Raccoons Raccoons are well adapted to urban living. Raccoon damage typically involves raiding gardens, upsetting trash cans and taking up residence in chimneys, attics or other unwanted areas. Control is not difficult, but requires persistence. Garden fruits and vegetables can be very appealing and accessible to raccoons. For smaller garden plots, a single strand of electric fence can be strung eight inches above the ground. An inexpensive radio which is turned on, placed under a garbage can and left in the garden overnight, will also often discourage raccoons from approaching. The easiest solution for garbage can raids is to store the cans inside the garage or a shed overnight. Raccoons may also be repelled by coating the outside of the can with a weak solution of cayenne pepper in water or by placing a small dish of ammonia in the bottom of an empty can. Uncapped chimneys are appealing nest den sites to raccoons. When this occurs they may be evicted by noise, combined with bright lights or a pan of ammonia sealed in the fireplace. Once the raccoon vacates the chimney, install a chimney cap. Identify and seal other attic entries after evicting the raccoon. Overhanging tree limbs provide easy access to your roof. Inspect your house and trim tree limbs where needed. Occasionally raccoons will enter a house through a pet door. Since they can cause considerable damage if panicked, it is advisable to quietly open windows and doors through which the animal may exit and close doors that provide access to other parts of the house, before leaving the room. Wait quietly for the animal to escape. Raccoons can transmit rabies, canine distemper, and parvovirus to domestic animals and humans. You should avoid any raccoon which is active during daylight hours, has lost its fear of humans, or appears uncoordinated, confused or listless. If you encounter such an animal, report these observations to the District Office; if exposed to a potentially sick animal, contact your local Health Department and/or your personal physician. Nuisance or sick raccoons may be trapped without a permit, but it is illegal to live trap and relocate them to a new area. In order to prevent the possible spread of raccoon diseases in Ohio, all live trapped raccoons must be released again on the homeowner's property or humanely euthanized. Consult your district wildlife office for further information.
Skunks Skunks are well-known, nocturnal residents known for their repugnant odor, and is a cause for concern because they sometimes set up their dens close to human dwellings. These problems can be alleviated through techniques in this Skunks are well-known, nocturnal residents of Ohio. The striped skunk, Mephitis mephitis, is characterized by prominent, lateral white stripes that run down its back. Otherwise, its fur is jet black. The body of the striped skunk is about the size of an ordinary house cat. The spotted skunk, Spilogale putorius, which occurs in a few Ohio counties, is more weasel-like, and is readily distinguishable by white spots and short, broken white stripes in a dense jet-black coat. Because the striped skunk is more common and more likely to come into contact with people, this fact sheet will stress actions associated with them. Skunks have earned their negative reputation through the odor of their musk. The repugnant odor lingers for days and can be nauseating. In addition, skunks sometimes set up their dens too close to a human dwelling or dig in a well manicured lawn for insects. These problems can be alleviated through various damage control techniques described below. General biology, Skunks are common throughout Ohio. Their populations range from 2 to 50 individuals per square mile. Adult skunks begin breeding in late February through late March. Older females bear young during the first part of May, while yearling females bear young in early June. There usually is only one litter annually. Litters commonly consist of 4 to 6 young. The normal home range of the skunk is 0.5 to 2 miles in diameter. During the breeding season, a male may travel 4 to 5 miles each night. Skunks are dormant for about a month during the coldest part of winter. They may den together in winter for warmth, but generally are not sociable. They are nocturnal in habit, rather slow-moving and deliberate, and have great confidence in defending themselves against other animals. Skunks can carry rabies. When a skunk becomes infected with the virus, it may not be apparent for many days. Any skunk showing abnormal behavior, such as daytime activity, may be rabid and should be treated with caution. In addition, avoid overly aggressive skunks that approach without hesitation. For additional information on rabies, see Wildlife Damage Control Fact Sheet No. 1“Rabies.” Skunks traditionally inhabited clearings, pastures, and open lands bordering forests, but with the urbanization of rural areas, people and skunks have come in closer contact. In urban areas, skunks may den under decks and sheds or under loose foundations. They also establish dens in hollow logs or may use old woodchuck burrows. Skunks are highly beneficial to farmers, gardeners, and landowners because they feed on large numbers of agricultural and garden pests. They eat plant and animal matter in about equal amounts during fall and winter, but eat considerably more animal matter during spring and summer when insects, their preferred food, are more available. They seem to prefer grasshoppers, white grubs, beetles, and crickets. In autumn, skunks consume berries and other vegetative matter. Field and house mice are regular and important items in the skunk diet, particularly in winter. Rats, cottontail rabbits, and other small mammals are taken when other food is scarce. Damage and damage identification Skunks become a nuisance when their burrowing and feeding habits cause problems for humans. They may burrow under porches or buildings by entering foundation openings. Skunks dig holes in lawns, golf courses, and gardens to search for insect grubs found in the soil. Digging normally appears as small cone-shaped holes or patches of up-turned earth, up to 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Other animals such as dogs and squirrels also dig in yards, but do not usually produce circular holes. Skunks also may cause damage in agricultural situations. For example, they occasionally feed on corn, take poultry or eggs, or damage beehives. Because many other animals cause similar damage, its important to try and identify the problem species before undertaking control measures. Skunk damage to corn is characterized by damage to the lower ears while the stalk remains standing. When skunks kill poultry, they usually only take one or two individuals at a time and generally will not climb over fences. Eggs are usually opened on one end with the edges crushed inward. Weasels, mink, dogs and raccoons usually kill several chickens or ducks at a time. Dogs will often severely mutilate poultry. Tracks may be used to identify a damage perpetrator. Both the hind and forefeet of skunks have five toes. In some cases, the fifth toe may not be obvious. Claws are usually visible, but the heels of the forefeet normally are not. Skunk droppings often can be identified by the undigested insect parts they contain. Droppings are ¼ to ½ inch in diameter and 1 to 2 inches long. Left to right: Fore foot and hind foot. Odor is not always a reliable indicator of the presence or absence of skunks. Sometimes dogs, cats, or other animals that have been sprayed by skunks move under houses and make owners mistakenly believe skunks are present. Legal status Striped skunks are considered furbearers, so they are provided legal protection. A hunting license is required before trapping skunks unless they are causing damage to the property. If it is possible in your area, allowing trappers onto your property during trapping season (October through February) may alleviate your problem while allowing the trapper some income and recreation. If skunks are causing damage, the property owner may trap or remove skunks without a hunting license. Damage control Many damage control techniques are available for use by homeowners, but because of the tendency of skunks to spray musk and their potential for carrying rabies, many homeowners do not feel they can appropriately handle the problem. Local wildlife pest control operators can