"TO FEED OR NOT TO FEED" the wildlife:

RickN

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Good piece from Wild Heart Ranch. I know some of you have feeders and thought you might find it interesting. So far no CWD in OK that I have heard of so not a problem yet.


We are often asked about feeding wildlife, if it is a good idea or not, especially in areas of drought and fire.
Excellent question, and today more than ever, we all have better insight into the risks due to our own disease threats and changing our own behavior. I wanted to share what I have observed, studied and concluded about this growing concern and how I think we could better support the safety and health of the wildlife we all treasure.
In many areas right now it is hard to find a salad bar or a buffet due to covid. Exposing people to food shared by many is no longer a safe method of feeding ourselves. Extreme methods of inconvenience have been adapted to keep us all safe and avoid transmitting disease. The risks we are all experiencing are the same for some species of wildlife and have been for many years.
Now how do we "socially distance" the wildlife?
Deer are the 'big scary' right now due to 'chronic wasting disease' or CWD. It is believed to be spread through saliva, feces and urine and the condition is highly contagious and eventually fatal after a long suffering death. Also known as "zombie deer disease" you can imagine how long the suffering can last. The incubation period of the disease is 16 months before symptoms are detectible and it is not yet clear when the shedding (contagious period) occurs, which is alarming. A lot of ground is covered by wild deer. They are constantly on the move. When a sick deer visits a deer feeder or feeding station, they leave behind the disease in their saliva to be picked up by other deer, and the spread ensues.
Due to our own mismanagement of predators in many areas, the sick deer are not quickly hunted by predators like the coyote, but are left to wander and waste away, further spreading the disease. Even after death the prions enter the soil through a decomposing animal and can remain present for years, and of course deer eat soil. They all do. It is how they get their minerals in the wild.
Wildlife management across our nation has been working tirelessly trying to get a handle on CWD, as this is a serious potential disaster. Not only are the wild cervids a cherished treasure enjoyed by all and vital to the spread of seeds to maintain our wild plants and trees, but native deer are vital in the funding of wildlife management in many states. In Oklahoma, if deer hunting were banned due to population decline, it would seriously damage the system that supports and manages conservation, protection and law enforcement for all our wildlife. Fishing permits would become the main source of permit revenue and budget cuts would ensue. Knowing all of this, I am concerned about any passive feeding stations for deer. Not just the ones out of kindness, but the ones that lure deer for hunting.
It is a proven risk to lure deer to a single feeding station since saliva is the primary method of transfer for CWD, and farmed deer can contaminate wild populations or vice versa if the animals have access to each other. Jump proof double fencing spaced several feet apart surrounding deer farms would further reduce the risk to wild populations.
This problem isn't going away anytime soon, and wildlife management can't do it all. As citizens who care we need to adjust our methods to contribute our own protective actions and reduce the risks to the deer or whatever susceptible wild cervids populate your area.
Raccoons. Raccoons in NE Oklahoma are running ramped with distemper. They are susceptible to both canine and feline distemper strains. We are seeing 80% of all INTAKE adult raccoons positive for distemper during spring, summer and recently into fall months. This has evolved from one or two a year twenty years ago to MOST of them.
In 2018 I received my first ever bottle orphan raccoons with distemper. I received them in 2019 and 2020 as well. This is alarming. Distemper is a highly contagious fatal disease for raccoons. It's primary method of transmission is saliva and can be airborne and picked up through contact with feces and live in the soil for a year or more. It causes symptoms that are often mistaken for rabies as the raccoons are lethargic, unafraid and generally unaggressive, that will exhibit neurological symptoms in the neurological strain such as rhythmic twitching of the limbs, "sardonic grinning", and eventually deadly seizures ensue. In the respiratory distemper strain, matted eyes and nasal discharge are present along with lethargy and lack of aggression and fear.
Of course a distemper test is needed to confirm, but treatment is long term, expensive and most often futile or will leave the animal disabled, so with wildlife it is wiser to euthanize and avoid exposing other animals to this disease rather than to attempt to treat, putting them through additional suffering for an eventual death if they do not fully recover. As with any disease, early detection is key to recovery, but with wildlife it is rare to have one captured early in the course of the disease. They aren't typically discovered until it is too late.
My experience is with more than 65,000 intakes from several counties of NE Oklahoma. I have not yet seen a case of CWD in a deer, (knock on wood) but I have seen hundreds of distemper raccoons, and I have recently torn down all of my wooden raccoon cages BECAUSE of this horrid disease and will replace (before next spring if I have to weld them in the snow!) with steel that can be sterilized by torch. (fire) Bleach scrubbing wood does not kill it well enough. We have tried everything to kill it.
Now, how do we stop these diseases? Unfortunately we will likely never stop either of them, but we can reduce the risks to our wildlife by not drawing animals to a central location. Even bird feeders that are visited by deer and raccoons create a risk when seed spills onto the ground. The animals are leaving saliva behind and if they are sick, they will contaminate any healthy visiting susceptible animals.
For people who have raccoons visiting cat and dog food, simply bring the food inside at night. Feral cat feeding stations can be elevated on climb proof ledges or pedestal tables. Cats can jump. Raccoons are not great jumpers. Skunks cannot jump and are also susceptible to distemper though most people are not so willing to bring me a sick adult skunk, so I do not have as many intake instances for skunks with distemper. And yes, unvaccinated dogs and cats are susceptible to transmission from wildlife.
I am not telling you not to feed wildlife. I am sharing what I know and have witnessed in order to shine a light on an issue that concerns me and many people who ask questions wanting to learn so they can be better stewards for the wildlife and avoid causing harm.
Wildlife do not need feeding unless there is an issue that prevents them from finding food, and as always, if you feed them, they will come. Though we do not all specifically invite wildlife in, if there is a regular food source the can get to, they will eventually find it, den nearby and claim your territory as their own. Now, before winter sets in, is the safest time to remove or restructure feeding method options to reduce access and dependency so the wild animals can locate an alternative place to find what they need to survive winter. Many wild species have the capability to hibernate, but hibernation typically occurs out of necessity. We are unintentionally evolving some species in suburban areas to avoid hibernation because of regular access to food.
FIRE ZONES:
When all the food is burned up and water is scarce, there are ways to supplement animals safely. Here are some tips;
Do not use pans or piles of food to feed. Spread grain or kibble in a long narrow line in a wide area and rotate the area you feed in. The goal is that an animal comes to eat and eats everything in that spot and the spot is not repeated. When feeding hay to deer, break it up and spread it out rather than letting them chew on a bale. This will help leave less saliva behind.
Water sources should be changed daily. Twice a day or more for busy spots. Rotate and replace buckets or bowls when you do so and wash with soap and rinse in bleach water. Allow to completely dry before using again.
I hope something I said here will help. Risks and disease are different in every area and I can only speak for mine, but the method of transmission is the same everywhere.
The more we know, the better we do.
"Let them be wild" They are all safer when we don't interfere.
Thanks for reading!
Annette
 

Okie4570

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Raccoon number increase is a direct result of China raising their own raccoons for fur, and therefore almost zero market for them here. CWD is in nearly every bordering state's whitetail population, just a matter of time. KS doesn't have nearly the deer population of OK yet they still have it.
 

KurtM

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I don't know who is responsible for our Racoons problem, but I do know that Herman Goering is responsible for Germany's Racoons problem.
 

ignerntbend

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I don't know who is responsible for our Racoons problem, but I do know that Herman Goering is responsible for Germany's Racoons problem.
Uncle Herman made self indulgence, morbid obesity, paganism, and suicide respectable again.
Very influential person. He’ll be exonerated by history.
 

rc508pir

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The Coon

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