LIVING WITH WILDLIFE IN THE SUBURBS
Notes from the 2013 DuPage Environmental Summit held on January 9,2013, at Benedictine University— by Jan Gricus
“Birds, Bees and Butterflies: Native Landscaping and Attracting Beneficial Wildlife to Your Yard” by Jim Klein-wachter from The Conservation Foundation. Plants are not just decoration. They are the ONLY thing that converts light to food and not all plants are created equal. Native plants build healthy soil and feed pollinators. Grass is nonproductive and costs 27 billion dollars annually in the U.S. with nothing in return. Lots of what we grow are not native: hosta, daylily, spirea, barberry, sedum and turf grass all come from other countries. You should land-scape as if your life depends on it, because it does. Plants need pollinators to produce food. Birds, bees, butter-flies, etc. are pollinators. Pollinators eat bugs, lots of them, and native plants attract lots of bugs. It's the circle of life in action. Cultivars of natives, dubbed “nativars” , may be beneficial or not, depending on what it was bred for and what was bred out. But even those are better than a plant from Japan. If you have shade, look for sedges and ginger which like shady conditions. If you would like suggestions for your yard, contact Jim at The Conservation Foundation and he will visit your yard and he will be happy to make suggestions. www.theconservationfoundation.org
“Living with 'Nuisance' Wildlife by Stephanie Touzalio from Willowbrook Wildlife Center. Wildlife needs food, wa-ter, space and shelter and look for all of those to make their homes. If you feed one animal, such as birds, other animals will come. If you provide water for birds in winter, you will attract other animals as well. Animals have adapted to needing smaller areas to make homes than before. They make do with what's available. Shelter is pro-vided for them by trees, chimneys, decks, brush piles, etc. Before freaking out, determine what really is a nui-sance. Is a skunk walking through your yard in the middle of the night really a problem? It's OK to leave the night to the night creatures if they are not causing problems. Humane deterrents for nesting animals under your deck are: ammonia-soaked rags or toilet paper tubes placed in those areas; liberally applied black pepper and hot sauce because mammals do not like these on their paws; blinking lights and ribbon blowing in the wind may deter some critters some of the time. Use these deterrents when the animal is trying to sleep, usually during the day. When the critter leaves, find out how it gained access and seal off the area. Hardware cloth is good to use for this. For raccoons raiding garbage cans, keep the cans inside if you can, or pour some ammonia inside the can if left out or black pepper on top. Prevention is best, cap the chimney, dryer vents, window wells. Seal up and clean up. Call Willowbrook Wildlife Center at 630-942-6200 if you see an injured animal. Go to their website for additional information at www.willowbrookwildlife.org
“Research on Coyotes: Learn the Facts and Dispel the Myths” by Chris Anchor from Cook County Forest Preserve District. Cook County has a 14-year study and have discovered that coyotes are everywhere!! They are identified by their tails which hang down below their backs. They are trapped, tagged and monitored. When caught in the city and suburbs, they find rotten teeth indicating coyotes are eating human food: high carbs, no brushing. This is not seen in rural coyotes. Coyotes test their limits around humans. Each encounter teaches them something new, but attacks on humans are rare. Should you encounter one, be confident and bold. Make loud noises and make yourself look larger by raising your hands above your head or flaring your jacket wide open to let the coyote know you are 'top dog'. Do not turn your back and run. If you leave the area, do so calmly, facing the coyote as you leave. Coyotes are always looking for food. Do not encourage them by feeding them. Do not allow spills to accu-mulate below bird feeds. Keep grills clean; keep pet food and garbage cans indoors. Walk your dog on a leash and never leave it unattended in your yard. For general information on coyotes, visit www.dupageforest.org. Click on “Conservation” and “Managing Natural Resources”.
“Rare and Threatened Wildlife Species and their Management” by John Oldenburg, Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. 25,443 acres or 12% of DuPage land area is forest preserve. A “rare” and “threatened” desig-nation is considered a failure because a diverse wildlife is an indicator of ecological health. Destruction and threats to habitat threatens and stresses biological diversity. Wetlands have been the most affected and most in need of restoration. Springbrook Prairie is a good example of prairie restoration. It is high priority for the Forest Preserve District to improve wetlands, grasslands, savannas, forests and woodlands. Woodlands are es-pecially threatened by invasive species such as buckthorn, honeysuckle and garlic mustard. The areas they have worked on are already showing signs of rare and threatened plants. Seeds for these native plants are in the soil, just waiting for the right conditions to sprout and grow.
“Urban Wetlands and Wildlife Habitats” by Kurt Dreisilker, Morton Arboretum. Seven million acres of land in Illinois have been drained since 1818 by installing drain tiles. After careful research, drain tiles have been re-moved at appropriate sites at the Arboretum and wetlands have redeveloped, followed by native vegetation, followed by spring peepers, turtles, etc. Vegetation, invertebrates, amphibians and mammals have instinctively found their way back to the wetlands once they were re-established. Wetlands are important because 46 out of 59 mammal species depend on wetlands for their existence. Meadow Lake has been designed to slope gently into the water to attract lots of wetland wildlife. It is managed by a controlled burn. Install a rain garden at home to attract and sustain some wetland-loving species. Be a wetlands advocate, talk to your neighbors about rain gardens, volunteer at the Arboretum.
“The Return of Large Predators to our Region” by Jack MacRae, Willowbrook Wildlife Center.
The trend is that large predators have wandered back into Northern Illinois. The 'Food Web' consists of prey and predators and the environment is healthier when both are around. The gray wolf, black bear and mountain lion were last seen regularly in Illinois in the 1800's. The gray wolf comes down from Wisconsin and there have been 10 sightings since 2002, the closest being in 2010 in Big Rock, in Kane County. Two people were arrested in 2011 from Jo Daviess County because they each shot a gray wolf thinking it was a coyote. They were used as an example that hunters really should know what they are shooting, not just guessing. Black bears are in some zoos and nature centers and have been known to escape. Northern Wisconsin has bears. They are even in the Kenosha/Racine area. There have been six sightings in Illinois since 2008. The closest one was in September 2012, 10 miles south of the Wisconsin border. Mountain Lions can be 8 feet long, nose to tail, and weigh 140 pounds. They come from South Dakota. Missouri has a lot of them. The first time in over 100 years, one was spotted in southern Illinois in 2004. The 2008 mountain lion found roaming around Chicago's Roscoe Village came from the Black Hills. It was destroyed but local animal control is now better equipped to capture rather than kill such an animal. Closest sighting was along the Fox River in Kendall County last year. Chicago Wilder-ness Magazine always has interesting articles on this topic.