be contacted to remove skunks and other nuisance wildlife. These individuals have experience removing animals and allow the homeowner to alleviate the problem without coming in contact with the animal. For more information regarding these companies, contact your county extension office or the yellow pages. Exclusion Keep skunks from denning under buildings by sealing off all foundation openings. Cover all openings with wire mesh, sheet metal, or concrete. Bury fencing 1½ to 2 feet in areas where skunks could gain access by digging. Seal all ground-level openings into poultry buildings and close the doors at night. Poultry yards and coops without subsurface foundations may be fenced with 3-foot wire mesh fencing. Bury the lowest foot of fencing with the bottom 6 inches bent 90 degrees outward from the yard or building. Skunks can be excluded from window wells or similar pits with mesh fencing or fiberglass domes. Place beehives on stands 3 feet high. It may be necessary to install aluminum guards around the bases of hives if skunks attempt to climb the supports. Use tight-fitting lids to keep skunks out of garbage cans. Habitat modification Properly dispose of garbage or other food sources that will attract skunks. Skunks are often attracted to rodents living in barns, crawl spaces, sheds, and garages. Rodent control programs may be necessary to eliminate this attraction. Debris such as lumber, fence posts, and junk cars provide shelter for skunks, and may encourage them to use an area. Clean up the area to discourage skunks. To reduce skunk damage to lawns resulting from digging for grubs, use an appropriate insecticide to control the insects. Be aware that insecticides may affect other species. Discontinue leaving pet food outside if skunks are in the area. Repellents There are no registered repellents for skunks. Many mammals can occasionally be discouraged from entering enclosed areas with moth balls or moth flakes (naphthalene), however, this material needs to be used in sufficient quantities and replaced often if it is to be effective. It is an odor repellent and the odor must be strong enough to cause the animal to leave. Placing lights or radios in the enclosed area may deter skunks, but this method does not have a high success rate. Repellents are only a temporary measure. Permanent solutions require other methods. Toxicants No toxicants are registered for use in controlling skunks. Fumigants Two types of gas cartridges are registered for fumigating skunk burrows. One contains sodium nitrate and sulfur, and the other contains potassium nitrate and sulfur. Fumigation kills skunks and any other animals present in the burrows by suffocation or toxic gases. Follow label directions and take care to avoid fire hazards when used near structures. These are not to be used near crop areas or under buildings. Fumigants can be purchased at your local garden supply store. Trapping Skunks can be caught in live traps set near the entrance to their den. When a den is used by more than one animal, set several traps to reduce capture time. Live traps may be purchased or built. They should be approximately 10 x 10 x 30 inches in size. Use canned fish-flavored cat food to lure skunks into traps. Other food baits such as peanut butter, sardines, and chicken entrails also are effective. Before setting live traps, cover them with canvas to reduce the chances of a trapped skunk discharging its scent. The canvas creates a dark, secure environment for the animal. Always approach a trap slowly and quietly. Gently remove the trap from the area. Skunks should be released at least 10 miles from the capture site or humanely destroyed. Releasing skunks may not be permitted during periods of high rabies incidence. Removing a resident skunk The following steps are suggested for removing skunks already established under buildings. Seal all possible entrances along the foundation, but leave the main burrow entrance open. Sprinkle a thin layer of flour 2 feet in circumference on the ground in front of the opening. After dark, examine the flour for tracks that indicate that the skunk has left to feed. If tracks are not present, reexamine in an hour. After the den is empty, cover the remaining entrance immediately. Reopen the entrance the next day for 1 hour after dark to allow any remaining skunks to exit before permanently sealing the entrance. A one-way door over the opening can be improvised to allow skunks to leave a burrow but not to reenter. The door can be made by cutting a piece of plywood larger than the opening. Attach it to the building with wire so it can be pushed open from the inside. Burrows sealed from early May to mid-August may leave young skunks trapped in the den. If these young are mobile they can usually be box-trapped easily using the methods previously described. Where skunks have entered a garage, cellar, .house, open the doors to allow the skunks to exit on their own. Do not prod or disturb them. Skunks trapped in cellar window wells or similar pits may be removed by nailing narrow pieces of scrap lumber at 6-inch intervals to a board. Slowly lower the board into the well and allow the skunk to climb out on its own. Skunks are mild-tempered animals that will not defend themselves unless they are cornered or harmed. Skunks usually provide a warning before discharging their scent, by stamping their forefeet rapidly and arching their tails over their backs. Anyone experiencing such a threat should retreat quietly and slowly. Loud noises and quick, aggressive actions should be avoided. Skunks become nervous when something is suddenly over them. When approaching a trapped skunk, move slowly and crouch down so as not to be looming over it. Odor removal One of the most common concerns about skunks is dealing with the odor. Pets are commonly sprayed and come home covered in musk. Skunk scent is persistent and difficult to remove. Washing people, pets, or clothing with vinegar or tomato juice may eliminate most of the odor. A solution of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and liquid soap (see recipe below) may also be effective when used to wash down walls, pets, or clothing. Do not add water to the solution. Clothing may be soaked in a weak solution of household chloride bleach or ammonia. Remember not to mix chlorine bleach with ammonia. Neutroleum alpha is a scent-masking solution that can be applied to the sprayed area to reduce the odor. It is available through some commercial cleaning suppliers. Walls or structural areas that have been sprayed by skunks can be washed down with vinegar or tomato juice solutions or sprayed with neutroleum alpha. Use ventilation fans to speed up the process of odor dissipation. Scented candles can help mask odors if the odors are not too strong. When musk enters the eyes, severe burning and an excessive tear flow may occur. Temporary blindness of 10 or 15 minutes may result. Rinse the eyes with copious amounts of water to speed recovery. Recipe for skunk odor removal solution: 1 quart (.95 L) 3% hydrogen peroxide 0.25 cup (70 g) baking soda 1 teaspoon (5 ml) liquid soap. Mix together and apply. Summary When left undisturbed, skunks are peaceful and provide insect and rodent control. Because of their nocturnal nature, one could be living on your property for years before you ever realize it. When a problem does arise, make sure to first identify whether a skunk is causing the problem and then follow these guidelines to solve the problem. Facts to remember Skunks are active at night, so night is a good time to close off entrances to dens. Skunk odor near your home is not necessarily an indication of a resident skunk. A neighbor’s pet may have been sprayed with the musk and moved in under your deck. The most effective means of avoiding skunk problems is to remove denning sites under and around structures such as garages and homes. There are no toxicants or repellents registered in Ohio for use on skunks. Skunks eat many pest species that cause damage to lawns and vegetation. In most situations, skunks are more beneficial than problematic.
Opossum American mammal. Canine teeth (fangs) are prominent. Tracks of both front and hind feet look as if they were made by little hands with widely spread fingers. They may be distinguished from raccoon tracks, in which hind prints appear to be made by little feet. The hind foot of an opossum looks like a distorted hand.
