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Call of the Wild: Fairfax County Receives 1,000 a Year

Mild winter brings no increase in calls, but county's wildlife biologist says residents call about everything from groundhogs to coyotes.

Each year, Fairfax County receives about 1,000 calls from residents about wildlife.

"This mild winter, the number of calls I have received about urban wildlife has held fairly steady when compared to previous seasons," said Vicky Monroe, Fairfax County Wildlife Biologist with the Fairfax County Police Department's Animal Services Division.

"I have received no unusual sightings, other than Eastern coyotes, which have been confirmed here since 2000," she said. "Fairfax County is home to a high number of wild species that not only survive, but often thrive in habitat-modified areas and in close proximity to humans. These 'urban wildlife' come in sometimes frequent contact with human neighbors. I receive nearly a thousand calls each year."

(More information about Eastern coyotes can be found at the Eastern Coyote Research Web site.)

Can you guess what animal residents most often call about?

Monroe said the majority of calls she receives are about white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus).

That's followed by: red foxes, geese, groundhogs, coyotes, snakes, raccoons, bats, and miscellaneous wildlife or wildlife management inquiries, she said.

But just because you see an animal doesn't necessarily mean you should contact the county. "Animal Control will go out on wildlife calls for injured, sick , orphaned/abandoned (unweaned) or aggressive wildlife," Monroe noted.

They will also dispatch officers, at their discretion, for wildlife that may pose additional threat to human health or public safety—e.g. rabies vector species (bat in bedroom, raccoon stuck in house, etc.).

Tips from Fairfax County, if you see wildlife in your yard or near your house:

1. Never touch or feed wild animals. If you see an injured, sick, aggressive, or orphaned/abandoned wildlife, call Animal Control (703-691-2131).

2. Many wild species are most active at night. The presence of non-natural food sources is a strong attractant for most wildlife. Many simple exclusion and repellency methods offer long-term humane deterrence for a range of wildlife.

3. Never leave cats or other smaller pets outdoors overnight.

4. If you feed your pets outdoors, remember to bring in your pet’s food and water bowls in the evening.

5. Secure lids on trash cans and recycling bins (or bring into the garage at night)

6. Cover compost heaps and protect garden vegetables, fruits, and other fragrant or tasty plants with mesh wire, fencing or other inexpensive cover.

7. If you have a bird feeder, clean the bird feeder itself regularly using hot water and mild soap or very dilute beach solution (5 percent) to reduce the spread of wildlife disease transmission.

8. If you have a bird feeder, clean the area under the bird feeder on a daily or weekly basis to remove all bird seed and/or other fallen debris.

Deb Adolph February 19, 2012 at 11:02 PM
I live in Burke Centre near the woods around Lake Barton and nightly see red foxes, possum, deer,racoons, aside from the many gray squirrels, geese etc. One night I sat on my darkened porch and first a possum walked slowly by, followed by a raccoon (which my cat sitting next to me "treed) then red foxes came by , then 2 deer a while later...all within about an hour in the summer months. If you sit quietly their world will gradually appear; be it sitting in the desert, sitting on a coral reef or by the woods.....they WILL appear if you're patient.
Deb Adolph February 19, 2012 at 11:05 PM
I have never seen any coyotes although I keep watch; the foxes are similiar but having seen coyotes living in Arizona, I do know the difference. Foxes come in varying shades of red, brown and gray so perhaps those coyote sightings were actually foxes. I have never heard coyotes here either, and they make their presence known.
Marlene Auble June 28, 2012 at 10:20 AM
Just let my dog in after barking wildly. I believe I saw a coyote, but it may have been a fox. The coloring was orange/light brown. It was just a quick look, but the body was taller than a fox, which led me to believe it was a coyote.

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