PORTER COUNTY | Spring is a season for blooming flowers, chirping birds, and wildlife that is either emerging from hibernation or thriving as creatures look for food after the winter thaw.
Which is why area officials are warning local residents to be aware of wildlife that may be unsafe or a nuisance to homeowners, pets, and people.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is advising Hoosiers to prevent nuisance animals, such as raccoons, skunks, opossums, squirrels, beavers, muskrats, and weasels, from coming onto their property and doing damage to take a number of easy steps around their home.
Prune tree limbs at least 10 feet away from the roof, buy heavy metal garbage cans with lockable lids or keep garbage cans indoors as much as possible, install metal skirting around the bottoms of decks, provide shelter structures for fish in ornamental ponds and water gardens, pick up dog and cat food at night and keep birdfeeders out of the reach of wild animals or bring them in at night.
Taking these precautions can limit the exposure to nuisance animals that may carry diseases, and according to Valparaiso veterinarian Dr. Larry McAfee, this spring he has seen an increase in the number of raccoons reported with distemper virus which is a cyclical and normal occurrence, “nature’s way of thinning out the raccoon population.”
McAfee said residents who find raccoons in their yards, during daylight hours who are moving very slowly are probably are infected with the distemper virus which is not only fatal to raccoons, but also contagious to dogs and cats.
He says that the infected raccoons need to be humanely euthanized and anyone encountering a raccoon with distemper should contact a pest control agency or local animal control.
The Indiana DNR is also advising residents who encounter, not only an infected raccoon, but any injured animal or a baby animal to not “rescue” the creature, but to call a licensed wildlife official.
“Picking up a baby animal that is not orphaned or abandoned can harm the animal and take it out of its natural environment where it is meant to be. It is also illegal,” advises the Division of Fish & Wildlife in a statement to the public, and they also note that what appears to be an abandoned animal may in fact just be a baby whose parent left to find food.
For more information, contact the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife at (317) 232-4080 or the DNR Law Enforcement 24-hour line at (812) 837-9536.