Range Opossums are found in eastern,central, and west coast states. Since 1900 they have expanded their range northward in the eastern United States. They are absent from the Rockies, most western plains states, and parts of the northern United States. Habitat Habitats are diverse, ranging from arid to moist, wooded to open fields. Opossums prefer environments near streams or swamps. They take shelter in burrows of other animals, tree cavities, brush piles, and other cover. They sometimes den in attics and garages where they may make a messy nest. Food Habits Foods preferred by opossums are animal matter, mainly insects or carrion. Opossums also eat considerable amounts of vegetable matter, especially fruits and grains. Opossums living near people may visit compost piles, garbage cans, or food dishes intended for dogs, cats, and other pets. General Biology, Reproduction, and Behavior Opossums usually live alone, having a home range of 10 to 50 acres (4 to 20ha). Young appear to roam randomly until they find a suitable home range. Usually they are active only at night. The mating season is January to July in warmer parts of the range but may start a month later and end a month earlier in northern areas. Opossums may raise 2, rarely 3, litters per year. The opossum is the only marsupial in North America. Like other marsupials, the blind, helpless young develop in pouch. They are born 13 days after mating. The young, only 1/2 inch (1.3cm) long, find their way into the female’s pouch where they each attach to one of 13 teats. An average of 7 young are born. They remain in the pouch for 7 to 8 weeks. The young remain with the mother another 6 to weeks until weaned. Most young die during their first year. Those surviving until spring will breed in that first year. The maximum age in the wild is about 7 years. Although opossums have a top running speed of only 7 miles per hour (11.3 km/hr), they are well equipped to escape enemies. They readily enter burrows and climb trees. When threatened, an opossum may bare its teeth, growl, hiss, bite, screech, and exude a smelly, greenish fluid from its anal glands. If these defenses are not successful, an opossum may play dead. When captured or surprised during daylight, opossums appear stupid and inhibited. They are surprisingly Identification An opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is a whitish or grayish mammal about the size of a house cat. Under-fur is dense with sparse guard hairs. Its face is long and pointed, its ears rounded and hairless. Maximum length is 40inches (102 cm); the rat like tail is slightly less than half the total length. The tail may be unusually short in northern opossums due to loss by frostbite. Opossums may weigh as much as 14 pounds (6.3 kg); males average 6 to 7 pounds (2.7 to 3.2 kg) and females average 4 pounds (6.3 kg). The skull is usually 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10cm) long and contains 50 teeth — more than any other found in the North. Damage Although opossums may be considered desirable as game animals, certain individuals may be a nuisance near homes where they may get into garbage, bird feeders, or pet food. They may also destroy poultry, game birds, and their nests. Legal Status Laws protecting opossums vary from state to state. Usually there are open seasons for hunting or trapping opossums. It is advisable to contact local wildlife authorities before removing nuisance animals. Damage Prevention and Control Methods Exclusion Prevent nuisance animals from entering structures by closing openings to cages and pens that house poultry. Opossums can be prevented from climbing over wire mesh fences by installing a tightly stretched electric fence wire near the top of the fence 3 inches (8 cm) out from the mesh. Fasten garbage can lids with a rubber strap. Traps Opossums are not wary of traps and may be easily caught with suitable sized box or cage traps. No. 1 or 1 1/2 leg hold traps also are effective. Set traps along fences or trail ways. Dirt hole sets or cubby sets are effective. A dirt hole is about 3 inches (8 cm) in diameter and 8 inches (20 cm) deep. It extends into the earth at a 45o angle. The trap should be set at the entrance to the hole. A cubby is a small enclosure made of rocks, logs, or a box. The trap is set at the entrance to the cubby. The purpose of the dirt hole that it will place its foot on the trap. Place bait such as cheese, or slightly spoiled meat, fish, or fruit in the dirt hole or cubby to attract the animal. Using fruit instead of meat will reduce the chance of catching cats, dogs, or skunks. A medium-sized body gripping (kill type) trap will catch and kill opossums. Place bait behind the trap in such a way that the animal must pass through the trap to get it. Body gripping traps kill the captured animal quickly. To reduce chances of catching pets, set the trap above ground on a running pole.
Cottontail Rabbit INTRODUCTION Br'er rabbit, wild rabbit, hot foot, bunny, or just cottontail, whatever you call him, he's still one of Indiana's top game animals.
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS The eastern cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus) is found throughout the eastern two-thirds of the United States and south through Mexico. In this range, there are 12 subspecies with only one native to Indiana, Sylvilagus floridanus mearnsii. The cottontail is reddish brown to gray along the back and sides, while the underside is gray to white. The underside of the tail is snow white and is very bright when the rabbit runs, thus the name “cottontail.” RANGE The eastern cottontail is found throughout all of Ohio, from the heart of the cities to the deep forests. Populations are usually highest where food and cover are best. Better-drained areas often support above-average rabbit densities. FAMILY LIFE With the cottontail, spring comes very early as the first courting activity may be seen in January. The running, leaping, fighting, and mating increase through February, and by the first of March, most of the does have mated. Most of the courting activity is done during the early evening and about dawn. About 28 days after mating, the young are born, given a quick bath by the female and placed in the nest. The nest is usually located in a slight hole in the ground dug with the doe's forefeet. It is constructed of grass and leaves, and lined with fur pulled from the female's breast and abdomen. At birth, the young are furless, blind and weigh less than one ounce. Each usually has the white blaze on the forehead, characteristic of the cottontail. They are nursed each night soon after dark and again before dawn, with an occasional nip between these times.
Young rabbits grow extremely fast. By the end of the first week, they have their eyes open, and by the end of the second week they are beginning to leave the nest and feed on green plants. During the nest few nights they may return to the nest to nurse, spending the day as tiny forms in the grass nearby. At this time they still weigh only about four ounces, but are well developed and able to survive on their own. And well they must, for the doe is able to mate again the same day the young are born and may be well on her way to having a second litter. Litters may range from three to nine, with four or five about average. Although capable of having six litters each summer, the usual number is three or four. By six months, the young have reached minimum adult weight and are hard to distinguish from adults. The cottontail's weight at maturity is 2 1/2 to three pounds. FOOD HABITS Apple, willow, dogwood, hickory, rose, sumac, clover, corn, soybean - you name it, and the rabbit will probably eat it. Although some plants are favored foods, almost any plant, if it’s tender, will be eaten. In the spring, the rabbits feed on the new tender shoots of grass and clover. The young leaving the nest eat their first meal away from the doe by nibbling on the leaves of clover, grass and plantin. In the late fall and winter, when grasses have dried up or been covered with snow, the main diet is the bark of sprouts and seedlings grown the previous summer. POPULATION UPS AND DOWNS Cottontail numbers, like most animal populations, run in cycles of highs and lows. The population builds up to a very high level, then disease, strife and poor reproduction down to a low level. This low may continue for two or three years before a slow increase begins to bring numbers back to another high. Peak populations usually occur at intervals of about 10 years. Within this 10 year cycle, there may be local areas having highs and lows opposite to the overall state cycle. Also, some areas may hold a continued high or low for several years and not seem to go through the cycle change. Optimum food and cover and balance between the number produced and the number harvested by hunter, predator or disease may hold the population stable. Drastic changes in numbers grow to a high in August. The with peak of reproduction past, the rabbits begin to disappear. By the first of November, their numbers may be cut one-third or more, with another third lost by the beginning of the next breeding season. Thus, while some rabbits may live four or five years, the average life expectancy for young rabbits that survive to leave the nest is only about 11 months. PESTS AND PETS Almost anyone who has found a newly planted seedling cut off or tree barked may consider the cottontail a pest; however, the rabbit gets blamed for some damage caused by mice, squirrels and other rodents. Several types of repellents have been used with mixed success. About the only sure method of preventing damage is by using one-half inch mesh hardware cloth or one inch mesh chicken netting cut 12 to 18 inches long. This is formed into a cylinder, placed around the seedling and forced into the ground to hold it upright. This will protect the seedling for several years from mice as well as rabbits. Wild rabbits, by nature, are timid animals and try to escape when handled and can do considerable damage with their hind feet in the process. Leave young rabbits where you find them. It is also illegal to posses wildlife without special permits. PREVENTION AND CONTROL Almost anyone who has found a newly planted seedling cut off or tree bark damaged may consider the cottontail a pest; however, the rabbit gets blamed for some damage caused by mice, squirrels and other rodents. Several types of repellents have been used with mixed success. Many home remedies, such as rubber snakes, are suggested each year, each with varying success. The only sure method of preventing damage to a sapling or bush is by using one-half inch mesh hardware cloth or one inch mesh chicken netting cut 12 to 18 inches long around the plant. Form this into a cylinder, placed around the seedling and forced into the ground to hold it upright. This will protect the seedling for several years from mice as well as rabbits. Commercial tree guards and wrapping are also available. To protect your garden or berry patch, place a fence at least 2 feet high of chicken wire or strong hardware cloth with the bottom tight to the ground and buried a few inches. Be sure the mesh is 1 inch or smaller. Remove brush piles and other cover near the garden to make fewer areas for rabbits to hide. Place a dome or cage of chicken wire over a small flower bed to allow vulnerable plants such as tulips to start growing before leaving them unprotected, If you want to trap or shoot the rabbits, you will need a permit from the OhioDNR, or you will need to use those methods legal only during the open hunting season (firearms can only be used where legal). Live cage-traps (wire or wood) that are baited with dried apples or dry ear corn can be effective in capturing cottontail rabbits. Encouraging the rabbit’s natural enemies such as hawks, owls, and foxes can also help control the rabbits.
