Halloween is over and you may be eyeing that pumpkin and wondering what to do with it. Consider several of the following ways you can use your pumpkin to benefit native wildlife.
REMEMBER: Whatever you do, keep your pumpkin away from the road. Wildlife may be lured to the area by the pumpkin smell, and wildlife and roads NEVER mix!
Make it “To-Go”
Cut the pumpkin into pieces and place them on a rock or stump. Many critters like to “grab-and-run” so they can eat their snack from a safer vantage point. Cutting your pumpkin into smaller pieces will make it ideal for them.
Cut your pumpkin into two halves, and hollow them out to make two “bowls”. Drill some holes for twine or wire and fill with birdseed. Hang this buffet on a nearby branch so you can watch songbirds, and squirrels, enjoy the fall treat.
Plant the seeds
Save those seeds and watch pumpkins grow next spring. Set aside the seeds and allow them to dry. Then place them in the freezer to ensure they stay dormant until you’re ready to plant them. Pumpkin flowers attract pollinators to your garden and enhance the benefits of native insects.
If you already have a compost pile, or perhaps you’re short on time, putting your pumpkin in the compost bin may be the easiest way to make sure it benefits the bacteria and other organisms that breakdown composted items. After a few months, the composted material will make an excellent addition to flower beds and vegetable gardens.
Even though the fall season has been relatively hot and dry, wildlife knows cold weather is on the way. And this is the time of year many animals seek places to build nests and burrows for the winter. Unfortunately what sometimes appears to be a “perfect” spot for them is actually the attic or crawlspace of your home!
These conflicts can be prevented by carefully going over the seams of your home, and identifying places that may provide access. Even a small crack or loose board is enough to entice a resourceful animal to make it a winter retreat.
Many access points can be sealed with galvanized hardware cloth that has been stapled into place and covered with dirt and gravel where appropriate. Other spots may be sealed with aluminum flashing or an extra piece of trim.
Keep in mind that once an animal is living in or under your home, there are still humane ways of evicting it without trapping. Trapping often causes enough stress to put the animal into cardiac arrest. Other times, the animal will die of self-inflicted wounds sustained will panicking or trying to escape the trap. Many individuals fail to check the trap on a regular basis and some animals die of dehydration.
Even if the animal survives the trapping process, due to the stress of being handled by humans, they often will not survive the relocation process. Wildlife depends on having a territory that is familiar to them, where they know dangerous and safe areas, the water source, and where they likely have siblings, parents, and offspring. Relocating a wild animal removes all these important resources and often forces them into conflicts and dangerous situations while they frantically try to find a water source and safe place to live.
In addition to directly or indirectly killing the wild animal, trapping does not resolve the fact that an access point into the home remains, and inevitably more animals will find it.
Once an animal has decided to live in your home, there are humane and effective ways to encourage wildlife to relocate.
Used cat litter, ammonia moth balls and/or ammonia-soaked rags can be make an area less attractive to smaller wildlife. Lights and noise can deter others; a radio and spotlight left on for a few nights can discourage wild animals from trying to make a nest or burrow in the area. A one-way door placed over the access point can allow an animal to leave but not return.
Humanely evicting wild animals requires a basic knowledge of their daily habits and natural history. Doing so makes it less likely your efforts will compromise the animals’ survival or separate them from their babies.
Often a temporary shelter (such as a nestbox) placed outside of the newly-sealed access point will keep evicted animals from being left “out in the cold” and vulnerable to predators while they secure a new, natural nest site.
There are numerous resources for learning more about sealing and securing your home and humanely evicting wildlife. Some of our favorites include UrbanWildlifeRescue.com andwww.greenwoodwildlife.org. These websites offer helpful and practical tips for wildlife conflicts.
Another great resource is the book, Wild Neighbors, by John Hadidian, which offers a thorough overview of various wild animals, their habits and how to handle potential conflicts with them.
Our volunteer of the month is Bradley Wyatt, who has transported animals on countless occasions. Transportation is a crucial, and often an overlooked aspect of wildlife rehabilitation. Many times, an animal that has been found is already compromised-either from injuries, dehydration, shock or starvation. Getting them to a rehabilitator quickly can make the difference in whether or not they recover.
Transportation can be very stressful for wild animals and may further exacerbate their already vulnerable condition. A person who is transporting wildlife must make sure the animal is in an appropriate container, and not exposed to any additional stress from unnecessary noise or handling. Transporters also have to postpone making any stops until the animal is safely delivered.
Bradley has never hesitated to answer the call for help; he quickly responds to requests for transport and rescues. This summer, Bradley climbed down an abandoned well to rescue two snapping turtles that were trapped at the bottom. This required him to carefully dislodge them from the stones, dried mud, and old wooden beams at the bottom and carry them up a ladder and out of the well. After examining them with our turtle expert, Anne McAbee, and determining they were healthy enough to be on their own, Bradley took the turtles to a nearby release site that was safer for them.
On another rescue mission, Bradley climbed on top of a series of storage building to free a bird that had become tangled in some old landscaping material. Because of his efforts, the bird made a full recovery under the care of Sherry Teas, and was later released.
Bradley has also made numerous trips to and from Tullahoma, picking up and dropping off animals with our fellow rehabilitators at Ziggy’s Tree. He has also traveled to Raccoon Mountain, Signal Mountain, Ooltewah, Cleveland and everywhere in between pick up sick, orphaned and injured animals and take them where they need to go. In addition to songbirds and snapping turtles, Bradley has also transported ducks and ducklings, squirrels, opossums, rabbits, mice, hawks and owls. We are so thankful to Bradley for generously donating his time to help these animals get care as soon as possible.
Bradley also helps us with our fundraising events and setting up booths at various events. When he is not volunteering with Happinest, you may find him taking care of animals at the local animal shelter, kayaking or enjoying adventures with his dog, Wall-E.