“If we can teach people about wildlife, they will be touched. Share my wildlife with me. Because humans want to save things that they love.” ― Steve Irwin

It’s always fun to watch a deer frolicking in a field but when that field is your backyard and you live within a city that’s a different story. Wildlife is all around us, whether we want it to be or not. I know my family loves to watch the squirrels, rabbits and birds in our yard. It’s a peaceful event, but not everyone sees it that way.

In the past six months Columbus Animal Control and the Columbus Police Department have responded to 35 wild animal calls. Columbus is called home to many different wild animal species: bats, opossum, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, woodchucks, muskrats, snakes and even the occasional skunk have been dealt with. We have even had the visit of a deer or two along with a possible mountain lion sighting.

Most animals are harmless and just looking to survive. Animal control gets many calls about people trapping rabbits in their yard. Our suggestion is to use other deterrents to get them to move away from your yard. Many times if you move one out another one will move in. But if you place deterrents to make your yard unattractive to these animals then they will stay away. If you have a messy yard or one with a bunch of junk piled up then raccoons and opossums could find refuge in your yard. Animal control only worries about raccoons when they are out during the day or if they act sick. Normally, when they see a human at night they will run off. Opossums on the other hand operate both day and night. When approached they may run away but they may stand their ground and hiss at the person. If you leave them alone they will leave you alone.

The most common calls are in reference to bats. They can enter your home through the tiniest of holes. Generally, they have no contact with pets or humans and they can just be released back into the wild. Sometimes they have contact with a person or pet and they need to be tested for rabies. In the past three years after many submissions only one bat has tested positive for rabies. This might seem like a small number but since the disease is fatal we take each and every bite serious. That goes for any animal that bites a human, even if it is rare for it to be a rabies carrier it still needs to be tested.

Recently, I went out on a call for a deer around 33rd Avenue and 23rd Street. Animal control’s policy is to follow it while trying to force it outside of town. Even with minor injuries the deer was able to make its way to Pawnee Park and to the river. Our goal is not to kill the wild animals, but to cohabitate with them.

Animal control also deals with raptors, which consist of owls, hawks, eagles and a few others. If you find a dead or injured one you need to contact animal control immediately. These are protected species. If the raptor is injured there is an organization that will rehabilitate them then release them where they were found. If found deceased, the same organization would like to know how it died.

Animal control’s policy is not to trap and relocate wildlife. As stated before if you remove one animal from your lawn another one will replace it. Find deterrents to make your lawn undesirable. Fix holes, cap chimneys, cover your trash and remove outside pet food. Trapping can injure the wildlife. If a skunk gets caught in a trap the only way to remove it is to euthanize it unless a person wants to get sprayed. If a mother animal is trapped and relocated it could mean certain death for any children back at the nest.

If you have any issues with wildlife always contact animal control. We are willing to talk to you and attempt to find a solution. We have many different resources at hand to help in different areas with wildlife. If you have an issue with pigeons we have someone who could help with that. If you have an infestation of bats in your attic we have a contact. Animal control is striving to assist Columbus citizens in every way possible, which includes helping with wildlife. Lastly, it is not a viable solution to shoot the bothersome animals. The discharging of a firearm within city limits is a crime, even a BB gun or slingshot. And injuring an animal and letting it escape injured is in all definitions cruelty to animals, which animal control will enforce.

Columbus Animal Control Officer Shawn Flowers can be reached at sflowers@columbusne.us or 402-564-8839.