Wood Chuck or Ground Hog Identification The woodchuck (Marmota monax, a member of the squirrel family, is also known as the “ground hog” or “whistle pig.” It is closely related to other species of North American marmots. It is usually grizzled brownish gray, but white (albino) and black (melanistic) individuals can occasionally be found. The woodchuck’s compact, chunky body is supported by short strong legs. Its forefeet have long, curved claws that are well adapted for digging burrows. Its tail is short, well furred, and dark brown.
PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF WILDLIFE DAMAGE Both sexes are similar in appearance but the male is slightly larger, weighing an average of 5 to 10 pounds (2.2 to 4.5 kg). The total length of the head and body averages 16 to 20 inches (40 to 51 cm). The tail is usually 4 to 7 inches (10 to 18 cm) long. Like other rodents, woodchucks have white or yellowish-white, chisel-like incisor teeth. Their eyes, ears, and nose are located toward the top of the head, which allows them to remain concealed in their burrows while they check for danger over the rim or edge. Although they are slow runners, woodchucks are alert and scurry quickly to their dens when they sense danger. Range Woodchucks occur throughout eastern and central Alaska, British Columbia, and most of southern Canada. Their range in the United States extends throughout the East, northern Idaho, northeastern North Dakota, southeastern Nebraska, eastern Kansas, and northeastern Oklahoma, as well as south to Virginia and northern Alabama. Habitat In general, woodchucks prefer open farmland and the surrounding wooded or brushy areas adjacent to open land. Burrows commonly are located in fields and pastures, along fence rows, stone walls, roadsides, and near building foundations or the bases of trees. Burrows are almost always found in or near open, grassy meadows or fields. Woodchuck burrows are distinguished by a large mound of excavated earth at the main entrance. The main opening is approximately 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm) in diameter. There are two or more entrances to each burrow system. Some secondary entrances are dug from below the ground and do not have mounds of earth beside them. They are usually well hidden and sometimes difficult to locate. During spring, active burrows can be located by the freshly excavated earth at the main entrance. The burrow system serves as home to the woodchuck for mating, weaning young, hibernating in winter, and protection when threatened. Food Habits Woodchucks prefer to feed in the early morning and evening hours. They are strict herbivores and feed on a variety of vegetables, grasses, and legumes. Preferred foods include soybeans, beans, peas, carrot tops, alfalfa, clover, and grasses. General Biology, Reproduction, and Behavior Woodchucks are primarily active during daylight hours. When not feeding, they sometimes bask in the sun during the warmest periods of the day. They have been observed dozing on fence posts, stone walls, large rocks, and fallen logs close to the burrow entrance. Woodchucks are good climbers and sometimes are seen in lower tree branches. Woodchucks are among the few mammals that enter into true hibernation. Hibernation generally starts in late fall, near the end of October or early November, but varies with latitude. It continues until late February and March. In northern latitudes, torpor can start earlier and end later. Males usually come out of hibernation before females and subadults. Males may travel long distances, and occasionally at night, in search of a mate. Woodchucks breed in March and April. A single litter of 2 to 6 (usually 4) young is produced each season after a gestation period of about 32 days. The young are born blind and hairless. They are weaned by late June or early July, and soon after strike out on their own. They frequently occupy abandoned dens or burrows. The numerous new burrows that appear during late summer are generally dug. Burrow system of the woodchuck. Side entrance, Nest chamber, Main entrance. Range of the woodchuck in North America. The life span of a woodchuck is about 3 to 6 years. Woodchucks usually range only 50 to 150 feet (15 to 30 m) from their den during the daytime. This distance may vary, however, during the mating season or based on the availability of food. Woodchucks maintain sanitary den sites and burrow systems, replacing nest materials frequently. A burrow and den system is often used for several seasons. The tunnel system is irregular and may be extensive in size. Burrows may be as deep as 5 feet (1.5m) and range from 8 to 66 feet (2.4 to 19.8 m) in total length. Old burrows not in use by woodchucks provide cover for rabbits, weasels, and other wildlife. When startled, a woodchuck may emit a shrill whistle or alarm, preceded by a low, abrupt “phew.” This is followed by a low, rapid warble that sounds like “tchuck, tchuck.” The call is usually made when the animal is startled at the entrance of the burrow. The primary predators of woodchucks include hawks, owls, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, weasels, dogs, and humans. Many woodchucks are killed on roads by automobiles. Damage On occasion, the woodchuck’s feeding and burrowing habits conflict with human interests. Damage often occurs on farms, in home gardens, orchards, nurseries, around buildings, and sometimes around dikes. Damage to crops such as alfalfa, soybeans, beans, squash, and peas can be costly and extensive. Fruit trees and ornamental shrubs are damaged by woodchucks as they gnaw or claw woody vegetation. Gnawing on underground power cables has caused electrical outages. Damage to rubber hoses in vehicles, such as those used for vacuum and fuel lines, has also been documented. Mounds of earth from the excavated burrow systems and holes formed at burrow entrances present a hazard to farm equipment, horses, and riders. On occasion, burrowing can weaken dikes and foundations. Legal Status In most states, woodchucks are considered game animals. There is usually no bag limit or closed season. In damage situations, woodchucks are usually not protected. The status may vary from state to state, depending on the control technique to be employed. Consult with your state wildlife department, USDA-APHIS-Animal Damage Control representative, or extension agent before shooting and/or trapping problem individuals. Damage Prevention and Control Methods Exclusion Fencing can help reduce woodchuck damage. Woodchucks, however, are good climbers and can easily scale wire fences if precautions are not taken. Fences should be at least 3 feet (1 m) high and made of heavy poultry wire or 2-inch (5-cm) mesh woven wire. To prevent burrowing under the fence, bury the lower edge 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm) in the ground or bend the lower edge at an L-shaped angle leading outward and bury it in the ground 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm). Fences should extend 3 to 4 feet (0.9 to 1.2 m) above the ground. Place an electric wire 4 to 5 inches (10 to 13 cm) off the ground and the same distance outside the fence. When connected to a UL-approved fence charger, the electric wire will prevent climbing and burrowing. Bending the top 15 inches (38 cm) of wire fence outward at a 45o angle will also prevent climbing over the fence. Fencing is most useful in protecting home gardens and has the added advantage of keeping rabbits, dogs, cats, and other animals out of the garden area. In some instances, an electric wire alone, placed 4 to 5 inches (10 to 13 cm) above the ground, has deterred woodchucks from entering gardens. Vegetation in the vicinity of any electric fence should be removed regularly to prevent the system from shorting out.
