State Wildlife Rehabilitator Dan Proulx presents his pet snake Beetlejuice during a Wildlife Presentation at Swampscott High School. (Libby O’Neill)
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SWAMPSCOTT – A wildlife expert was at Swampscott High School presenting everything residents needed to know about local wild animals on Tuesday.
Dan Proulx is a licensed state wildlife rehabilitator and a Problem Animal Control (PAC) agent and has years of experience as an Animal Control Officer on the North Shore.
The number one rule Proulx mentioned was that it was illegal to keep and raise wildlife without a license and advised residents to never touch an animal with their bare hands. He then introduced common north shore wildlife and how to prevent them from showing up at their homes.
Coyotes have essentially become the unofficial animals in Swampscott now, with more publicity everywhere. According to Proulx, the reason that they become bold may be lack of food such as rabbit and squirrel this year.
They weigh around 30 to 50 pounds but seem bigger because of their rich fur. Proulx stated that a person can actually pick one up with one hand. Their travel range is 5 to 30 miles, it is possible that the same group of coyotes has been circling in Swampscott and Nahant according to Proulx.
Preventing coyotes from encroaching in someone’s yard can be simple. First, rearrange yards often, coyotes can easily get used to their surroundings and it may confuse them. Do not leave any trash or food in the yard, as that can always attract wildlife.
Due to the decorations set out during Halloween there was no sighting of coyotes, so Proulx encourages residents and homeowners to set out frightening decorations to ward them off. Do not use bird feeders, this can attract rodents which will in turn attract coyotes. Most importantly, try to act fierce when coyotes are in your vicinity and let the animals know that this is not their territory.
The population of rabbits and squirrels might be decreasing due to the fact that coyotes might have turned their attention to hunting for little dogs, as Proulx assumed when he got fewer and fewer calls for injured rabbits. A rabbits’ only defense is to freeze or run when they are in danger.
He then told people how to prevent rabbits nesting in the yard to prevent overpopulation. First, buy reflective pinwheels by early February before they breed, and plant them in the yard. The rabbits will be scared when they see their reflection. Another option is to buy a fake owl, place it high off the ground and move it daily or buy rabbit repellent.
Proulx warned people about relocating a nest. By relocating nests, it can kill the baby rabbits that stay in the nest for most of their infant life. Rabbit mothers may abandon a disturbed nest, and to tell if the babies are potential orphans, the best way is to make a string tic-tac-toe over the nest. Take a picture when the tic-tac-toe is set and keep watching to find out if the string is moved by the mother coming in and out of the nest.
If they become orphaned babies, people should always contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. They can put a warm water bottle wrapped with a towel or t-shirt to keep animals warm for a few hours.
Proulx tells people not to feed any animal as they can go a couple days without food, but if they eat the wrong food they can die.
SQUIRRELS and RACCOONS:
A thing to keep in mind when dealing with squirrels and raccoons is that they are wonderful mothers, according to Proulx. Always make sure, when coming across lost squirrel or raccoon babies to round them all up because moms will come back for them.
People should cover their chimney to prevent squirrels from entering their homes. Cutting down tree limbs that hang over or close to the roof would help as well.
Snakes are very rare in the North Shore according to Proulx. Most snakes in the north shore are non-venomous and they want nothing to do with people. They don’t really show up in the winter season, however, if people want to get rid of pet snakes, please call a rehabilitator.
Coyotes, raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes are prone to carrying rabies, so it is very important to be aware of it for the sake of residents’ own sake and their pets. On May 2, 2020, a raccoon was tested positive for rabies. “It is rare but out there,” said Proulx.