• Avoiding conflicts between wildlife, people

  • Issues often arise when wildlife and humans meet.

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  • Staff Report
    As the story goes, Henry Leavenworth chose the Kansas side of the Missouri River because of its advantageous position on the bluffs.
    A variety of wild animals call Fort Leavenworth home for many of the same reasons. Its lush landscape coupled with its proximity to the Missouri River makes it an attractive place to reside.
    Issues often arise when wildlife and humans meet.
    Included below are a list of the more common species found on post and how to avoid unpleasant altercations.
    The omnivores of Fort Leavenworth — namely skunks, raccoons and opossums — are resourceful and mischievous. This combination can cause headaches for residents, particularly when steps to discourage their hunt are not taken.
    Two species of skunks are found in Kansas — the eastern spotted skunk and the more common striped skunk.
    Skunks can cause many problems in urban areas. They damage lawns by digging for grubs, den under patios and buildings, release an unpleasant scent and can carry rabies. In Kansas, skunks are the primary wildlife carrier of rabies.
    Keeping skunks away can be accomplished by removing exposed pet food, putting garbage in sealed containers and carrying off woodpiles that may harbor mice and rats.
    Raccoons are a common sight in Kansas, and they prefer wooded areas near streams, rivers or other water sources. Fort Leavenworth’s proximity to the Missouri River makes it an attractive habitat for raccoons.
    They can be particularly destructive in urban environments by raiding garbage cans and may nest in attics and fireplaces. Like skunks, raccoons carry a number of diseases, although only about 5 percent of raccoons in Kansas have been exposed to rabies.
    Unlike the other omnivores, opossums rarely cause humans much trouble. While they may sometimes get into basements, sheds or garages, opossums are usually not aggressive and are easily scared off.
    Out of about 900 species of bats found in the world, 15 are found in Kansas.
    Although they cause little damage to buildings, the presence of bats is commonly unwanted. Their droppings and urine have a strong, persistent odor that can cause histoplasmosis, an airborne disease caused by microscopic soil fungus.
    If a live bat should make its way into a building or residence, do not attempt to capture it. If the bat is in a residence, contact Frontier Heritage Communities to remove the bat. In other on-post buildings, notify the building manager so that Entomology can remove the animal. Often, a bat will leave at dusk if a door or window is left open.
    Attic-dwelling bats can often be coaxed out by placing one or two bright lights in the area. If possible, watch the outside of the house around dusk to find areas where bats are exiting. After all bats have left, close the openings.
    Page 2 of 2 - If self-removal is necessary, don’t attempt to do so without heavy leather gloves or a net.
    Coyotes are the most common predator in Kansas. Two subspecies of coyote are found in Kansas: the plains coyote, found in the western two-thirds of Kansas, and the southeastern coyote, found in the southeast and extreme eastern portions of the state.
    Only a small proportion of coyotes are livestock predators; however, steps should be taken to ensure that they do not threaten domesticated animals.
    Like skunks and raccoons, coyotes are sometimes attracted by garbage or pet food left outdoors.
    Coyotes have been known to cross with domestic dogs, forming a hybrid known as the “coydog.” Keeping pets indoors can help to prevent domesticated animals from having unwanted interaction with coyotes.
    Fox and bobcats are common on Fort Leavenworth, but tend to avoid human contact more than coyotes. Mountain lions have been reported in the area, but none have been confirmed on Fort Leavenworth.
    FHC and Kansas State Research and Extension Service offer tips to help keep wildlife in the wild:
    • Do not feed wild animals, including birds, squirrels and mice. Bird feeders often spill feed on the ground, which attracts squirrels and other mammals.
    • Do not leave pet food or dishes outside the home.
    • Close ground floor windows at night. Raccoons have been known to smell pet food inside homes and tear open screens to gain entry.
    • Do not place garbage outside until the morning of scheduled trash pickup. Residents are permitted to place garbage on the curb the night before pickup, but it may attract wild animals. Keep food waste in tightly covered garbage cans.
    • Use an over-the-counter repellent to discourage squirrels from approaching the home.
    • Toss a few mothballs under porches, in storage sheds and in crawl spaces to discourage skunks, raccoons and other animals from moving in.
    Residents of Fort Leavenworth are reminded that wild animals often carry parasites and disease. To protect pets from contact with wild animals, FHC requires that dogs and cats be kept indoors, confined within a fence or restrained on a leash. All pets should have up-to-date vaccinations.
    Residents of Fort Leavenworth Frontier Heritage Communities are not authorized to contract a private pest control company. If a wild animal gains entry into a home and cannot be chased out, contact the FHC office at 682-6300 during business hours, or 651-3838 after hours.
    Editor’s note: Fort Leavenworth Frontier Heritage Communities and the Kansas State Research and Extension Office in Leavenworth contributed to this article.
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