yard. Deer can do a lot of damage to yards. Contact your local DNR office if you see wildlife that looks like they need help and if you want to leave water outside for wildlife, make sure it’s away from your home, garden, and where pets and children spend their time when out in the yard.
Check here for updated regulations and rules on current state laws on feeding deer in your state. The information was last updated on January 1, 2012 and to be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to check with your DNR office to make sure the rules are still the same before you start a feeding program. If you do start to feed wildlife, you need to make a commitment and continue feeding until their food supply is replenished, whether it’s during a drought or during the winter.
Coyote Attacks: Protect Your Pets and Yourself
Mountain Lion Attacks: How to Protect Your Pets and Yourself
How to Protect Small Pets From Birds of Prey