Squirrel-Red, Gray, Fox, and Flying Squirrels Squirrels are never found far from the shelter provided by trees. They are opportunistic foragers feeding on acorns, nuts, fruits, berries, corn, fungi, flower bulbs, and bird seed. They readily adapt to suburban and urban areas. Chasing a frantic squirrel inside your house can result in additional damage. If a squirrel is trapped, open a door or window, block off the room it is in and quietly wait for the squirrel to exit. Once the squirrel is gone, identify where the squirrel entered and seal the access. If the squirrel is in the fireplace, close the damper, block off the room and open an exterior door or window to provide an escape route for the squirrel. Squirrels trapped inside the chimney flue can be freed by closing the damper and lowering a 1/2-inch diameter rope into the chimney from the roof. The rope must be long enough to reach down to the damper. Anchor the upper end and wait for the squirrel to climb out, then cover the chimney. Before evicting a resident squirrel from the attic determine if young are in the nest and where the female's entrance is located. If there are no young, scare the squirrel out by banging on the rafters inside the attic or wait until the squirrel leaves for the day. Seal the entrance with 1/4- inch hardware cloth or with sheet metal. Extend the seal at least six inches beyond the hole. If young are present, locate the entrance and install a one-way door until all have left the nest, then proceed as previously described.
Beavers Beavers are well adapted to life in the water. Their webbed feet, waterproof fur, clear “third-eyelids,” and flattened, rudder-like tail enable them to be excellent swimmers. Their huge front teeth help them to cut through hard woods like maple and oak. These teeth grow throughout the animal's lifetime and are necessary for survival.
Description Beavers are well adapted to life in the water. Their webbed feet, waterproof fur, clear “third eyelids,” and flattened, rudder-like tail enable them to be excellent swimmers. Their huge front teeth help them to cut through hard woods like maple and oak. These teeth grow throughout the animal's lifetime and are necessary for survival. Reproduction Beavers are generally monogamous and sexually mature at about three years of age. Peak breeding activity occurs during the winter season, usually in January or February. Young are born between April and July, after a gestation period of about 128 days. Litter size ranges from 1-4 kits. The kits are born furred, with their eyes open, and are able to swim within 24 hours. They usually stay with their parents in colonies until they move out to find a new home. Habitat and Behavior This furbearer occurs in forested ponds, lakes, and rivers with the highest abundance being found in the eastern and western portions of Ohio. Beavers living along a river make burrows with an underwater entrance in the riverbank; those in streams, lakes and ponds usually build dams that generally incorporate a lodge, which has one or more underwater entrances and living quarters in a hollow near the top. Wood chips on the floor absorb excess moisture and a vent admits fresh air. Typical foods include poplar, aspen, willow, birch, and maple trees. Research and Surveys This furbearer occurs in forested ponds, lakes and rivers with the highest abundance being found in the eastern and southern portions of Ohio. The statewide population trend has been stable to increasing over the past 10 years. Relatively high populations of beaver will continue to provide opportunities to harvest and observe this species during 2012-13.
Fox-Red or Gray The red fox is one of two fox species in Ohio and one of five in North America. The state’s other fox is the gray fox. The Arctic, swift, and kit foxes are the other species found in North America. North American foxes inhabit a wide range of habitats from deserts to forests to snow-covered tundras. This isn’t completely surprising as the red and other foxes are members of the same family of adaptable animals that includes the wolves, coyote, and domestic dog -- Canidae. Description The red fox is likely the one that comes to mind when you think of a fox. Although it can have several color variations, the red fox takes its name from its most common color phase: a rusty-red or reddish yellow coat from its face down its back and sides. Its undersides, throat area, and cheeks are white. The legs, feet, and outside of the ears are black; its long, bushy tail has black hairs mixed with the red and ends in a white tip. This feature can be used to help identify it; the gray fox’s tail has a black tip. The tail of the red fox is usually between 14 and 16 inches long. Reproduction Red foxes are monogamous breeders. Peak breeding activity occurs January-February. Gestation lasts 51-53 days and young are born in February and April. Litters typically consist of 5 or 6 kits and usually only one litter is born per year. Females that need to dig their own dens from scratch usually do so by selecting an area of loose, sandy soil with a southern exposure. Most fox dens are about four feet below ground. While the female is below ground nursing her offspring, the male will bring her food. He continues in this role until the young are weaned and can go with their parents on hunting trips where they learn basic survival skills. By fall of the same year, the family unit breaks up; the young are mature enough to go on their own and their parents split and live independently until the start of the next breeding season. Habitat and Behavior Red foxes are solitary creatures during the fall and early winter. Their range is one to two miles, but if food supplies dwindle within this area, the animals will extend their normal range to search for food. They typically eat mice, rats, rabbits, groundhogs, and other small mammals; also birds, fruits, and some grasses. These foxes do not hibernate; under extreme winter weather conditions they will reduce activity levels and take shelter for a day or two. Red foxes are nocturnal creatures, meaning that they are most active at night, feeding and moving from place to place. Nonetheless they are often found hunting during daylight hours. Predators, Parasites, and Disease Across its range the gray fox serves as a host to over thirty different external parasites that includes lice, ticks, mites, chiggers and fleas. Internal parasites include roundworms, flatworms, tapeworms and acanthocephalans. Unlike the red fox, the gray fox exhibits a natural resistance to sarcoptic mange, a mite that causes irritation resulting in a thickening of the skin, loss of hair, and eventual death due to either malnourishment or hypothermia. Rabies has been reported in New York specimens, but canine distemper appears to be the leading mortality factor, in terms of diseases, affecting wild gray fox populations. In terms of predators, humans are likely the primary cause of mortality in this species through trapping and automobile collisions. Where encounters occur, the Eastern coyote will undoubtedly predate gray fox, as may bobcat and some of the larger raptors such as great horned owls.
