Displaced Wildlife

Exercise Caution with Displaced Wildlife

With the recent flooding, people may start running into wild animals they don't usually see. Just as people evacuate flood zones, animals also move to escape floodwaters.

Wildlife such as deer, ground-nesting birds and snakes will be forced out of their natural habitat because they can't live in water. The distance the animals travel away from the flood depends on where they can find food, so the number and distance of animals displaced will vary by location.

Some wild animals, such as deer, may not be foreign to Nebraskans, but they just may not usually be seen this time of year in certain areas. People around flood areas need to prepare themselves emotionally to expect these animals showing up in their yard.

While some animals will escape the flood, others will die. Ground-dwelling animals such as pocket gophers and moles will likely drown as the floodwaters hit their homes. Although it's sometimes sad to see wildlife die, it is better for them to be left alone because people who interact directly with wild animals put themselves and the animals at risk.

Wild animals can carry diseases such as rabies, and the incidence of skunk rabies is expected to rise in the next couple of years. Because 80 percent of all exposure to rabies are human-initiated, adults should help children understand that they should only care for wildlife at a distance. Adults themselves should not approach wildlife unless they are properly trained and have the proper equipment to do so.

In some instances, it is even illegal for people to handle wild animals. Endangered species of birds and migratory birds are protected by federal law, so people should not handle them.

If a wild animal seems to be hurt, the best thing to do is to contact a wildlife rehabilitation or the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. For more help with wildlife conflicts, see UNL NebGuide, Wildlife Encounters and Conflicts: A Nebraska Guide to Finding Assistance at http://www.ianrpubs.unl.edu/epublic/live/g1828/build/g1828.pdf.

People can show that they really care about wildlife by keeping domestic pets, such as dogs and cats, away from wildlife so that wild animals will have space to live.

For example, some dogs are extremely territorial, so they will attack whatever wild animals come into their area. So instead of letting these dogs run free, keep them on a leash. Likewise, cats are significant predators of wildlife. Keeping a cat indoors will not only extend its life but also protect native Nebraskan species.

In addition, people should make sure that they don't feed their pets outdoors because this food and water will attract wild animals and lead to human contact or disease issues. If pets have to be fed outdoors, make sure the amount of food is enough for the animal to finish in one sitting.

For more information about interacting with wildlife, visit the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management at www.icwdm.org.

Stephen M. Vantassel, Project Coordinator, CWCP, ACP
Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management
UNL School of Natural Resources