MANSFIELD, Ohio — London, England recently reported they have foxes roaming through its streets and peregrine falcons soaring through their skies. Mansfield also has its fair share of wild, itinerant critters, though in smaller, more subtle populations.
Jason Pierce with JP Wildlife Services is often called if a wild animal is spotted in an attic or basement. He said the most common culprit is the raccoon.
“Some people don’t find the raccoons until 3 a.m. creeping around in the house,” he said. Most often they are found in residents’ chimneys because they are able to climb with relative ease, he explained.
Pierce has been in the business for seven years as owner of JP Wildlife Services and runs the business out of his home in Mansfield. During the summer months, he said an average day has him responding to two or three calls. His findings run the gamut: coyotes, possums, skunks, moles, bats, raccoons, squirrels, flying squirrels. He even ran into an albino raccoon once.
“It was my first call ever. It was at Prospect Elementary and my son was going there at the time. They told me something had gotten in under one of the modulars so I went and set a trap. Two or three days later I saw its eyes looking up at me,” said Pierce.
He’s never seen an albino raccoon before.
Under state law, wildlife, when caught, must be put down. Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) 1501: 31-15-03 states the following: “It shall be unlawful to fail to euthanize, or release on site, any nuisance raccoon, skunk, beaver, coyote, fox, or opossum that is captured, trapped or taken.”
Pierce said it’s sad, but called it a service. “They are vectors for rabies and other diseases. Chances are if I just let the raccoon go that it would just come back to the same house or another one,” said Pierce.
The Mansfield Police Department (MPD) has had their fair share with wildlife run-ins.
Chief Ken Coontz remembered a case where METRICH performed a fly-by in Shelby in search of drugs. They found a house with a large yield of marijuana growing in a residential backyard. When authorities searched the premises under warrant, Coontz said, they found a goat roaming free on the property.
The authority made a pile of marijuana plants on the driveway, explained Coontz. “As soon as she started making a pile of the marijuana, this goat came over and started eating it. I guess he had the munchies. He just kept eating it,” said Coontz with a laugh.
Coontz cited other instances within city limits that involved exotic snakes, pot belly pigs, alligators, and a peacock.
Recently, Kingwood Center Director Chuck Gleaves confirmed that one of their peahens (a female peafowl, which is often referred to as a peacock) had perished due to an infection of gapeworm, a parasitic nematode worm that infects the trachea of certain fowl species. The peahen had been missing.
Gleaves suspects the birds have fled to surrounding neighborhoods because of a greater predation on birds in recent months. Despite their ability to fly, Gleaves said peafowl do not usually roam, prompting him to make an assumption.
“There’s a debate on whether it’s a fox or not. We have coyotes and owls that it could have been,” said Gleaves. “But I think it must be the fox. We usually have trouble controlling the Canada geese that stay here, but we don’t have any this year.”
Gleaves said remnants of lost peacocks were found throughout the winter months. Ticket booth staff have spotted three different foxes, he said. They have also spotted coyotes in the past.
In June staff were still searching for a peahen.
“We’ve taken several expeditions trying to get them. Apparently it takes three or four people to confine it (the peahen). You can get pretty close to one, but you can’t grab them and it get’s more difficult when they’re alarmed,” said Gleaves.
Kingwood Center attracts a number of different species including mallard ducks, wood ducks, and wild turkeys. Around 15 years ago, Gleaves said the center had guineafowl.
“We found we couldn’t keep them anymore. They would just disappear. We attributed that to the appearance of coyotes,” said Gleaves.
Pierce said coyotes come around the city more often than most people think. He said they travel along the railroads rummaging through garbage bins. They are also known for eating house cats, he said.
On November 1, 2013, local authorities reported that 21-year-old Matthew Storer, had been attacked by three coyotes in a parking lot near Westbrook Country Club off state Route 39. Wildlife Officer Greg Wasilewski said he had never heard of anything like it.
Wasilewski said attacks on humans from wild animals like coyotes are rare, but possible.
“I have a rule that I say all the time, ‘never say never, never say always.’ Sometimes animals are predictable, sometimes not,” said Wasilewski.
That’s why he encourages people to enjoy the moment if a wild animal is spotted. “I especially get a lot of calls for baby fawn deer, they want to know what to do.” He explained that adult deer will frequently leave their young in one location for up to three days.
“If they see one, enjoy the moment. It’s a pretty neat experience that some may only be able to experience once in a lifetime. Take a picture of it. I discourage wholeheartedly to handle it — it’s against the law. Don’t get close, don’t handle them,” said Wasilewski.