All posts by Adam Buggy

Banding Resident Geese

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Two adult geese with goslings.

During late June each year, the Connecticut DEEP Waterfowl Biologists select various locations in each county of the state that hold large groups of resident Canada geese. It is at this time of year that geese molt their feathers and are unable to fly. This makes it easier to round up the geese which are then targeted to be tagged with leg bands. When a bird is banded, it’s age and sex and location are recorded. This information helps scientists and conservationists continue to understand and study the birds and learn more about their migration patterns and habitat needs. I was able to volunteer my time on 6/30/15 to help the state biologists round up and band resident geese in Litchfield County. The morning was incredible. Roughly 100 geese were banded in five different locations throughout the county.

Giving back to conservation is a great feeling. Consider volunteering your time next year!

Update (7/16/15) – The numbers are in! This year the state captured and banded a total of 1,896 geese. This included 1,222 new geese and 674 recaptured birds!

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Already banded, this adult had it’s information rerecorded and was quickly released.

 

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Rounded up!
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Attaching a leg band to a juvenile female.

“What Equipment Do You Use?”

I get asked a lot what kind of equipment I use to trap and remove animals. There are many tools available to a Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator (NWCO) and every individual situation presents a different challenge that dictates the types of traps I use – where, when and how the trap is set. That said, the use of humane cage traps (often called “live catch traps”), is by and far the number one piece of equipment in the NWCO’s arsenal. I use both commercially available cage traps and traps that I make myself. Here is a picture of some of the cage traps I use. The numbered information below corresponds to the numbers in the picture.

Trapping Equipment
Trapping Equipment

1. This is a double door cage trap with a single pan & trigger system designed to catch animals the size of raccoons and woodchucks.
2. This is a single door cage ideally designed for raccoons and woodchucks. To best ensure the well being of the animals we catch, it’s smart to use traps that provide little space for the animal to move about. A confined space prevents the animals from jumping about and potentially injuring itself. The green cover placed over the trap is also for the animals’ benefit. It keeps the interior of the trap cool on warm days, warmer on cold days, and helps prevent the animal from seeing activity happening outside the trap which may excite it.
3. This is the same trap as described in number 2. Seen without a cover.
4. This is a single door skunk cage with a cover placed over it. The cover not only benefits the animals but in this case benefits the NWCO as well. Though skunks have poor eyesight in the first place, they are less likely to spray their stinky essence when they can not see what is approaching. Using covers is by no means a guarantee against being sprayed, however.
5. This is the same size skunk cage. Single door with a removable release gate on the rear of the trap.
6. This is a type of trap I make myself, designed primarily for use in trapping muskrats but it is just as effective at trapping gray squirrels when set properly. It is a collapsible, double-door trap.
7. This is a single door squirrel cage. Simple and effective when baited properly.
8. This is another trap I make at home. It is a multi-catch, excluder cage designed for gray squirrels and has two doors on the same side of the trap.
9. This is not a trap but it is another excellent tool in the arsenal. This is a single door excluder with a nosecone designed to be attached to the underside of a soffit. Used primarily for gray squirrels. Though not my design, I make these excluders at home.
10. These are homemade flying squirrel excluder cages of different lengths. They operate with a double door on the same side of the trap and have flanges at the entrance side, used to attach the trap around flying squirrel entry/exit holes.
11. This is another homemade type designed for use in trapping chipmunks over their burrows. Used with a nosecone on one side, it has double-doors and can catch the animal either leaving or returning to it’s burrow.
12. This is a role of 1/2″ x 1/2″ wire mesh. I also use 1/2″x 1″ mesh and 1/4″ hardware cloth to make traps on the spot when on a job (if needed) or to perform exclusionary work.

Winter Wildlife Breeding In Connecticut

It’s been a long and tough winter so far, only two months into 2015. The snow was relentless and never ending for nearly a month. Temperatures plummeted. January and February saw a large mass of arctic air make it’s way south, keeping Connecticut below the freezing mark for weeks. Nights were typically around 0 degrees and multiple nights hit lows of -15 degrees here in the valley and in the northwest hills. Wildlife has, for the most part, temporarily sheltered in hard. Raccoons are making appearances only on the “warmer” nights, searching for food most likely. Beaver are stationary in their huts, feasting off their feed piles, as three feet of ice keep them from making many appearances to the surface. The uncrusted, deep snow hasn’t seemed to slow down the coyotes or the bobcats, yet, sign of fox on the move has tapered off since early January. Winter is certainly playing it’s best cards this year.