5 Point White Tailed Deer Buck in Rut and Female Doe
White-tailed Deer INTRODUCTION Just 50 years ago, we could not have taken a hike to enjoy the Indiana countryside and been fortunate enough to encounter the now familiar white-tailed deer bounding across a cornfield or disappearing into a woodlot. By the 1930s, the whitetail, an abundant species when the settlers arrived in the early 1800s, had been pushed to extinction in Ohio and Indiana. Now, the Hoosier and Buckeye state can boast of a healthy and productive herd. Our pride in this herd is well-founded, because it is a symbol of the success of our wildlife management and conservation efforts. In 1934, the Division of Fish and Game (parent agency to the present Division of Fish and Wildlife) began restocking with about 400 deer which were trapped and transferred from Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Nearly all releases were made on state and federal properties of the southern hills. Deer immigrating from Michigan helped rebuild the herd in northern Indiana and Ohio counties. Animals moving up and down the major drainage systems began dispersing throughout central Indiana. Biologists accelerated the dispersal by trapping deer from public lands and moving them to counties with few or no deer. In conjunction with wildlife biologists’ dedication to re-establishing deer, conservation officers worked around the clock to protect the new herds. Our restoration efforts have been generously rewarded. Today, deer inhabit every county in Indiana and provide recreation and enjoyment to all types of outdoor enthusiasts. CLASSIFICATION AND CHARACTERISTICS White-tailed deer are Indiana’s sole representative of the family Cervidae, which includes mule deer, elk and moose. The best known characteristics of this family is that males bear antlers. Antlers, unlike horns, are not permanent structures. Male cervids develop and shed antlers annually as part of their reproductive cycle. Whitetail antler development begins in mid-March to April and continues through August or September. The growing bone is covered with a hairy skin called velvet which dries up and begins to slough off as the antler hardens. By rubbing the antlers on saplings, bucks speed up the loss of velvet and polish their new racks. The antlers are shed in January or February, after breeding season. The number of points on a buck's rack is not an indication of age. A combination of factors, including age, nutrition and genetics affect antler development.
During spring and summer, adult whitetails have a sleek reddish-brown coat. A newborn's coat is patterned with white spots, which help the fawn to blend with its surroundings. In August and September, the summer coat is shed; the fawn loses its spots and prepares for winter along with adult deer. The brownish-gray winter coat is thick and helps insulated the deer through the winter. Deer are in their prime at three to six years of age. They may live to 20 years or more in captivity, but in the wild, a whitetail that lives to age 10 is considered old. Weights vary considerably, but an average adult male weighs 175 pounds while a female weighs about 120 pounds. Deer are creatures of habit and generally occupy a home range of one to two square miles. Have you ever watched a bounding deer and been amazed at its ability to move gracefully and quickly through even the densest cover, as if it knew the exact location of each break in vegetation? Maintaining a relatively small home range, the deer becomes intimately familiar with it's surroundings a good strategy for survival in the wild. REPRODUCTION The whitetail breeding season occurs in October and November. Does may breed at six to seven months of age but generally breed for the first time when 1 1/2 years old. Bucks are physiologically ready to breed at 1 1/2 years of age but may not have the opportunity for several years because older bucks dominate the does. Dominate bucks will mate with several does during a single season and will chase off younger bucks that attempt to breed. Fawns are born in late May or early June after 200-day gestation period. A doe in good condition will generally produce two fawns. At birth, fawns weigh only four to eightpounds; however they grow rapidly, doubling their weight in just two weeks. Fawns have little scent, an adaptation to help prevent predators from finding the defenseless infants. Instinctively, they lie motionless when danger approaches. If you find a hidden fawn, never move it or assume that it is an orphan. Rest assured, its mother is nearby, and fawns will usually travel with their mother through their first winter. FOOD HABITS Whitetails are extremely adaptable in their food habits. Deer consume primarily wild herbs, fruits and agricultural crops when available; however, they can survive on the leaves, buds and twigs of woody trees and shrubs when other foods are scarce. When abundant, acorns are the mainstay of the fall and winter diet. In localized areas of Indiana, deer crop damage, particularly corn and soybeans, is a problem. Farmers with damage problems are encouraged to work with their district wildlife biologist to develop strategies to alleviate damage. Fencing, chemical repellents and noise devices may provide relief in some situations; however, the most effective and efficient deer damage control technique is carefully regulated hunting. HUNTING The number of deer in Indiana has increased steadily since their reintroduction in the 1930s. Until 1991, concerns about deer vehicle collisions and crop damage by deer led to the division to begin lowering the deer population in selected counties in the 1980s. By 1992, the statewide deer population began to decrease in response to increased harvest of antlerless deer. Uncontrolled growth of our herd would be disastrous for both the deer and the people of Indiana. Damage to agricultural and forest crops would become economically unbearable. The depletion of the habitat would be reflected in smaller, less-healthy deer. Closely regulated harvest of female deer is needed to stabilize the population growth in some areas of the state.
Ohio Black Bear
Ohio Black Bear Although black bears inhabited Ohio prior to settlement of the region, unregulated hunting and the extensive deforestation that occurred by the mid-1800s as farms, towns, and industry were established resulted in a sizable reduction in the number of bears residing within the state's borders. Those bears that remained following this drastic change in habitat were either shot or trapped to protect livestock and crops from depredation. By the 1850s, black bears were considered extirpated from Ohio. However, occasional reports of their presence, particularly in south-central and southeastern Ohio, persisted and, in 1973, included a report of a sow (female) with cubs (offspring).
Description The black bear is the most common species of bear in North America. The name "black" bear can be somewhat misleading as this species appears in a range of color phases that include black, chocolate brown, cinnamon brown, blue-black, and even white. Its face, in profile, can be straight or Roman-nosed, a distinguishing characteristic that helps differentiate it from the dish-faced grizzly and Alaskan brown bears. An adult black bear can weigh anywhere between 150 and 700 pounds. Males average 300 pounds while the smaller females average around 175. Males, when standing upright, measure between five and six feet tall; females, typical of mammals, are smaller, measuring four to five feet. On all fours, most adult black bears are between 2 1/2 and 3 feet at the shoulder. Nuisance Black bears are large animals and can cause significant damage while in search of an easy meal. If your yard is being visited by a black bear there are several things that must be done to ensure that the animal doesn't become a “problem bear.” A “problem bear” can be defined as an animal that has lost its natural fear of humans and habitually causes property damage while in search of food. In this instance all potential food attractants must be removed from the area. This includes
Bird feeders and other wildlife feed: remove feeders, including hummingbird and suet feeders.
Trash receptacles: store your garbage either in a garage or a secure container.
Pet foods: keep pet foods inside, especially at night.
Grease from grills: clean out grease traps after each use; store grill in garage or shed.
Secure beehives: place electric fencing around beehives.
