Dry conditions in upstate New York drive animals to travel farther looking for food.
A dry summer paired with an animal population peak has led to an increased number of backyard encounters for area residents, says one wildlife biologist.
The animals have been wandering farther looking for vegetation, and when they find a food source such as bird feeders or watered gardens with more vegetation, they stay in that area as long as the supply lasts, Steve Heerkens of the Department of Environmental Conservation said.
Because of this, many city residents have seen more skunks, squirrels, foxes and especially bears this summer. Even millipedes have been an issue.
Ron Cardillo of East Utica said he has noticed the increase in wildlife, but he likes it that way.
Cardillo and his wife, Lottie, have four bird feeders in their backyard that attract more than just birds.
"I stopped doing it for a while because of the bear," he said.
In June, two of his bird feeders were destroyed by a black bear that wandered through the area and made itself visible to residents from East Utica to Whitestown.
After the excitement died down and Cardillo caught wind of the bear's death when it was struck by a motor vehicle, he replaced the bird feeders and began enjoying the company of squirrels, chipmunks and even the occasional skunk.
"When you put out stuff like this, you get skunks too, but they haven't bothered us. They just eat and walk away," he said.
Unlike Cardillo, others don't appreciate the uninvited guests.
Nick Rabice said he has seen four or five skunks around his Kossuth Avenue home in Utica. He said they cause problems for residents, including tearing apart the garbage and leaving a mess. But that is not his only concern.
"I am more worried about the children in the area that play in their yards," he said.
Pasquale Benzo owns Squal's Trap Supply and Wildlife Control and holds a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's nuisance control license. He's received many calls this summer to remove unwanted animals.
Benzo said he has an easy solution to the problem — don't feed the animals.
"If you feed them, they are going to come back, like your relatives," he said.
Utica Observer-Dispatch reporter Catherine Kurtelawicz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org