Nextdoor Online communityI’m a member of NextDoor, that great neighborhood website where residents nearby can raise questions to their trusted neighbors and get important answers. Usually, someone is announcing online that they’ve moved into the neighborhood, and we all welcome them. Other times, someone asks for referrals for a cleaning person, window washer, landscaper, or babysitter.

Tonight, a new neighbor asked about wildlife. It was an amusing exchange, and the conversation offers great insights into what a Chicagoan can expect to see in a neighborhood outside the Gold Coast/South Loop – type interior neighborhoods. I’m in Edgewater – and except for mentioning rats or the recent coyote sighting, this conversation will help you prepare to live outside of a Chicago high-rise building:

 22 Apr From the New Neighbor:

LARGE RODENTS
This is our second Spring in this neighborhood. Last night, there was a large Possum in our backyard and then tonight two LARGE raccoons passing through our backyard. Is this normal? What city deparment should I call? And will they do anything about it? Any advice out there?

Neighbor #1:
This time of year as it is lighter later, you will see what has been sneaking in the winter darkness!
Neighbor #2:  Possums and raccoons are the main two animals you will see in the neighborhood. Two years ago, we had a possum going through our back yard on a regular basis and a couple of times our little dog faced it while doing her things in the back yard. We called an exterminator who quickly caught a possum, but we were never sure if it was the same one or not because we saw another one (or the same one) two weeks later. We just gave up, since it has never been out of control. This is unfortunately one of the downsides of living in a neighborhood with large back yards and lots of trees. Wild animals like it too!
Neighbor # 3:
We’ve lived here for 15 years. It is entirely normal to see possums and raccoons in the hood. The first couple of years we had a family of raccoons living in the cottonwood tree between us and the neighbor’s house. We regularly have possums traipse thru the yard. There’s nothing that can be done about it and nothing should be done either. It’s the normal fauna that goes with the territory. On the other hand, we have an inordinate number of squirrels that regularly dig up our yard in the spring. To prevent them from digging up freshly planted flowers, bulbs and other items I use a live animal trap, take them to the Radio Shack parking lot, and let them go there. It’s a constant battle, which I’ll never win. But it’s better than having our entire yard turned into a gopher field!
More from Neighbor #3 Oh, we sometimes have rabbits in the early morning as well. Plus, there are a large number of feral cats here. I’ve never lived in any city where there weren’t feral cats. They keep the rat population down. There’s one other thing you should be aware of. If you’re walking the sidewalks in the hood and you come across the freshly cleaned carcass of a pigeon or other bird, be aware that its from falcons. Once a year a family of them also occupying the cottonwood tree. They stay as long as their food source is plentiful, then they move on.
From New Neighbor:  Thank you everyone for your input. Knowing these creatures usually hang around makes me feel a little better. I have also learned that I should expect to see Falcons, feral cats and maybe a deer or two if I am lucky ;). Even though I grew up in the country in Michigan with creatures — these give me the willies!
Chicago WildlifeFrom Neighbor #4, past president of the neighbors association:  Opossum are calm and clean creatures, and although unattractive, tend to cause little harm. They do not carry rabies and will literally “play possum” when they feel threatened.Raccoons, while cute and cuddly looking, are a whole different story: they can transmit rabies, roundworm, and leptospirosis; they will attack pets if they feel provoked; they can cause severe damage to your property.Raccoons raise their young babies in trees, rooflines, or garages. After several months they move to a ground location and spend almost a year living together as a family. This is where they can become dangerous for you and your pet. Roundworm is transmitted through their poop, which can be inhaled when it dries.Raccoons are very territorial. It is estimated that up to 50 can live on a city block and they will not venture beyond a few blocks during their lifetime. At one time the city had funds to help with their removal, but those resources have been cut. If they are a nuisance on your property, you must contact a private company to have them removed. Because they carry rabies and roundworm, the state of Illinois requires that they be euthanized.Since these animals are among us, it’s best that they don’t take up residence on your property, and you can help prevent that by sealing access to your garage and underneath your deck or porch. Keep in mind that raccoons can crawl into very, very, very small spaces.There is a ton of information on the internet and these are just a few of the highlights, but the bottom line is that you don’t want them living anywhere near your property especially if you have pets or children.

Are you in a neighborhood that offers NextDoor? If not, I encourage you to start your own community by selecting this link. It’s a closed group opportunity that allows you to share important information, build a community, and Live Well in Chicago!

I want to give a “Shout Out” to Kate Welborn of my neighborhood, who started our NextDoor group. It’s a great service to all of us, and I’m so glad I have her as one of my neighbors!

Before I moved to Chicago, I thought it was an enormous anonymous city. Wow, was I wrong!

The communities of this city are vibrant, strong, and personal. It’s more of a small town than I ever dreamed, and I’m blessed to live in one of the greatest neighborhoods in Chicago!

(And …  I’ve never minded our wildlife — it’s just fine!)

Links and Resources:

Chicago Animal Control and Rescue

Chicago Wildlife- Chicago Forest Preserve Article

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