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Where the wild things shouldn't be

If you've lived in Southern Oregon very long, you've likely encountered some of our four-legged fellow residents — and we don't mean pet dogs and cats. The hospitable climate that keeps many of us here also is attractive to various wild creatures who are not too proud to seek out backyard buffets and take up residence in crawl spaces.

Infestations of raccoons, possums and skunks are frequent enough to keep more than a dozen licensed wildlife control operators working in Jackson County. State wildlife officials are in the process of revamping the rules that govern how these critter catchers operate and what they may do with animals they trap and remove from clients' property.

Unpleasant though it may be, relocating these animals is really not an option. Raccoons, for instance, have a powerful homing ability that can bring them back even when they are released miles away. Relocated animals also can clash with other animals already living where they are released.

Many of these animals also carry diseases. Raccoons are highly susceptible to canine distemper, which they may spread to dogs, and carry roundworm, which can spread to pets and to people.

Animals that are released in the same area where they were trapped will merely move to a neighboring property and continue their annoying behavior, except that they have learned to be wary of traps, and will be that much more difficult to catch again.

If the idea of hiring a critter catcher who will remove animals from your property and kill them bothers you, there are steps you can take to prevent encountering the problem in the first place, courtesy of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife:

  • Don't leave pet food outside. If you feed a pet outside, bring the food bowl inside when your pet has finished eating.
  • Fasten garbage can lids with rubber straps. Don't put food items or meat in uncovered compost piles.
  • Clean up spilled bird seed and hang feeders out of reach.
  • Close garage doors and seal openings under your house with metal screen or boards, but don't trap animals inside.
  • Prune tree limbs that overhang roofs, and install screens over chimneys to keep racoons out. 

Above all, do not feed raccoons or other wildlife. They are not pets and should not be treated as pets.