Monthly Archives: February 2017
Everyone loves to have a good laugh at Looney Tunes’ Pepe le Pew and his hilarious attempts at romance, but the real skunks of the world merit a little less laughter and a little more caution. Experts are now warning Chicago homeowners to be extra careful this February as skunk mating season unofficially starts, especially since the nocturnal animals are beginning to encroach on city turf.
Skunks have always been fairly common in Lake County, Cook County, and the Chicago suburbs, but officials have reported sightings of the striped scavengers much closer to downtown recently. Lincoln Park Zoo Wildlife Ecologist Liza Lehrer explained last year that skunks have been sighted even within the limits of Lincoln Park.
“We’ve seen them on camera here,” she said.
Lehrer said in an interview with NBC Chicago that the zoo’s biodiversity monitoring program currently operates near 100 trap cameras in downtown Chicago and the surrounding areas. Almost all of the cameras have revealed footage of skunks traveling further into the city over time.
Making skunk matters worse: February to March is peak skunk mating season, apparently. This is a particularly serious problem for homeowners in the suburbs, as skunks can choose fairly inconvenient places to settle down during this time of year.
During the mating season, many mammals, including skunks, find a safe place and stay put as they prepare to raise their young come springtime. That’s a problem, because skunks can be just as likely to burrow into a safe wooded area as under a homeowner’s deck.
And despite the signature scent that too often comes with skunks, many homeowners won’t even realize what they’re dealing with. Instead of calling animal control or wildlife removal services, they’ll call an HVAC company or a plumber. Often, these unfortunate contractors are the ones who discover that a skunk has taken up residence near the home.
So what should residents do if they encounter a skunk on the property? The most important thing for homeowners to keep in mind, especially during the skunk mating season, is to give skunks their space. According to wildlife removal experts in Lake County, skunks can spray their sulfur-scented defenses distances of more than 10 feet, so it’s important to stay at least 15 to 20 feet away if possible.
As with all nuisance wildlife problems, experts advise that homeowners never try and relocate or interact with wild animals in any way.
Image Source: USFWS Mountain Prairie
Raising chickens is becoming increasingly popular these days for non-farmers, and even city dwellers are joining in on the trend. Chicagoans, as well as residents in Collinsville and Swansea, are now allowed to raise chickens on their property, and many are taking advantage of this opportunity.
While getting farm fresh eggs in a city setting without the city prices is one of the most heavily cited reasons to start raising chickens, there are plenty of other reasons that people raise fowl as well.
“Chickens are great companionship, they’re great entertainment. A lot of people keep them as just pets. The eggs are a bonus to them,” said Roger Sipe, editor of Chickens and Hobby Farms magazines. “They also provide bug and pest control for yards. Chickens love to just freerange in the backyard and eat whatever type of things they can find, be it grubs or worms or mosquitoes, whatever you’ve got.”
Not only are chickens great to keep around, raising them is relatively easy if you have the right equipment. Typically, a mother hen only needs one square foot of area in order to lay her eggs. If you plan on raising multiple chickens, as most people do, you should plan to have one roll out nest box for every four or five chickens, and always keep at least two inches of organic nesting material down for the chickens to nest in.
If you’re just getting started in the chicken game, there are plenty of resources available to help you. In fact, Chicago-based Jennifer Murtoff works as a chicken consultant in order to help people start their own backyard or rooftop chicken coops. Her primary objective is to make sure that the chickens are able to live happy and healthy lives in their containments.
Murtoff says that she has about 900 clients on her mailing list, and about 400 of them live within the Chicago city limits. Most live in Logan Square or Humboldt Park.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture is not responsible for zoning laws that allow or disallow chicken-raising in urban or suburban settings; those matters are left up to local legislators. In Chicago, however, the practice is legal and very much alive.
To find out if your particular municipality allows chicken farming, call your local town hall. If it is not legal where you live, you may be able to overturn the decision during a town board meeting.