Wild critters have it good this year
Appeal Staff Writer
Quail dart in and out of traffic. Skunks can be seen along the Carson River and sometimes take refuge in people’s homes.
Coyotes, feral cats and other predators are relishing every minute of it.
“This is when wild and domestic animals are loose,” said Pat Wiggins, Carson City’s animal services supervisor. “We’re busy.”
Animal control officers pick up 20 feral cats a day alone. They also find a lot of raccoons, skunks and other wild critters, as well as escaped and abandoned house pets.
“People call us first,” Wiggins said. “We deal with domestic animals, but if we can help with a wildlife call we try to do that.”
Last year, for example, a deer wandered out of the hills, made its way down to North Carson Street and was apprehended by Wiggins and a sheriff’s deputy near the McDonald’s restaurant on Winnie Lane. They had to rope the deer like a horse and hog-tie it, get it inside a van and transport him out of town.
“It was a unique day,” he said. “He was pretty scared but we got him up in the hills and he was fine.”
Goats brought out to graze as a land management tool were discouraged from eating bitterbrush on the west side. This was to ensure deer have enough food to eat as the seasons change because bitterbrush is a local vegetation that deer favor, said Ann Bollinger, the city’s open space assistant.
State and federal animal specialists say recent wet winters have provided animal babies optimal conditions for survival this season.
“Any animal in Nevada should be in good shape right now,” said Chris Healy, of the Nevada Department of Wildlife. “Food, water shelter and space are what these animals need to survive – and they have it all.”
This provides excellent conditions for hunters and animal watchers that one federal specialist described as “exciting.”
Jack Spencer Jr., a supervisory wildlife biologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Wildlife Service, also said Nevada has the nation’s most fragile ecosystem because water usually is so scarce. When there is an abundance of water, the prey animals have a better chance of surviving because they don’t have to travel as far to get to water sources, he said.
“If water is closer, an animal is less likely to be killed,” Spencer said.
In turn, coyotes and other smart predators move to water holes and have a ready source of food in an atmosphere that’s like “living next to a 24-hour drive-through” restaurant for the aggressor animals, he said.
If an animal is lucky enough to make it through the winter, it still might not live to see another summer end because life is hard for wild animals. That’s why many species give birth to litters of babies – only one or two of them usually survive.
“As the number of prey animals increase, so will the number of predators,” Spencer said.
Predator species should be healthy and plentiful next year, too. They have the uncanny ability to anticipate what will occur and adjust accordingly for the coming year, he emphasized.
• Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber @nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111, ext. 215.
Leave the critters alone
Pat Wiggins, the city’s animal services supervisor, deals with wild and domestic animals. With so many animals running loose, many get injured or wander into areas of the city where they could be hurt or killed.
And, sometimes, they just make themselves comfortable and become little nuisances, he said.
People with backyard ponds might as well post a sign welcoming raccoons. And leaving dog or cat food outside can attract a variety of prey and predatory animals, including coyotes, Wiggins advised.
Leaving pets outside and unattended is dangerous because of coyotes and mountain lions, he said.
Other animal experts warn that lawns can help rabbits cure a growling stomach and bird feeders attract big prey birds who enjoy seeds and grains as much as small animals.
“Often they operate at night so we don’t see them,” Wiggins said. “But they’re out there.”
Animals, big and small, should be avoided because they many be carrying germs or diseases that are harmful to people or pets.
“They may look cute but they can be quite dangerous,” he said.
Contact Carson City Animal Services at 887-2171.