Gardening Tips: June 11, 2014
This is the time of year when our local wildlife make their presence known and not always in a pleasant manner. Everybody loves the sight of a newborn fawn or a black bear or even a family of baby woodchucks cavorting on the lawn. Baby bunnies are so cute and chipmunks bring us all of us senior citizens memories our youthful days, watching Chip and Dale cartoons!
The amusement of all this fades quickly when the babies grow up and munch down with our gardens and landscape plantings!
Last week I cautioned one of my employees, who is from Los Angeles, not to follow anyone too closely here in the country, because it is quite common for wildlife, especially deer, to suddenly leap out in front of you. As if on cue, five minutes later, a very large black bear wandered across Route 23, just west of Acra and I had to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting the oversized bruin. My employee was driving behind me and he got to see the bear climb a roadside tree. I love seeing bears, just not when I am going 55 mph, downhill, with a fully loaded trailer pushing me!
Some of you may have seen the recent news story of the nuisance bear in Albany, which had climbed into a tree and had to be tranquilized and eventually killed. There were some outraged people who felt that the DEC did not do enough to protect or save this animal. In this case, I think the DEC acted appropriately. This bear had wandered here all the way from Pennsylvania and had been captured and relocated at least twice or three times before it ended up in the City of Albany.
Although wild bears are usually quite timid and avoid humans as much as possible, this bear was no longer a “wild” animal in that sense. Adult bears are quite capable of seriously hurting or even killing people. One swipe of a bear paw, with its three-inch claws, can easily kill a child. The public has a right to be protected from encounters such as this.
The part of the story that was not really explained, is the fact that this bear most likely lost its fear and timidity due to the behavior of humans. Far too many people encourage bears to become nuisances by either leaving out garbage that bears can access or worse, by indulging in behaviors that create the problem. Outdoor bird feeders are bear magnets and there is no excuse for leaving them up all year in bear country. I know many people love seeing birds at the feeders, but these people are often responsible for bears getting a death sentence. Once the bear learns that humans provide free food, they become bolder.
Lots of damage
Locally, in my neighborhood, bears have trashed people’s sheds, wandered into or broken into houses and caused thousands of dollars in damage to property. Typically, a “nuisance” bear will be trapped and relocated at least twice, at a cost of many thousands of taxpayer dollars, but often, as was the case with the Albany bear, the bear has become so habituated to humans, it will return to anywhere there is free food. A couple of years ago the DEC made a regulation that prohibits bird feeding in bear country when bears are active (April through November usually). This regulation is widely ignored, but if someone is caught feeding bears that need to be captured and relocated, the bird feeder is subject to fines.
We all love seeing deer too, but feeding deer often results in the devastation of someone’s landscape plantings. Many weekend warriors return to their country home only to see that thousands of dollars of damage has occurred while they were gone. I think garden centers should put signs on certain types of vegetation that states “Warning, this shrub is deer candy. If you plant it, expect the local deer to eat it”. Your local office of Cornell Cooperative Extension has publications on selecting deer-resistant plants or you can ask the local garden center if any particular plant is likely to be browsed. Big box stores really have no concern if the plants they sell are destroyed by a local nuisance.
They’re not afraid
Finally, keep in mind that newborn fawns have no fear at all of humans and will commonly walk right up to them and hang out. Many people erroneously assume that the fawn is “abandoned” or in need of rescue. Almost always, this is not the case as momma deer is probably nearby resting after giving birth and she will attend to her baby as soon as the humans leave it alone. So, please, just leave the fawn alone! A few days ago we were working on hooking up a well when a newborn fawn decided to join us. I almost felt like I had to tie her up so we could finish this job! Fortunately, we were soon done and we left the fawn to reunite with her mom.