Crops: pick fruit from berry bushes as soon as possible; scare bears out of agriculture fields as soon as damage occurs
History Although black bears inhabited Ohio prior to settlement of the region, unregulated hunting and the extensive deforestation that occurred by the mid-1800s as farms, towns, and industry were established resulted in a sizable reduction in the number of bears residing within the state's borders. Those bears that remained following this drastic change in habitat were either shot or trapped to protect livestock and crops from depredation. By the 1850s, black bears were considered extirpated from Ohio. However, occasional reports of their presence, particularly in south-central and southeastern Ohio, persisted and, in 1973, included a report of a sow (female) with cubs (offspring). The black bear is the most common species of bear in North America. The name "black" bear can be somewhat misleading as this species appears in a range of color phases that include black, chocolate brown, cinnamon brown, blue-black, and even white. Its face, in profile, can be straight or Roman-nosed, a distinguishing characteristic that helps differentiate it from the dish-faced grizzly and Alaskan brown bears. Reproduction Black bears are promiscuous breeders. Males in particular will mate with more than one individual, while females do on occasion. The peak mating activity takes place from mid-June through mid-July. Black bears are delayed implanters. Implantation of the fertilized egg usually occurs during early December, with gestation requiring six weeks. First litters generally have only one cub. Two or three cubs are usually produced in subsequent litters. Generally, one litter is produced every other year. Sows and their cubs leave the dens when the cubs are approximately three months old. The young remain with the mother, who is the sole care giver, for the first year and a half of their lives. Growth during a cub's first year is rapid. At birth, the sightless cubs weigh about eight ounces. By the time that the cubs open their eyes at about six weeks of age, they weigh between three and four pounds. Typically, cubs weigh between 25 and 65 pounds by September and may, provided high quality food is readily available, weigh nearly 70-80 pounds by the time they enter the overwinter den with the sow in early November. An adult black bear can weigh anywhere between 150 and 700 pounds. Males average 300 pounds while the smaller females average around 175. Males, when standing upright, measure between five and six feet tall; females, typical of mammals, are smaller, measuring four to five feet. On all fours, most adult black bears are between 2 1/2 and 3 feet at the shoulder. Habitat and Behavior Black bears can be found from coast to coast throughout North America in a wide variety of the more heavily wooded habitats, ranging from swamps and wetlands to dry upland hardwood and coniferous forests, from the Yukon and Northwest Territory in Canada to the northern portions of Mexico. Although they will utilize open areas, bears prefer wooded cover with a dense understory. Bears have a large home range and travel a great deal. Studies in other states indicate the home range of adult males to be 100 to 120 square miles in upland hardwood habitats, 24 to 50 square miles for females. Movements of 125 miles from a denning site have been documented. Black bears are crepuscular, meaning they are active early in the morning and late in the evening. Daily timing of movements may be influenced by human activities. Bears in high human activity areas tend to be more nocturnal in their movements while dawn and dusk are the periods of primary movement among bears in low human activity areas.
Coyote of Ohio
Ohio Coyote The coyote is generally a slender animal, very similar in appearance to a medium-sized dog and much smaller than a wolf, a species not currently found in Ohio. The majority of coyotes are gray, though some show rusty, brown or off-white coloration. It has a bushy tail which is usually tipped with black. Coyotes are most active at dawn and dusk, but may be seen frequently throughout the day. What to Do if a Coyote is in Your Backyard?
Understand that coyotes are common throughout Ohio's 88 counties in both rural and urban settings. There are no wild wolves living in Ohio.
Identify that the canine is truly a coyote and not a stray dog. If you determine the animal is a stray dog, contact your county dog warden.
If you do have a coyote on your property, remove all "attractants" to possibily deter the coyote from returning. This includes removing garbage and pet food before nightfall and cleaning up around the grill. Coyotes prey primarily on small mammals, such as rabbits and mice. Small pets may also be taken. Keep small dogs and cats inside. Coyotes are curious, but generally fearful of humans. Clap your hands and shout in a stern voice to scare off coyotes that are investigating your yard.
If the coyote visiting your yard seems to lack a fear of humans or is presenting a conflict even after removing attractants from your yard, contact Aabate Termite & Pest Control a nuisance trapper. Coyotes in rural areas can be controlled through legal hunting and trapping methods.
Coyote Overview: Native American folklore is filled with tales of the coyote. This animal is either revered for its intelligence and ability to resolve a conflict or threat to its life or is frowned upon for being a cunning and deceiving manipulator, much as it is thought of in real life. The coyote is not native to Ohio, but it is present throughout the state today. Love or hate it, the coyote has the ability to make the best of a bad situation to survive or even prosper. Usually, we associate the coyote with the open, deserted lands of the west. As its presence in Ohio shows, this versatile animal can make a home most anywhere. Description The coyote is generally a slender animal, very similar in appearance to a medium-sized dog. Since the coyote and domesticated dog are from the same family, Canidae, the resemblance is more than a coincidence. Coyotes have a bushy tail which is usually tipped in black and is carried down at a 45 degree angle as the animal moves, unlike that of its other cousin the wolf. The majority of coyotes are gray, though some show a rusty, brown or off-white coloration. The coyote stands about one and one half to two feet tall and is between 41 to 53 inches in length. Males of this species are larger than the females and weigh anywhere from 20 to 50 pounds. Reproduction Coyotes are monogamous breeders and breeding occurs January through March. Gestation lasts approximately 63 days. Litters are born in April and May and can contain 1-12 pups. The female selects, prepares, and maintains the den. Occasionally, two or three females will share a large den area. Related females will sometimes act as helpers in the care of offspring of other coyotes in the den. Both parents hunt for food and feed the young. However, the male takes the lead role when the pups are newborns, obtaining enough food for both his mate and offspring. The parents will regurgitate their stomach contents for their offspring's meals. At about three weeks of age, the young leave the den under the watch of their parents. At 8 to 12 weeks of age, the pups are taught hunting skills. The coyotes stay together in a family unit throughout the summer into mid-fall when the young will break from the family unit and develop territories of their own anywhere from 10 to 100 miles away. It is not unusual for young female coyotes to remain in the family unit into the following year; young males that have either never left the unit or that attempt to rejoin it the following year are run off by the male. Habitat and Behavior The coyote is a nocturnal animal, active during the nighttime hours. However, when it is less threatened by man, it will hunt and move from place to place during the day. The coyote will hunt in unrelated (non-family) pairs or large groups. Coyotes are omnivorous and typical foods include small mammals (voles, shrews, rabbits, mice), vegetables, nuts, and carrion. Unchecked, they will eat livestock, particularly sheep and chickens. The coyote's strength is that it can adapt and exploit most any habitat to its advantage. While most wildlife species have avoided developed areas and often declined as a result of man's expansion, the coyote seems to have thrived.
Musk Rat Habitat
Muskrat INTRODUCTION A dozen traps are slung over his shoulder as a schoolboy sets forth across frozen Hoosier soil. A picture of wealth flashes through his mind’s eye. Tales of Jack London, Jim Bridger, of wilderness and mountain men are recalled. A stream, river, pond, or marsh is his destination. Muskrats are his quarry.