However, we are soon to turn the corner towards spring. With warmer temperatures in the near-term forecast, keep an eye out for an increase in wildlife activity. Not only will wild animals be on the move in search of food, but mid to late winter is prime breeding season. I do suspect that some breeding has been delayed due to the harsh winter weather, but nature always finds a way. Raccoons, skunks, squirrels, fox & coyote are in the prime of their natural mating and breeding habits as we speak. Beaver typically breed in January and February but, again, harsher winter conditions may have delayed even the roughest and toughest of the winter-ready beaver.

Breeding activity in some wild species is more visible than in others and you may not even know it. For example, have you ever noticed one squirrel chasing another in the middle of winter? They’re not playing. This is either a display of dominance between male squirrels or a male in search of a mate, chasing a female.

Does it seem like your yard starts to stink like skunk a bit come mid winter, every year? This isn’t simply a passing skunk. Females are looking for prime breeding locations, such as under a deck, shed, porch or steps. Many individual males may make an appearance over the coming weeks as they seek out female company and search for a mate. This season, skunks have been off to a slow start.

Raccoons may be on the move a bit more as well, braving the cold nights and even traveling during the day time. Young males are evicted from their dens as older, more mature males are in search of female company.

When the time is right, each and every year, the nuisance calls start to come in. Homeowners begin to have problems with animals entering their homes or properties throughout the mating season. Nuisance complaints will most certainly start to rack up once the females start searching for a suitable location to birth their young, finding comfortable places in attics and chimneys, for example. For now, keep an eye out for signs of wildlife love, as we are in the prime months of the breeding season in Connecticut.

What’s In My Attic?

Hearing a strange noise coming from your attic? Is it waking you up in the middle of the night or do you hear it during the day? What’s it sound like? A fast scurry? Heavy thuds? Perhaps you’re only hearing it occasionally throughout the week. Or, you’re hearing the noises on a constant basis. “What could possibly be in my attic?”

Wild animals do occasionally look to our dwellings as suitable places to nest and den. Though most wildlife goes to extensive lengths to avoid contact with human beings they still enter our homes and can be the cause of endless trouble if not dealt with properly. But why is the attic a common place of offense? It’s dark, it’s quiet, it’s warm, it’s dry and it offers excellent protection from predators. Put simply, it’s comfortable.

Think you have wildlife in your attic? Use this guide below to help determine what may be living above your head. It details the most common “attic offenders.” Squirrels, raccoons and bats. If you’re unsure or not comfortable trying to determine what may be in your attic, simply give PAWS a call at 860-840-3237. We are happy to help.

The PAWS Guide To Attic Critters:

1. What season or time of year is it?

This is important when trying to determine what is inhabiting your attic. Birthing and rearing seasons are when homeowners most often hear activity in their attic.

Gray Squirrels have two birthing seasons throughout the year. Female squirrels typically enter attics for breeding purposes during late winter and again in late summer. Activity and noises may increase roughly 5 weeks after the young are birthed as they are now capable of running about. March and September tend to be active times. Though these are common times that a homeowner may hear squirrels in an attic, note that these critters can be present throughout the year in an established nest.

Raccoons birth their litters during the spring, typically in March and April, and females will occasionally seek nesting sites in attics. Many nuisance complaints for raccoons in attics come during this time of the year. However, raccoons can and do live in attics throughout the year, using the space as shelter and warmth.

Flying squirrels will form larger colonies during the winter months as a means to keep warm. Colonies may stay attached throughout the year, however, especially those colonies with young that were born in the summer months. In this case the young flyers, even though fully independent at four months, will winter over with the rest of the colony. These critters are active and social and are commonly found in attics. They are quite a nuisance.

Bats may call an attic their home (known as a roost) throughout the year if the attic conditions meet their ideal needs. Typically, temperature is a major factor as to whether or not a bat or bats will use an attic as a roosting site. Maternal colonies of bats are a common cause for complaint. Female bats birth their young during June and July. The young become capable of flight typically during August. It is typically in August when homeowners begin to notice bat noises coming from the attic.

2. What time of day or night are you hearing the noises?

This is perhaps one of the most important indicators to help determine what is residing in your attic.

During the day: You may have squirrels in your attic. Squirrels are active primarily during the day time hours. Activity peaks during the morning hours and again during the evening before sunset. Large colonies of bats can also make noise during the day time as individuals are competing for space in the roost.

During the night: Raccoons are nocturnal and are active primarily during the night time hours. Noises heard from raccoons may be heard at any time throughout the night. Flying squirrels are a common attic inhabitant and these critters, too, are nocturnal along with bats, rats and mice. Bats will leave their roost at dusk and will return at dawn, making noises at these times.

