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Reminder: Don’t feed wildlife, enjoy them from afar

Earl the cat sets out on a walk among deer tracks left earlier in the driveway. (Pat Munts)
Earl the cat sets out on a walk among deer tracks left earlier in the driveway. (Pat Munts)

The view from my office window is almost always entertaining.

We have bird feeders nearby that are busy all the time. There is a major deer trail that runs through the field below the house. This time of year they come through in herds staying close to ward off predators. An occasional squirrel can be seen using the rail fence as a freeway over the snowbanks. Quail and turkeys come through regularly. At night, skunks and raccoons leave tracks for us to find. It is nice to know they are comfortable being around us.

However, these are wild animals and must be respected as such. They may seem to want to come to you for a handout, but in actuality they are taking advantage of easy food. They can and will act unpredictably around humans. When they do, people and pets can and do get hurt. I have a co-worker in the Spokane Valley whose dog chased a moose, was kicked and is now blind in one eye.

Wildlife experts recommend watching wildlife from a distance with field glasses and a camera. In the winter a wild animal’s first priority is to conserve its energy. Food is harder to come so, animals aren’t going to move quickly unless they have to. They will tend to hang out close to food and water. Look for those places and find good observation spots a short distance away.

Don’t feed wildlife, particularly deer. Even though food is harder to come by this time of year, they are fully capable of finding what is there. The chemistry of a deer’s digestive system actually changes in the winter so they can eat more woody material. As a result, hay and corn that people tend to put out for them may not be the best choice of food for them right now. Animal losses during the winter are a fact of life, and humans can’t change that.

The downside to having the critters around in the winter is that they do get into our gardens and eat a lot of supposedly deer-resistant stuff if they are hungry enough. It isn’t too late to wrap plants in some netting to protect them. Beyond netting, deer repellants such as Liquid Fence, Plantskyyd and Shake Away can be applied over plants even with snow. Set up a sprayer and keep it in a warm place so you can get it out quickly.

Now to another set of critters and winter. What do you do with cats who are bored out of their minds when it snows? Getting paws cold is an insult to feline dignity. They seem to think we can change the weather while they walk in the back door and go right back out the front door. Toys have to have a human attached to them before they are interesting. As I said; the wildlife are very interesting at our house. It’s time to take Earl for a walk. Merry Christmas.