The Game Commission has issued its annual warning about the increased activity of wild animals as the fall season approaches. It's amazing how little attention most people give to these warnings until they are themselves impacted in some way by the actions of extra-hungry and/or lovesick wild animals or just plain sick animals, as in rabies.
Already I have stopped to listen and try to see flocks of migrating wild geese. I love that sound but hate the thought of what it forebodes. Rain, snow, cold and ice are the next things on the weather agenda.
Whitetail deer are gearing up for action now. Their hormones are beginning to jingle and so they are scraping the velvet off their antlers and strengthening their neck muscles for the upcoming breeding scraps they'll be looking for. The rut hasn't really started yet but it won't be long before it does. Meanwhile, deer are feeding vigorously on acorns and other mast, apples, wild grapes. With each ensuing week, from now until Christmas, the mating urge will become stronger; bucks will begin to chase does and to spar with other bucks to establish dominance and so will be more on the move. It's the one time of year that caution is sometimes ignored as they chase. Drivers should be very cautious and slow down on rural roads.
Deer will often just squirt out onto the highway, sometimes from unexpected areas and those - including me - who have ever hit a deer can testify to the damage they can do.
Black bears have concluded their breeding season now but they are on concerted feeding sprees, to fatten up for their winter denning. Now is when mail carriers sometimes get jittery because they see bears strolling around and I've talked to some who are afraid to get out of their mail trucks because of it.
So if you don't want black bears hanging around your property, you'll have to take definite steps to make sure there is nothing to attract them to your property. Take those bird feeders inside at night, keep garbage in tightly capped containers, don't feed Fido on the back porch, clean up the barbecue grill and put it away. If you have apple trees on your property, you can expect bears to find them. Same for cornfields.
Still, there is no need to panic at the sight of a bear. Just stand still and enjoy the show. The bears that are dangerous are the ones that people feed deliberately in their backyard and then at some point decide they no longer want to do it. Well, bears don't understand that so when they show up for the accustomed treat of donuts or apples and it is not there, they don't take kindly to it. These are bears that will tear up the back porch or rip siding off the shed, trying to get to whatever they smell.
Bears search for food in the easiest places and bears will travel miles in one night seeking food. So you are liable to see a bear crossing a field or your backyard anytime day or night from now until denning time comes. They generally do not come close to buildings or porches unless they smell something delicious there.
This past summer produced an unusually high number of animals that turned out to be rabid. The incidents in Southeastern Pennsylvania with the aggressive beavers really made me think. I had never before heard of a rabid beaver. But foxes, coyotes, raccoons, possums, skunks, and bats are probably the ones most commonly associated with rabies.
Animals sick with rabies act differently than do most wild animals. Any wild creature you see that seems to have no natural fear of you, that does not try to get away from you if you get too close, is to be regarded very cautiously. Never allow children to try to pet or pick up a rabbit or any creature that just sits there. This "tameness" is one of the prime signs that something is wrong with that animal and rabies is nothing to take a chance with.
Remember that animals are one of the great heritages of our Commonwealth. It is we who have moved into their habitat and made life hard for them. They look for food wherever they can find it with the least effort. Don't let that be your back porch.