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Update on Groundhog and Raccoon Woes; the People Speak!


Update on Groundhog and Raccoon Woes; the People Speak!

As you may recall from a recent episode, we answered (or tried to answer) a listener with groundhog issues. She had hired professional trappers and they had captured a few; at a hundred and seventy-five bucks per woodchuck! They had also captured an opossum and a racoon, and I warned that while opossums are kind of beneficial, as they eat mice and rats, raccoons are anything but beneficial. They are a prime vector for rabies, and their fecal material is tremendously dangerous to human and pets as it contains numerous disease and parasitic organisms, including roundworm.

I told her that she should have had the captured racoon professionally euthanized as moving it somewhere would only give other people the problem or cause the raccoon to suffer a long and painful death, as relocated mammals never do well.

And relocation is also illegal in many states, as frequent listener and show helper Tom in Nazareth Pa reminded us. He writes: "The topic of relocation of pest mammals came up on a recent show and you advised against relocation for very good reasons. But were you aware that it is also against the law in PA to relocate groundhogs? Thought you should know."

Well, I did know; but that call was filled with several very useful diversions and I didn't have room to mention it. I also forgot.

Tom added this advice from the PA Game Commission "One of the most common wildlife problems Pennsylvanians face is garden raiding. The culprits are usually rabbits, groundhogs, and raccoons."

They then suggest fencing, which is usually ineffective against excellent climbers like groundhogs and raccoons unless the fence is built correctly: the bottom part buried one to two feet around the garden, the middle supported with stakes, and the top foot unsupported and bent outward to act as a baffle.

They continue with live traps, which "have a cage-with-closing-door design and come in a variety of sizes. These traps are ideal for residential areas because if you catch the neighbor's pet by mistake all you have to do is open the door to release the cat from the trap. However, anyone who sets one of these traps must recognize it has the potential to catch something other than what they expected, especially a skunk. The problem, of course, is what to do with the skunk. It's liable to spray anyone who comes near the trap, even if the person is just trying to set it free.

"Since skunks - as well as raccoons, groundhogs, foxes and coyotes - are rabies vector species, they should not be relocated like other wildlife. Homeowners who set traps and catch these species [may think] they face the choice of killing the animal or releasing it. But releasing a skunk or a raccoon can be a risky situation. There's a chance that you could be sprayed by the skunk and bitten or scratched [by the skunk or raccoon]." If you are scratched or bitten, you need to see a communicable disease specialist ASAP; rabies is a nasty disease.

And again, I'll emphasize that it's also illegal--and a really bad idea--to release any of these creatures in most (if not all) states. I strongly recommend they be professionally euthanized by a vet or professional trapper.

Oh--and good luck if it if it is a skunk. A bath in tomato juice seems to work best if you get sprayed. But also plan to set up a tent in the backyard because that's where you'll be living for the next week or so.

Back to groundhogs and my advice to pour used kitty litter down their holes after removing the feces and flushing or trashing it. Jill in "Wild and wonderful West Virginia" set me straight on THAT piece of advice.

"I love, love, LOVE your program. Been listening for at least 10 years and your advice has greatly improved the health and appearance of my gardens and lawn. But on a recent program you recommended used cat litter, saturated with urine, not feces, to discourage groundhogs. Fabulous suggestion! But PLEASE retract the "flushing cat feces" part.

She quotes: "...The Toxoplasmosis parasite found in cat feces is killing many of the ocean's highly endangered sea otters, along with dolphins, whales, manatees, walruses, sea lions, and seals, including one of the most critically endangered marine mammals of all, the Hawaiian monk seal, of which there are only about 1,100 individuals remaining."

Furthermore, the parasite has been found in other marine life that are part of the food chain. So it is being ingested and passed along to other animals, including humans. Most folks are not aware of how lethal the practice of flushing cat feces is to marine life. Just yesterday I had to educate my own Mother. She has lived on the coast in southern Florida for 25+ years and had no idea. I assumed that there would be heightened awareness of this problem in a coastal region. Boy was I ever wrong!"

Thank you, Jill! I also suggested throwing it in the trash, so do I least get time off for good behavior?

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