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS Muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus) resemble large field mice with none of the offensive traits or habits of the common rat. They weigh about three pounds, have bead like eyes, and their ears nearly concealed in dense fur. The hind feet are quite large, and while not webbed, have stiff hair between the toes, which aid in swimming. The tail flattened on the sides and serves as a rudder. Most muskrats have long, dark, reddish-brown fur on the upper parts of the body and short, silver-tipped fur underneath. Guard hairs are long and durable while the under fur is fine, soft and waterproof. This mammal is well equipped for its aquatic habitat but is awkward and at a disadvantage on land. DISTRIBUTION AND ABUNDANCE Muskrats occur throughout Indiana but are most numerous in areas of abundant shallow water. The northeastern section of the state produces a substantial proportion of these rodents each year. The construction of private ponds for livestock watering or recreation across Indiana has been important in offsetting the losses of muskrat habitat due to wetland drainage and stream channelization. Muskrats living long streams prefer to place nest chambers above the water level in burrows entered from the water, In marshes and lakes, they use cattails and other aquatic plants to construct houses resembling small haystacks. REPRODUCTION Courtship is conducted by the female as she swims about singing her love song resembling the squeak of a mouse. Two or three litters may be produced each year, but most muskrats in Indiana are born in May and June, 28 to 30 days after mating. Litters averaging about six in size are born in a shredded cattail or grass nest. The male assists in preparing the chamber, but does not enter the house or burrow after the young are born. Kits are naked, blind, and helpless at birth, but are weaned at 4 weeks of age. At this time, they can swim but do not dive well. If the mother is to have another litter soon, they are driven from the house or burrow, but the last litter of the season often spends the winter with its parents. Muskrats are quite tolerant of each other, and except during the breeding season, several may live together. Many muskrats spend their entire lives within a few hundred yards of their birthplace, but in autumn and spring, some are forced to migrate to less-crowded areas and may wonder several miles to establish new homes. FOOD HABITS Muskrats are vegetarians, but if unable to secure plant foods, they will feed on carcasses of fish, frogs, and other muskrats. Nearly all plants growing in and near their water areas are eaten, but cattails are the backbone of their diet. Food is not stored for winter use, so they must dig roots and tubers from beneath the ice, returning to their house and burrow to feed. If food sources are too far from the house, a feeding shelter called a “push-up” is built on the ice. A similar feeding platform - a raft consisting of discarded plant food - is constructed for summer use. A dense winter population feeding on roots and bulbs in a marsh or small lake may consume nearly all the roots. Upper parts decay the following spring, turning the water and soil sour so that few plants will grow in that area. This is called an eat-out, and if little water moves through it, this portion of the marsh may be unproductive for several years. TRAPPING Muskrats are less trap-shy than most other furbearers. Baited or blind sets are effective capture methods. Traps need not be concealed, but drowning set should always be used. Small killer traps, such as the Conibear, placed at lodge entrances, bank dens or along runways are extremely effective and result in a substantial number of pelts. MANAGEMENT Mortality factors are necessary to limit muskrats to the level that an area will properly support. Trapping is one of these factors. Predators, disease, and adverse weather singly may have little effect, but a combination of all three may be disastrous. Mink, raccoon, dog and fox normally take a few muskrats, but low water levels or starvation can expose these animals to heavy predation. Loss of water habitat from drainage projects is the primary cause of declining muskrat populations. Numerous diseases and parasites kill or weaken muskrats but assume importance only when living conditions are substandard. This usually occurs when populations rise beyond the ability of the area to support surplus individuals. Thus, the number surviving is adjusted to existing food supplies and living space. PREVENTION AND CONTROL Resident landowners and tenants can trap or shoot a muskrat that is causing damage on their own property. The muskrat must be euthanized or released within the county of capture on property in which you have permission. In order to prevent the spread of disease, the DNR encourages homeowners to safely and humanely euthanize the muskrats, if possible. If you do not want to trap the muskrat yourself, contact a licensed nuisance wild animal control operator. Muskrats can sometimes be prevented from digging in a pond dam or bank by rip-rapping. Drawing the pond down at least 2 feet below normal water levels during the winter can also encourage them to leave. Once it is drawn-down, you can trap or shoot (where legal) the muskrat, then fill the dens, burrows and runs and rip-rap the dam with stone. Make a concentrated effort to reduce the breeding population of muskrats during the winter months through either trapping or shooting (where legal).
Ohio Bobcat After a Meal
Bobcat Overview: The bobcat is a species that is native to Ohio, and one of seven feral cat species found in North America. Domestic cats belong to the same family, Felidae, as the bobcat. Bobcats are very rarely seen in Ohio as they were extirpated from the state in 1850. Prior to settlement, they were common throughout Ohio. This cat has been sighted occasionally since 1850 and may be on the verge of returning "home" to Ohio; between 1970 and 2009 there have been 359 verified reports of bobcats in the state, 92 of these reports occurred in 2009.
Description The bobcat has short, dense, soft fur. Their coat color varies to include light gray, yellowish brown, buff, brown, and reddish brown on the upper parts of the body. The fur on the middle of the back is frequently darker than that on the sides. Under parts and the inside of the legs are generally whitish colors with dark spots or bars. The back of the bobcat's ears are black with white spots. The top of the tip of the ears are black; on the lynx, a cousin of the bobcat, the entire tip of the ear is black. The bobcat's tail is also black. Reproduction Breeding may occur at anytime throughout the year; mostly it occurs from December through May. The gestation period lasts about 63 days. When available, the female will use an area of rock outcroppings as a natal den. The young are born helpless and are dependent on the mother. At birth, the bobcat is completely furred with its eyes closed. Young bobcats' eyes will open in 3 to 11 days, 10 days is typical. Litters range from 1 to 6 kittens; 2+ is average. Bobcats typically have one litter per year, but will produce a second if the first is lost. The young are fully weaned at eight weeks and they will disperse and begin life on their own in the fall and late winter. Habitat & Behavior Generally, the bobcat is a solitary animal, territorial and elusive by nature. Adult females have an extremely low tolerance for other adult females in their home range. The males of this species are more tolerant of another male within the home range. Bobcats aren't as aggressive hunters as might be expected; they generally lie in wait for their prey, pouncing when an animal comes near. Prey pursuit rarely extends more than 60 feet. Rabbits and rodents are the bobcat's principal food, but deer are also important, especially in the northern portions of the bobcat's range. Bobcats are carnivores and will consume a wide variety of insects, reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds, and mammals. Rabbits and, in northern latitudes, white-tailed deer are important components of the bobcat's diet. Threats This threatened species occurs in the forests of eastern Ohio. The Division of Wildlife received reports of 293 unverified bobcat sightings in 2011 compared to 301 in 2010. In 2011, 136 reports were verified (e.g., road-killed, incidentally trapped, photographed, etc.), an increase from the 106 verified reports of 2010. Because of the large amount of unoccupied, suitable forested habitat available in eastern Ohio, bobcat sightings are expected to continue to increase in future years as the population increases in abundance and distribution.
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