Neighbors along Broadway and John streets in Washington Court House were concerned this week over a nuisance skunk hanging out in their neighborhood. The animal was later euthanized by John Coffman, Fayette County wildlife officer.
Marilyn Dolittle, a resident at 921 Broadway St., said neighbors were alerted of the skunk in the neighborhood last week when it sat in the grass in the middle of a yard without leaving for several days. The skunk was said to be incoherent and deemed a nuisance.
The nuisance skunk was across the fence from Dolittle’s house and she said there wasn’t much she could do about it. When it began to rain, another neighbor built the skunk a wooden lean-to and sat it over top the skunk to protect it from the rain. The nuisance skunk was brought small oranges and a bowl of water. It declined to eat the oranges, said Dolittle.
Most of the neighbors took photographs and said it was an unusually large skunk.
“It was a big one,” said Tanika Dotson, a neighbor at 1006 John St., who said the skunk had been spraying across her house and yard the week before it became incoherent.
Neighbors reported that the skunk was last seen entering and exiting the house at 1004 John St. The owner of the house, Jay Honicker, died in July. His house, in a dilapidated state, went unoccupied for several months but for a slew of wild animals seen going in and out of the structure via the windows and roof.
A neighbor who saw skunks and raccoons entering and exiting the residence called the city of Washington Court House and the house was condemned Nov. 17. She declined to provide further details to the Record-Herald.
The city of Washington Court House sent someone to put a board over an open window on the condemned house Thursday.
Coffman said, during an interview Wednesday, that he was contacted by several of the area neighbors throughout the weekend who were concerned for the animal. He said that he was on vacation over the weekend, and with Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, he was unable to return to work until Tuesday. With a busy day ahead of him, he was also not able to handle the skunk until Wednesday morning.
“I was contacted by one of the neighbors who did offer to euthanize the animal with a gun, and I did have to tell him that he was not allowed due to an ordinance that does not allow residents to discharge firearms within city limits,” Coffman said. “We, for some reason, have quite a number of skunks in Washington Court House and they fall in a very peculiar position on who deals with them. These landowners probably got what they feel is a runaround and the reason is because there is only one officer for each county, so unfortunately we cannot always be around to solve these types of issues. Usually we will refer them to a nuisance trapper, but unfortunately we only have one licensed for Fayette County.”
Coffman continued, saying that from a state regulation perspective if a private property owner has an issue with a skunk, raccoon, squirrel, possum, groundhog or other nuisance animals, they are allowed to deal with that animal accordingly. He said that if they, for instance, have a skunk, raccoon or possum getting into their garbage, they are allowed to live trap that animal and euthanize it. This is an issue for city residents and, if they are willing, he suggests live trapping and taking them into the county to be euthanized. He also said he always recommends a firearm to euthanize, as this is the most humane, quick and easy method for residents to execute correctly.
“Those animals can carry disease, such as distemper or rabies (although rabies is rare and primarily found in northeast Ohio),” Coffman said. “So if the land owner has issues with that animal, the law states that they cannot take that animal to another location and release it. This does tie their hands and means that the animal has to be euthanized if they want it dealt with. I can give over the phone advice on how to handle the issue if landowners need some assistance.”
The wildlife officer took time to suggest methods for preventing these types of animals from becoming attracted to a residential area. The main two resources these animals search for are habitats and food. He suggested that if animals are fed outside, try and get them on a schedule to be fed throughout the morning and afternoon so that their food can be brought in during the night. Additionally, he suggested that sheds should be as low to the ground as can be and, if possible, small trenches about 12 inches deep can be filled with a chicken wire and can act as a deterrent to burrowing animals. Other outside sources of food, including bird feed, can also invite skunks who eat falling feed.
“We always recommend moving vegetation away from the home as climbers like raccoons can easily use this to get on the roof and into your attic,” Coffman said. “We know people like to decorate their homes, but keeping it simple and clean is the way to go. A lot of people have added on porches and they will keep the wood lattice work from touching too much of the ground, as it rots the wood and animals will knock it down. I am all for people wanting to feed birds, but possibly waiting for a moment to feed them and allowing that animal to move on will help to keep these kind of nuisance animals from your yard.”
Coffman invited the community to join him at the Fayette County Extension Office at 1415 US Route 22 SW on March 4 at 2 or 4 p.m. for an instructional seminar on dealing with nuisance animals. For more information about nuisance animals, or to talk about more preventative measures, contact Coffman at (614) 565-2538.
Reach Record-Herald staff writers at (740) 335-3611 or on Twitter @recordherald