They are three of Hilliard’s most popular residents.
People see them around town daily. They even have their own dedicated community social media page!
We’re talking turkey – or technically, turkeys, because usually three of them can be found. And they represent just one example of wildlife Hilliard residents live alongside in our community. Other common creatures include Canada geese, deer, raccoons, opossums, rabbits and coyotes.
Some residents welcome this kind of wildlife as a great part of living in a community that maintains wooded and agricultural areas. Others point to issues caused by the interactions humans and wildlife are bound to experience when people expand into territory that was once the home of these animals.
By observing a few basic rules, humans and wild animals can live in harmony.
First, remember the “wild” part of “wildlife.” It’s always best to give these animals a safe distance. Not only can they feel a need to defend themselves if cornered or harassed, but humans approaching animals naturally causes creatures stress and anxiety, triggering a flight response. This can cause them to injure themselves, expend energy to flee, damage property or jump into traffic.
Generally, these animals are just trying to coexist in territory that belonged to wildlife before human encroachment. If they eat landscaping, approach property to eat cat food on the patio or dine in an open trash or compost bin, it’s because humans have provided a buffet of easy-to-acquire food.
That does not mean you should feed these critters! Not only does that make animals reliant and less fearful of humans, in many cases our food is not healthy for wildlife. (One common example of this misunderstanding is when humans mistakenly feed bread to geese.)
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Wildlife tends to be at its most active early morning and late evening, so be most cautious when driving at those times. Certain times of the year are also more prone to accidents. Of the 40 reported deer-vehicle accidents last year, 65% took place in October, November and December, during their breeding season.
It’s worth learning about the behaviors of some of our more misunderstood wildlife.
Coyotes, for example, are typically fearful of humans. They are more likely to eat carrion, waste food, pet food and small animals, such as field mice and rabbits, than something larger and more dangerous to them.
Most Ohio snakes are not venomous, the ones you might encounter in your yard are almost always beneficial. They typically eat insects, mice and other small pests. Snakes will avoid you if possible, and the most common snake you’re likely to see – garter snakes – won’t harm you!
Opossums are actually cool creatures! They are North America’s only marsupial (meaning the females carry their babies in a stomach pouch, like a kangaroo.) They mainly eat dead animals, insects (including lots of ticks) and small rodents.
Deer can be beautiful, but they can be a nuisance by eating landscaping. While commercially available chemicals can repel deer, many people swear by a simple mix of two tablespoons Dawn dish soap and one egg mixed into a gallon of water and sprayed onto plants.
If a wild animal visiting your yard seems to lack a fear of humans or is presenting a conflict even after removing attractants from your yard, contact the Ohio Division of Wildlife at 1-800-WILDLIFE (945-3543).
Andrew Beare is Hilliard’s city forester.