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Living with wildlife

April 9, 2011

WILDLIFE of many species are either on nests, have young or soon will give birth to a new crop of critters. It is nature's way of keeping itself going year after year. Owls are sitting on hatched young. Canada geese are staked out on pond islands, nest boxes or shoreline grass patches. Many other birds will soon follow as spring keeps warming our hemisphere.

Right now, it is the BALD EAGLE stealing the show via a remote camera in a tree in Decorah, Iowa near the DNR fish hatchery. Viewers from around the world are checking out those two little eaglets (only two of the three eggs had hatched at the time this was written) to see how they are doing. It is an interesting thing to observe at close range. Interesting also is how the viewer count shot up exponentially when the first eaglet hatched. Foods brought to the nest include rabbits, small birds, fish, a crow and a muskrat. Dinner is right at the nest edge for both the parent birds and the young.

Raccoon are raising their young too. It is alright if this is happening in a hollow den tree in the forest. It is not OK if it is happening in your attic. A mother raccoon is a persistent and determined animal that will do almost anything to feed and protect her offspring. If the 'nest' is in the insulation above your home, you first need to evict the animals and second, clean up the messes. Third, you have home repairs to do that will prevent re-entry of any raccoon. No matter how one deals with the problem, it will not be a cheap fix.

Article Photos

Face to face with friend or foe? The answer depends on circumstances.  Wildlife in its natural habitats is where we humans like them to be.  However, if a raccoon or other critter is in your attic or basement, they can be quite damaging to property and hard to evict. Today’s photo is of a mounted raccoon that was one of the displays at last weekend’s Iowa Taxidermy Association meeting at Marshalltown.

Professional help with raccoons or other nuisance wildlife can be obtained from Adam Utterback of Gladbrook. This is what he does for a living and he knows what works and what doesn't. You will pay for his services so be prepared to write a check.Do give Adam a call at 641- 485- 2049 if required.

Spring is also the time when any wildlife baby found by people should left alone. Our compassion streak gets in the way of what is best for wildlife. Observe from a distance but allow the wild parents to deal with it. In the long run, they are the ones that know best.


One of the tenets of the North American Model for Wildlife Conservation is this: Wildlife is the property of all the people, not a privileged minority. This may be a democratic ideal, even for a lot of folks with no particular interest in this subject. Add in those people who do have a strong attachment to wildlife for its esthetic and recreational values, and there is a strong defense for the concept that wildlife belongs to all of us.

Public ownership of wildlife was tested at the U.S. Supreme Court as early as 1842 regarding shellfish. Later cases upheld the concept by giving the public the right to adopt state and federal laws to protect wildlife on land or for aquatic species. Even Iowa's recent history confirmed this with the approval by over 63 percent of the constitutional amendment laying the framework for long term dependable funding for natural resources of soil, water, and wildlife.

We hire trained biologists to study, advise and manage habitats for many wild critters. Scientific facts are sought to learn what works, what doesn't, and proceed on that basis. The challenge for humans in the decades to come is how to retain stable populations of wildlife clinging to its existence in a man-altered landscape. Man has to be part of the equation along with wildlife. There is a place for both. There must always be a place for both. It is a public trust.


Do mineral supplements help deer, yes or no? According to scientific papers reported in wildlife journals and other publications such as those by the Quality Deer Management Association, it depends. Just allowing buck deer to get old enough to have a reasonable chance to grow impressive antlers requires that the deer lives past its second, third, fourth or even fifth year of life. If taken early, one will never know what the potential of that deer would have been.

Specific baited sites are illegal in Iowa if that site is later used as place to hunt over. Mineral blocks set out for the purpose of letting deer find it to eat on may be making the person who did this feel good, but science says it wasn't necessary.

Consider this: Antler growth is triggered by changes in the photoperiod, what we call day length. A complicated biochemical process in deer releases hormones to change the deer's body to enable rapid transfer of nutrients and minerals for antler growth. All summer long this takes place. In the fall, decreasing day length increases testosterone which in turn causes antlers to harden and the velvet to shed or dry up.

Antlers are composed of mostly proteins while actively growing, about 80 percent by weight. Mature hardened antlers are about 50/50 proteins and minerals. Calcium and phosphorus are the two most common elements, 19 percent and ten percent respectively. The next two most common elements are magnesium and sodium. Then add to the mix trace amounts of potassium, barium, iron, aluminum, zinc, strontium and manganese for which little is known about the role they play in healthy animals. These elements are part of the soil. Plants take them up. Deer eat the plants.

Most of these elements come from the normal natural diet of things a deer eats. A wide range of browse plants normally supply all the nutrients that a deer will need during the course of any year. One proof of this is those really old big bucks in the wide open spaces of Iowa. They managed to elude and survive to old age. Then one day, the buck made a mistake in range of a lucky hunter, and now we have a wall hanger trophy. No one fed it anything special on purpose. It just lived a long and largely nocturnal life.

Southern state's soils are naturally more deficient in some minerals due to eons of heavier rainfall. Rain leaches out many minerals and leaves the iron rich reddish clay behind. Soil tests in the south versus soil tests in the Midwest are going to offer huge differences in elements. Comparative studies at Penn State and at Auburn University tried to find differences in deer body size and antler size between two test groups of deer. One group was fed a nutritionally balanced diet without supplemental minerals, the other with. After four years, researchers were unable to detect any differences between the two herds.

There are no quick fixes in nature. Another way of saying it is ... there are not easy solutions to complex problems. And sometimes what man-kind calls a 'problem' is not a problem at all.


The IZAAK WALTON LEAGUE will offer an interesting program on April 13. The time is 7:30 p.m. at the Ikes clubhouse. Their land and ranges are located two miles south of Iowa Avenue on Smith Ave. NRA Certified Pistol Instructor John Lauer will present a program of information on NRA Courses, present laws on carrying weapons and basic marksmanship. His website is available for more details at The Marshall County Ikes have handgun, rifle, archery and shotgun shooting facilities open to members only.


Today the Uncle Ike Nature Program for grades first through fifth (family members welcome), will be held at the Izaak Walton League Grounds (2 Miles south of Iowa Ave on So. 12th/Smith Ave). The program is cosponsored by the MCCB and the Izaak Walton League. This award winning program is FREE. "Exciting Cycles of Nature" is this year's theme. Today's session, held from 9 to 11 a.m., is called "We Cycle," Is there enough to go around? Discover how you can help the Earth by using the 3 R's.


A PRAIRIE BURN will be held one night during week of April 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Green Castle Recreation Area (1 mile south of Ferguson).

Come watch prairie management in action. The scene will be spectacular as the fire lights up the night sky. The exact date for this program is dependent on weather conditions and will be determined on short notice. Listen to KDAO and KFJB for updates or call 752-5490 for more details.


Life is ten percent what you make it and ninety percent how you take it.


Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.



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