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It’s a wild(life) time when it’s not wet


Last updated 7/1/2015 at Noon

While humans haven’t yet managed to drive all wildlife out of suburbia, the sightings have seemingly dwindled over time – until this year.

Deer, raccoons, quail, and rabbits – lots of rabbits – are showing up in our backyards.

Credit (or blame) the mild winter and dry spring, says district wildlife biologist Ruth Milner of the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife.

Milner, whose territory includes Snohomish County, said Mukilteo has forested areas next to its subdivisions that make it easy for wildlife to wander into neighborhoods.

Some years we barely notice them. This isn’t one of them.

“You’ve probably had all those things in Mukilteo,” Milner said. “We’ve had a pretty hefty deer population in western Washington.

“Rabbits are kind of eruptive; they wax and wane.”

Milner said coyotes, hawks and other predators are nearby, too – even if we don’t see them – generally keeping the rabbit population in check.

And while quail are pretty rare in these parts, she said residents might be spotting them this season because the dry conditions have caused plant life to go to seed early and insects to proliferate, both key foods for the funny-hatted pheasants.

“We’ve had a mild, dry spring,” Milner said. “Some wildlife doesn’t survive well when it’s cold and wet.

“But in these conditions, quail, grouse and rabbits just survive better.”

She cautioned residents to fight the urge to feed any wildlife, including deer.

“People in urban areas like to feed deer, which we highly discourage,” Milner said.

She said people feed them corn, apples and other foods that deer will gladly eat, but that are bad for them.

“They can’t digest those high carb foods,” she said. “It fills them up, but there’s no nutrition.

“Wildlife are not pets. They don’t need us to survive and be happy.”


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