3. The noises I’m hearing sound like…

Squirrels: Scurrying and running about is indicative of gray squirrels. The sounds are light and fast and can be persistent. Though squirrels communicate with one another through vocalizations it is uncommon to hear these sounds. This is not to say squirrels do not vocalize in attics. It simply means many homeowners do not report hearing squirrel chatter coming from above. Flying squirrels will also create a scurrying and fast-paced sound. The sound of scratching can also be heard as squirrel move and place nesting materials.

Raccoons: Thudding, thunking, bumping or thumping. Raccoons are a heavier animal. When they walk, play or move about in your attic it will sound significantly heavy. Like a thud or thunk. Raccoons are also a vocal animal and homeowners often hear the trill of a female raccoon calling to her young or the chirping of the young themselves.

Bats: When leaving or returning to the roost, bats will make a fluttering sound. Though these animals are generally quiet and most homeowners never know they have bat inhabitants living in the attic above, they are heard on occasion. Bat noises are most commonly heard during August when the young in a maternal colony are able to take flight. However, bats can be heard at any time throughout the year. Homeowners also report hearing the shrill or screech of a bat from time to time.

4. So how did it get in?

Many nuisance wildlife situations in attics are the result of failing vent covers or screening. Gable vents are common entry points for bats and raccoons. Peak/roof vents are also a common entry/exit for bats. Soffit vents can be problem areas as well. Other natural “gap areas” that exist on roofs can commonly be found behind gutters and where eaves/soffits meet the roof (on dormers, for example). Small gaps under cedar shingles or siding often attract animals and can become a nightmare of a situation for some homeowners. If the animal did not use a preexisting hole or gap it likely chewed or clawed it’s way in. Squirrels are notorious for chewing through shingles, roof boards and fascia. Raccoons are strong animals that can rip, tear, and claw their way in. Animal-created holes are naturally smaller for squirrels and other rodents. Raccoon holes need to be larger and are often quite obvious.

5. Additional clues as to what it could be…

Hearing animals in your attic is not the only clue that signals the reality of wildlife living in your home. All wildlife, regardless of type or size, will leave urine and droppings in your attic. Of course, dropping size generally correlates to the size of the animal. Mice, bats and squirrels have similar size and shape to their droppings whereas raccoons leave much larger droppings behind. Bat droppings look like a grain of rice, similar in size and color to mouse droppings. Squirrel droppings are similar shape but a bit larger. For health concerns, please do not handle wildlife droppings. Of course, finding droppings means climbing into your attic. If you do not feel comfortable entering your attic to check the situation, please don’t. Call a licensed and trained professional to inspect your attic and help you determine the source of the problems. Droppings can also be seen on the roof, near entry/exit holes. Use a pair of binoculars to search your roof for droppings at ground level. It’s safer.

Wildlife in your attic can often be consistent with odors. Most notably, bat guano leaves a pungent and unmistakeable odor. Raccoon odor is noticeable as well.

One may also look for tracks left by the animal though it is uncommon to find tracks in an attic. Take a look outside. For example, raccoons often climb to roof level using down spouts. Look for paw prints on the down spout or anywhere in the dirt down below. Think outside the box when searching. These critters prove to be the worlds best acrobats at times and can leave sign in some of the strangest places.

Debris is a common indicator of which species may be calling your attic home. Nuts and acorns are indicative of rodents and squirrels. Nesting debris and natural debris can be a sign of squirrel or bird activity.

Staining at entry/exit points is also consistent with some animals. This is more helpful to the trained eye, however.

6. Do I need to have the problem solved?

Absolutely! Wildlife in your attic can lead to many potential problems. Raccoons not only cause damage and destruction but will also have latrine sites where they urinate and defecate. This can become a problem as these latrines will often begin to seep through the ceiling, causing a health hazard to you and your family. Squirrels and rodents can also cause damage. Most notably these critters can and do chew on wires. Chewing on wires can lead to a potential fire risk. Bats are known for causing a mess that can lead to an unpleasant odor and a definite health hazard for humans. Guano, the droppings of a bat, piles up quickly under larger colonies. Having bats removed professionally followed by a thorough attic restoration and cleaning is imperative if a large colony of bats has been dwelling in your attic for a length of time. Other issues, including those caused by rats and mice, can be the source of a major headache for homeowners. Please read section 7 below for important considerations to think about if you’re thinking of attempting to solve a wildlife issue on your own. In most cases, it is best to call a licensed professional to help with wildlife in your attic.

