As much as we all enjoyed the mild winter last year, the results can be dangerous to hunters and other outdoors persons as they head out this fall to hunt, fish, hike, bird-watch or whatever. These things must be taken seriously. The drought felt in most parts of the country this year and wildfires and brushfires that occur in the heat and dryness of summer just exacerbate the stress on the animals and birds.
West Nile Virus has taken hold in Pennsylvania. This is passed by mosquitoes, so heading into the woods with no protection against them is foolish. Repellent is a must. Since insect larvae concentrate near small ponds or even water standing in a bucket in the back yard will hatch the dangerous mosquito larvae. So scan your own property for places where rainwater will collect and stagnate. It's a potential danger spot. Birds carry the West Nile virus. Birds come to feed on mosquitoes, the mosquitoes bite the birds and so it passes on.
Ticks easily overwintered last year and are akin to a plague in some areas. Ticks spread Lyme Disease and Lyme is one of the worst scourges you could ever imagine. It's deadly serious; you don't want to contract it. So protection against ticks is vital. Do not go afield this autumn without protection. I so highly recommend a tick repellent that I used this past spring season. It's called PERMETHRIN and several places of business in this area carry it. But you must follow directions exactly. It is sprayed on clothes, NEVER on the skin.
I used this spray last spring and did not have one tick on my body all season. Last year, I got a tick bite on my stomach, in deer season, and that was an unpleasant ordeal. I didn't have the spray last deer season but when I go into the woods this fall, especially in archery season I will not go without having applied this spray properly. Wearing long sleeves while afield and applying the repellent will keep you tick free.
The drought dried up much of the food that wildlife depend on. Water levels are lower and some small streams and ponds are dried up so wildlife will be approaching inhabited places much more than usual this fall. Lawns and shrubs that were watered all year and so are green are on their menu. Fruit trees that you cared for are prime targets for hungry wild things and birds.
The big one this fall will be the estimated 18,000 black bears who are even now on the prowl looking for calorie-rich foods they need to add fat quickly so they can survive the winter denning. Mark Ternant, black bear biologist for the Game Commission has suggested some ways to prevent confrontations with black bears that will be prowling all fall looking for food. Here are some of his suggestions:
"Play it smart. Do not feed wildlife. Food placed outside for wildlife, such as corn for squirrels or deer, may attract bears. Reconsider putting squash, pumpkins, corn stalks or other Halloween or holiday decorations outside that also may attract bears. Even bird feeders can become bear magnets, " Ternent said.
"Restrict feeding birds to when bears hibernate, which is primarily from late November through late March; avoid foods that are particularly attractive for bears, such as sunflower seeds, hummingbird nectar mixes or suet; bring feeders inside at night or suspend them from high crosswires; and temporarily remove feeders for two weeks if visited by a bear. Encourage your neighbors to do the same.
"Don't place garbage outside until pick-up day; don't throw table scraps out back for animals to eat; don't add fruit or vegetable wastes to your compost pile; and clean your barbecue grill regularly. If you feed pets outdoors, consider placing food dishes inside overnight" Ternant advised.
"If a bear shows up in your backyard, stay calm. Children should understand not to run, approach or hide from a bear that wanders into the yard, but, instead, to walk slowly back to the house,' Ternant said. Running when you are within a bear's eyesight plane is the worst mistake anyone can make. Bears misinterpret running as a sign of danger and will instinctively pursue. You cannot outrun a bear.
Eliminate temptation. Bears that visit your area are often drawn there. Neighbors need to work together to reduce an area's appeal to bears. Ask area businesses to keep dumpsters closed and bear-proofed (chained or locked shut).
If your dog is barking, or cat is clawing at the door to get in, try to determine what has alarmed your pet. But do it cautiously, using outside lights to full advantage and from a safe position, such as a porch or an upstairs window. All unrecognizable outside noises and disturbances should be checked, but don't do it on foot with a flashlight. Black bears blend in too well with nighttime surroundings providing the chance for a close encounter. If bears have been sighted near your home, it is a good practice to turn on a light and check the backyard before taking pets out at night. Ideally, we want bears to pass by residential areas without finding a food reward that would cause them to return and become a problem, Ternent said.
Capturing and moving bears that have become habituated to humans is costly and sometimes ineffective because they can return or continue the same unwanted behavior where released. That is why wildlife agencies tell people that a fed bear is a dead bear.
Ternent noted that bears are misunderstood by many. Bears should not be feared, nor should they be dismissed as harmless, but they do need to be respected, Ternent said.
If you see a bear and it hasn't seen you, leave the area calmly. Choose a route that will not intersect with the bear if it is moving. If you have surprised a bear, slowly back away while quietly talking. Face the bear, but avoid direct eye contact. Do not turn and run; rapid movement may be perceived as danger to a bear that is already feeling threatened. Avoid blocking the bear's only escape route and try to move away from any cubs you see or hear.
Do not attempt to climb a tree. A female bear can falsely interpret this as an attempt to get at her cubs, even though the cubs may be in a different tree. If a bear is displaying signs of nervousness or discomfort with your presence, such as pacing, swinging its head, or popping its jaws, leave the area.