Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
Fort Leavenworth is home to abundant wildlife, including squirrels, deer, coyotes, opossums, skunks, racoons and foxes, which offer many benefits to the community.
“At Fort Leavenworth, we are blessed to have a lot of native wildlife still in the area and most of it is right on cantonment or travels through cantonment at some point during its life span and during its daily activities,” said Neil Bass, Directorate of Public Works natural resources specialist. “It shows that the environment on post is in good condition to support all that wildlife. Good wildlife habitat is good for people. It means a clean environment.”
While having a diverse wildlife population is beneficial, there are concerns that can arise including road collisions with deer or unfriendly and potentially harmful interaction with other wild animals, in particular, rabid raccoons or mangy foxes. However, post experts say that neither are cause for concern.
“We do not have rabies on Fort Leavenworth,” said Lt. Randall Collins, game warden. “We just had a raccoon tested for rabies and it came back negative Oct. 11.”
Dr. Darrin Olson, Veterinary Treatment Facility veterinarian, confirmed Collins’ statement, saying the closest case of rabies was an off-post bat that tested positive for the disease.
Collins said there are various reasons why a raccoon might show signs of aggression and be out during the day, including distemper or hunger.
“We have a heavy population of raccoons,” Collins said. “They are scavengers, so they are going to be just about everywhere. A lot of people seem to think that they are only out at night. They are wild animals. They are allowed to come out during the day.
“This time of year is tricky especially with raccoons and opossums being scavengers. They’ll get into fruit, which tends to ferment this time of year meaning there is a little bit of alcohol in them,” he said. “Sometimes, they’ll act a little sluggish and move really slow and things like that. People might think they have rabies, but not necessarily.”
Bass said other things may cause raccoons and other nocturnal animals to be out during the day including breeding seasons, construction that disturbs their habitats and recent flooding.
“This time of year, the young ones are kicked out, and they have to go find their own place, their own habitat in their own range. It is sink or swim with wildlife,” Bass said. “(The juveniles) are not great at finding food and also are moving out to areas they’ve never been before, so they don’t know where things are. A lot of young animals, you can find them at weird times of the day because they are wandering around looking for places they want to live.”
Mangy foxes and coyotes are also often reported.
“Mange is a terrible thing. It will affect (an animal’s) condition,” Bass said. “However, at the end of the day, being a wild animal is hard work. … Your dog is going to be fat and healthy because it has a steady supply of food. Wild animals are not like that. They are naturally going to look skinnier and less healthy.”
Collins said the summer heat can cause a mangy look, too.
“He (might) just have patchy fur due to the weather,” Collins said.
Collins said there are simple ways to put distance between wild animals and homes.
“They are wild animals. Don’t try to touch them. Don’t try to feed them. Just let them be wild animals,” Collins said. “Make sure you close up your garage doors, put (pet) food away and make sure the lids on trash containers are closed because they will get into it.
“Once they start to get fed, they’ll start to approach people and that’s when things get dangerous, so your best bet is to just leave them alone,” he said. “If they are in an odd spot or acting strange or coming at you in an aggressive manner, call us. We’ll put them down, we’ll do what we have to do.”
The use of archery equipment or any weapons in the housing areas is strictly prohibited. Call (913) 683-0431 or 684-2111 to report any suspicious wild animal activity.