Something You Should Know About... Tourists aren’t our only summer visitors

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An uninvited guest on Norwegian Bay Photo by Phil DeNucci

    My middle child, Kela, is working for the Alaska Park Service this summer at Lake Clark National Park.  This remote park is only accessible by bush plane, and is known for its amazing scenery and abundance of wildlife...including bears. In fact, Kela sent me a photo of a bear track she found walking to her lodgings from work.  It was as big as her outstretched hand!  I’m trying not to overreact here.  After all, what else do you expect in Alaska, right? Then what should appear on Facebook but a picture by Cumberland resident Phil DeNucci, taken last Saturday night outside his house on Norwegian Bay behind 3M. The picture was  of a large, black and shaggy visitor to his back yard.   It is harder to not overreact when it is practically in your back yard!
    What all these sightings (and numerous others that have been reported recently) remind me is that we are entering that time of year when the warm weather brings us into closer contact with some of the “wilder” neighbors. Nature has truly blessed us here in the northwoods.   We enjoy the close proximity of the water, forest and wildlife.  However, sometimes the proximity of the wildlife does get a little too close. Just ask Phil!
    Bears may seem majestic at a distance, but not so much when they are on your deck patio, or digging through your garbage. Probably due to the strange weather patterns this spring, there is a lot of bear activity this year, so a few precautions might be worth your while.
    The fact is bears, like most of us, are just  looking for a free lunch.  The quickest way to get rid of them is to remove the food sources.  
    While we love the beauty of wild deer (and some enjoy hunting them in the fall), it is not so enjoyable when they help themselves to our carefully tended vegetable or flower gardens.
    In the past, my family has been  guilty of providing a ready feast for the local deer.  My daughters love birds and we used to hang a number of feeders in our yard.  One afternoon, I received a text message from my girls with a photo of a “funny brown bird with a white tail” eating at our feeder.  The photo showed a doe nose up to the feeder, tipping it so the seeds ran straight into her mouth!
    Our family friends didn’t get off so easy.  A couple of years back, their daughter placed her feeders on the second floor balcony outside her bedroom.  She received a visit from a bear who climbed up the log walls of their home, destroyed the feeders, and then climbed back down, leaving huge claw marks on the walls and posts of the home.
    The moral of these stories is - take down your feeders during the summer.  While it is great to have the birds visit our yards all year, the other visitors are not as welcome.  The birds do not need the extra sustenance during the summer.  Even hummingbird feeders can cause a risk (think “juice boxes” for bears!). Hang the feeders up again in the late Fall after the bears are sleeping and the birds need the food.  You must also clean up under where the feeders were, removing all fallen seeds or suet.
    If you have had bears in your area you must take extra precautions.  Simply putting lids on your garbage cans is not good enough.  Bears have a terrific sense of smell.  If you have to leave your trash outside until pick-up, you must routinely clean your cans with an ammonia or bleach solution to remove any food odors.  Do not leave pet food outside for your outdoor pets.  Feed them at regular times and then remove the food bowls.  The leftover food will not only attract bears but raccoons, foxes and coyotes.  Even your backyard grill is a possible source of attraction.  If left outside, the grill must be cleaned thoroughly to remove any left over grease or meat smell.
    If you do get a visit from a bear, stay inside or on the deck, bang pots and pans, use air horns, and at night shine bright lights.  This should spook them and get them to leave.  Once the food is gone, they will have no reason to return.
    As for the deer, there are chemical sprays available, but here are some ideas for a more “natural” approach to keeping them out of the garden.  Spreading items such as mothballs, clumps of hair, and fabric softener sheets around the outside of the garden have been known to help.  Placing thorny branches in the fencing and hanging aluminum pie plates along the fence so they blow in the wind also deter the approach of deer.
    It should also be noted that there is a Cumberland City Ordinance which makes it an offense to purposefully feed the deer,  the cost of that fine can be up to $200.  
    It is most important that everyone be aware that this is the time of year when the turtles are crossing the roads to get to their nesting places.  Just like their larger cousins the sea turtles, our local varieties return to the general area where they hatched to lay their eggs.  Since it takes at least six years for a turtle to reach breeding age, the landscape may have changed and they are forced to cross roads to fulfill their instinctive mission.  
    I am once again asking a personal favor of everyone.  PLEASE do not run over turtles.  As humans encroach more and more on their habitats, turtles (both painted and snapping) are endangered. They are a beautiful addition to our lakes and ponds and a vital part of the ecosystem.  Please let them continue on their life’s journey in peace, instead of ending it in pieces.
    A few simple, common sense ideas will help all of us enjoy nature without it getting too up close and personal.  Have a great summer.


Cumberland Advocate

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Cumberland, WI 54829
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