Two years ago, hardly anyone knew what the novel Coronavirus was, but since then this crafty virus and the nasty disease it causes, COVID-19, has hardly been all over the news. Like most people we thought it was a disease of only humans.
We were astonished to learn that a high percent of Iowa tested deer has been found positive for COVID. With deer hunting season approaching we wondered if deer pose a threat to people either butchering an animal or eating the meat. So, we contacted Dr. Tyler Harms. He’s the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Deer Program Leader.
Dr. Tyler Harms, head of deer project in Iowa recommends safety gloves and hand washing when processing and preparing venison.
According to him the threat seems minimal, however, he recommends the following actions for anyone processing a deer:
- Wear rubber gloves when processing an animal.
- Wash hands and equipment thoroughly after handling deer meat
According to Dr. Harms, Iowa’s deer are asymptomatic. They don’t seem to be getting sick or dying.
Bucks are still active in December.
December is Iowa’s main deer hunting season. Over 100,000 animals are likely to be harvested. Here at Winding Pathways, we enjoy venison as local, organic, free-range meat. But we’ll be sure to follow Dr. Harm’s advice when handling meat.
In many ways COVID is a mysterious disease. Where it came from remains a hazy mystery, and its variants continue to perplex people. Now it’s been found in animals. Iowa’s deer aren’t the only animals that test positive. The disease has been found in leopards in zoos and mink. It’s likely that many other animals and deer nearly everywhere carry COVID. How they got it and how it’s spread is a mystery.
Early one September morning a disturbing sight greeted us. The metal post holding a suet feeder high off the ground was bent. The feeder was gone. After a search we finally found it where our nocturnal thieves had abandoned it after devouring the suet.
Many people are frustrated when daytime squirrels gobble up feeder seed, but other mammals visit feeders unseen after sunset. Not all are as rough on feeders as raccoons and all night visitors are interesting but they can also be frustrating.
Raccoons are strong and hungry.
Up in the wee hours sleepless or just to get a snack? Shine a flashlight beam on the feeder. You may spot raccoons, deer, flying squirrels, or even a bear! They all like birdseed and some relish suet.
Raccoons live nearly everywhere, even in big cities. Our son once sent a picture he took of one raiding a dumpster in New York City. Occasionally they are out on cloudy days but mostly they are nocturnal.
Raccoons are common, numerous, powerful, and gregarious. Sometimes a whole family visits a feeder after dark. Excellent climbers, if they can’t shinny up a slippery metal pole to reach seed, they might just bend it over as they did at Winding Pathways. They love suet but also eat corn, sunflower seeds, and many other foods people put out for birds.
One of the most endearing animals to visit feeders are flying squirrels. There are two species but both are nocturnal and are almost never seen during daylight. Flying squirrels often live in big dead hollow trees and are more common than most people realize.
Flying squirrels are misnamed mammals. They can’t fly. They should be called gliding squirrels, for they spread loose skin on their sides and glide from the top of a tree to the ground – or bird feeder. These mammals weigh only about two ounces, about half that of an Eastern chipmunk. In comparison, a mature gray squirrel is ten times heavier at about 20 ounces.
Flying squirrels are shy and beautiful. Seeing one is a thrill.
Deer In Garden Photo by S. Fehsinger
Like raccoons and flying squirrels, deer love birdseed. Sometimes they visit during the day but we see them more often after dark. If a feeder is well seed stocked in the evening but is empty come morning deer are likely culprits. Look for their tracks and droppings to confirm the visit.
Bears make themselves at home anywhere.
Gads. Bears at the feeder! Could be. We don’t live in bear country but they are common over much of the United States. Mostly nocturnal, they love birdseed and suet. A 300-pound bear can rip down the most armored feeder and they’re skilled trash can scroungers as well.
A ‘possum snuffling for food. Photo J. Jones
Skunks, Possums, and Rats
Skunks, opossums, and Norway Rats all love birdseed. Like flying squirrels and raccoons, they are nocturnal. Skunks and possums are native animals that can be comical, but no one wants rats around. They are dangerous pests capable of spreading disease and gnawing on houses.
REDUCING NOCTURNAL FEEDER VISITORS
There’s an effective way to discourage nocturnal feeding wildlife. It’s a two-step process:
- Only put out the amount of seed birds are likely to eat in a day. Empty feeders may attract nocturnal animals but pickings are slim and discouraging.
- Better yet bring all feeders inside by sunset. Store them overnight in a metal trash can with a tight-fitting lid to keep mice from being tempted to raid it even if it’s indoors.
Feeding birds is entertaining and educational. We love having colorful activity just outside our window. We’re not thrilled when raccoons tear up the feeders, so when midnight raiders help themselves, we bring feeders in each evening.
Nancy Garberson shares these observations and photos with Winding Pathways.
This time of year, we call it “wild kingdom” in our backyard because we see deer every day. All kinds of birds and tracks in the snow from the nocturnal creatures dot the snow as well. Our dog is fascinated by the steady entertainment. It’s funny but she never chases them, she respects them as if they were family.
Watching deer roam in our yard can make us feel as if we are living in a natural paradise. Our neighbor has a pond and we have connecting woods. We think that’s what attracts the deer to our area. The deer feel safe and they have lots of water and natural food, as well as our feeder supply, to keep them happy. Another neighbor has an apple tree, which appears to be another draw for the deer. Even the bucks walk in nonchalantly to feed.
So, not only are we enjoying the winter wonderland, but we also have a steady showing of wildlife to enjoy on winter days.
Abby takes in the scenery.
The deer come to the feeder in the late afternoon.
Buck in antlers
Spotting the deer.
What fun hosting Bankers Trust staff and clients and welcoming an out of town visitor to the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth. Tuesday, July 11 was steamy and threatening storms. But, the hardy crew engaged in lively discussions and asked probing questions about the more simple lifestyle we embrace at Winding Pathways. Now, simple does not mean easy. Tending a large yard and five circuit labyrinth are work. Rewarding work. And, people are curious about chickens, managing small gardens, maximizing space, retaining water on our property, heating with wood, and creating diversity that welcomes wildlife. Topics like ways to save energy which saves money to be invested or used caught their attention. And questions on managing pests like ground hogs and deer. We touched on a lot and had a great time.
Go to 1080 Labyrinth for a photo album of the afternoon and evening.
Then, with storms obviously to the south showing off cumulus and anvil clouds but no threat, all walked the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth. Mike T’s comment summed it all up. As he and Terri entered the center a cool breeze touched their faces. Mike paused and said, “I never want to leave.”
Thanks Terri Doyle for organizing and promoting!
Nature is not all sunshine and roses, cute baby animals and gentle breezes. Sometimes nature is rough, sometimes vicious, sometimes other creatures simply clean up carcasses of fallen animals. This spring the Heartland has had its share of hail, winds and heat. The front yard maples and Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth’s budding Bur Oak survived by bending with the winds. With the variable weather comes casualties. The last video graphically shows the scavengers cleaning up a fawn carcass that showed up on the back lawn after a night of cold, wind, and heavy rain. It’s sad but we have to remember than Mother Nature’s clean up crew will benefit from the loss. And, life goes on.