Encounters with urban wildlife are becoming much more common among residents of Denver and other communities along the Front Range. Here's just one example.
One morning a couple of months or so ago, my mother, who lives in Fort Collins, awoke to find several uninvited visitors in her kitchen: a mother raccoon and an entire family of kits, as babies of the species are called.
How did they get in? Turns out my mom has a pet door for her cat, who spends much of her time outside. And as Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald noted in the previous installment of our Denver urban wildlife guide, raccoons are intelligent and adaptable. Given that many of the critters — particularly ones that have lived in a city environment for a while — are able to figure out how to open a variety of trash cans, a pet door is a snap.
No doubt the mother raccoon scented the food my mom keeps for her cat and pushed through the pet door — and her offspring happily followed her lead.
But Fitzgerald doesn't want locals to freak out over the prospect of coming face to face with urban wildlife of the sort that's common in the Denver area; Fitzgerald's main list consists of "mice and rats, pigeons, raccoons and squirrels, coyotes, bats, skunks, foxes, rabbits, prairie dogs, rattlesnakes, and I include deer."
He even thinks pet doors are okay. "They can be a good thing," he says. "But you've got to be vigilant."
This last word is key when it comes to Fitzgerald's tips to sharing an environment with urban wildlife, as you'll see below.
By the way, we've linked to the Wikipedia pages of diseases mentioned by Fitzgerald, to provide extra information about their symptoms and effects.
Fight the Fear
"Urban wildlife is everyone around us these days. There are places in the metro area where we might get 5,500 rodents per hectare, which is 100 meters on each side. These field mice are the bread of the prairie. All kinds of animals eat them — but they're also a natural reservoir for hantavirus, which is transmitted in feces and saliva. If these guys pop into a place like a barn, people can breathe it in. And while it's treatable with antibiotics, it can be fatal if untreated.
"That's why knowing about these things is so important. If we know about these dangers, we can keep ourselves and our pets safe."