By Paul Aravis
Boulder County Extension Agent
If you live in the country, you are going to live with wildlife.
Though it could take an attitude adjustment, you likely will find yourself enjoying the experience. Skunks, raccoons, foxes ad prairie dogs are part of a rural lifestyle.
The first step is overcoming the myths of living with wildlife. Prairie dog holes, for example, rarely cause a horse, cow or sheep to break a leg. Skunks do smell, but only when startled. Raccoons will damage your garden, but, for the most part, will leave most of your vegetables alone. And a fox may kill a chicken, but more often it feeds on small rodents, such as mice, or birds, rabbits, insects, nuts, fruit and seeds. All told, wildlife impact the small-acreage owner in a minimal way.
As Colorado becomes urbanized, our wildlife also has become urbanized. Raccoon and fox, especially, have adapted well to their new environment. The key to successfully living with wildlife is to remove or protect those special creatures or plants that wildlife enjoy.
If a fox is killing your chickens, you will need to do a better job of protecting them. Use electric fencing or fox-proof your chicken house. Wildlife needs protection, so do what you can to avoid killing the wild animal. Unless you actually see it killing the chickens, you can't know it is doing so.
A recent Public Broadcasting System (PBS) show, titled "Earth on the Edge," focused on a Kansas farmer, who converted his operation to a sustainable one, that provided habitat for wildlife. The farmer thought wildlife was an important part of his operation.
A recent article in the National Wildlife Federation Magazine featured a successful Montana rancher whose operation included a large, viable prairie dog colony. This rancher valued the prairie dogs for improving the quality of grass forage and for providing prey to coyotes, foxes and raptors. Without the prairie dogs, these prey animals might attack his livestock. Because of the prairie dogs, the farmer's livestock losses were minimal.
Wildlife, can live, be enjoyed and be an important part of country living. Don't forget, they were here a long time before we were, and now we are asking the to share their home with us. All wildlife asks is that we be good neighbors.