7. Important considerations.

Many homeowners have a do-it-yourself mentality, which is admirable, and attempt to handle nuisance wildlife on their own. However, PAWS does not advocate that you attempt to deal with wild animals in your attic for various reason. Wild animals are unpredictable and can be the cause of personal injury when approached improperly. Safety is always a priority when dealing with wildlife. Wild animals can also be the carries of transmissible diseases to human beings. These diseases can be caused by both direct or indirect exposure to the animals. Even animal feces can be the source of disease contracted by humans. However, the concern lies not only with potential risk to human beings. In many situations, wild animals are using an attic for birthing and nesting purposes. It is imperative to know how and when to handle adult animals when young may be present. Keep in mind that young are typically not readily visible and it can be difficult for the untrained eye to determine if and when young are present. Attic wildlife removal and control should most certainly be left to a trained professional.

8. Additional wildlife that may call your attic home…

Raccoons, squirrels and bats are not the only attic intruders. Other animals such as opossums, snakes, rats and various species of birds may also be residing above your head. If you think about it, ask me to tell you the quick but humorous story of the bear in an attic. It’s a head scratcher for sure!

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I hope this guide provides some help to you in determining what may be living in your attic. For any questions or assistance please don’t hesitate to call me at 860-840-3237. We can work together to find the best solution to solve your nuisance wildlife woes.

Don’t Feed Winter Wildlife

The time of year is upon us when many homeowners feel the need to feed wildlife. The nights and days are cold, the snow is deep, the animals must need some help with food, right?

Wrong!

Most animals that are healthy have adapted well to survive harsh winter conditions. They will be able to feed and forage enough to survive even the longest winter. Those animals that are weak or sick will succumb to natural selection, which does more good than harm. It limits the spread of disease and works to control overpopulation in areas that may not be able to support higher numbers of a particular species. It also helps the long term survival of a species as only the strongest and toughest of it’s kind will survive.

Feeding animals during the winter months can actually cause more harm than good. When you habituate a species to feeding on one food source in one place, the negative consequences of a quick meal begin to arise :

1. Animals will congregate near homes which can raise the potential for nuisance wildlife complaints and damage to your home or property.

2. When prey species such as small game and deer become habituated to an unnatural food source (unnatural meaning you placed it there) it increases the risk for attracting predator species such as fox, coyote, bobcats, fisher, etc. In turn, this can increase the risk of incidents between wild predator species and your pets, small children and even you.

3. Animals that continue to congregate in higher numbers in small areas for unnatural feed have an increased risk of spreading and/or contracting diseases.

4. When animals are habituated to an unnatural food source they can and do lose some of their ability to forage for food in the wild. This will negatively affect the animal in the long term.

Read more about winter’s impact on Connecticut wildlife HERE in this article published 2/1/15 in the Hartford Courant.

Parvovirus and Your Dogs

Recently, a surge in the number of cases of parvovirus in canines has occurred in Massachusetts. Veterinarians are unsure why the virus has become so prolific this season and are urging pet owners in Massachusetts and Northern Connecticut to have their dogs vaccinated. Be aware that parvovirus can be contracted by exposure to infected fecal matter. So keep your dogs from getting too close to piles of scat. While this particular strain seems to come solely from other canines, the disease does affect wild canines (Coyotes & Fox) and is occasionally seen in raccoons. Parvo is generally not harmful to adult humans but it can present mild symptoms in children according to the Mayo Clinic.

Please click HERE to read more about the recent outbreak of Canine Parvovirus.

More information about dog vaccinations and symptoms can be found on various, credible websites.

Black Bear Kills Student in New Jersey

On September 22, 2014 a University student in New Jersey was hiking with friends and was attacked and killed by a black bear. When populations of black bears go unchecked, this is one example of their potential ability. Black bears in the Northeastern states are becoming less and less afraid of humans. It’s only a matter of time before another incident or accident occurs. My thoughts go out to the family of this young man.

Please click HERE to be taken to this story to read more.

Wildlife Attacks

In recent weeks, two incidents of wildlife attacking humans have occurred here in Connecticut. The first involved an elderly woman who let a rabid raccoon into her home thinking it was her cat. Click HERE to read more. The second incident involved a woman being attacked by a rabid bobcat. The animal was sent for testing and was confirmed to have had rabies. Click HERE to read more.

Bats in Connecticut

Bats are an incredible animal. As the only mammal capable of true flight, these animals help tremendously to naturally control insect populations. However, due to a deadly bat disease known as White Nose Syndrome (WNS), Bats in Connecticut and elsewhere in the United States and Canada have met an unfortunate downfall in their populations. We need to do everything we possibly can to help bat populations grow and thrive.

Please click HERE to be taken to the Connecticut DEEP’s Bat Information page. From there you will be able to find the Report Form for bat sightings as well as other links to information about bats.

Reporting bat roosts and even individual bats may help state biologists better understand our current bat population and how the animals are faring in the wake of the deadly overtake of WNS.