By Joe Phipps, staff writer
It is safe to say that there has been some interesting weather in the past few weeks. As a result, local animals have become more active around our campus.
While Central Illinois may not be home to wandering bears, wolves or mountain lions, even small, common animals deserve our respect and space. This week, we will take a look at the behaviors of some common campus visitors, when they are active and how to avoid an unpleasant encounter.
When traversing campus at night, raccoons are easily recognized from a distance. While raccoons are active and will often see you before you see them, that doesn’t mean that stumbling over one isn’t impossible.
While the local raccoons are quite acclimated to people, raccoons are naturally curious and exploratory animals, which can often result in encounters that are too close for comfort.
Because people can contract the rabies virus from any mammal, you should never attempt to touch, feed or play with any wild animal. If a raccoon is coming too close, it is best to try to appear as large as possible while shouting and waving your arms. The bigger and scarier you appear, the more likely an agressive raccoon will be scared away.
Another common critter found creeping across campus is the opossum. Similar to the raccoon in behavior, the opossum is solitary, but less likely to actively approach a person. But, unlike the raccoon, it is much more likely to be hiding in your garbage can or be sitting right around a corner.
While seeing such an unusual animal up close may be surprising, there is no need to panic because opossums are non-aggressive. While it is still unwise to approach any animal, the defense strategy of the opossum consists of trying to look intimidating by showing its teeth followed by fainting, also known as “playing possum.”
Next time you see this ancient marsupial, take a moment to enjoy its odd lifestyle from a distance.
Aside from Pepé Le Pew, skunks are not often portrayed in a positive light. Perhaps skunks may not be the most common sight around campus, but that doesn’t mean they can’t pay IWU a visit from time to time. Knowing how to react appropriately may mean the difference between an adrenaline rush or an unnecessary tomato bath.
Skunks, although gentle creatures, will use their odiferous defense as a last resort when cornered or threatened. The key to avoiding this scenario is to know the warning signs and keep a good distance. An uncomfortable skunk will often stamp its feet, raise its tail and hiss prior to spraying a person.
If you happen to find yourself coated with a less-than-pleasant odor after a skunk encounter, using tomato juice is not the proper solution.
In order to effectively remove the odor of a skunk, create a mixture of one quart of three percent hydrogen peroxide, one quarter cup of baking soda and one teaspoon of liquid soap. Wear rubber gloves and use the solution outdoors to avoid tracking any smell into your house or residence hall.
Living in Illinois may not mean close encounters with the dangerous wildlife seen in the movies, but it does mean interacting with some interesting animals. It’s important to remember that, although these animals live in our towns and take advantage of our refuse, they also can perform important pest control functions.
All three animals mentioned are omnivores that are most active between sunset and sunrise. While we sleep, these creatures go through our yards and take care of many of the unwanted animals we never see.
Next time you find yourself face to face with a new animal friend, take some time to appreciate them while letting them go about their business unimpeded.