Winter food drop spurs wildlife visits
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Homeowners in the Ozarks are being warned against leaving food outdoors because of the danger of luring hungry bears onto their property.
In urban areas like Kansas City where there isn’t a danger of bears, residents could see a sharp increase in the number of mice that invade their homes.
A freeze in April and drought in August have stifled the nut, fruit and seed production on many plants and trees, experts say. That means more wildlife than usual will be forced out of fields and into people’s yards looking for food.
“With mice, people better get ready for them this winter,” said Alan Branhagen, horticulture manager at Powell Gardens east of Kansas City. “They’re going to want inside the house because the food crop is so bad.”
In the Ozarks, black bears that typically gorge on acorns to prepare for hibernation will have to look elsewhere for nourishment because the nuts will be scarce. The white oaks that provide food for the bears and other wildlife such as turkeys, squirrels and songbirds, didn’t produce a crop.
On top of that, papaw trees that usually produce a soft fruit that ripens in early autumn and is eaten by many times of wildlife didn’t do so this year.
“We’re probably seeing more animals such as raccoons and possums out and about scavenging for food in the park,” said Conrad Schmitt, director of the Lakeside Nature Center in Kansas City’s Swope Park.
For bird watchers, however, the lack of food in nature could mean a big increase in the number of birds that flock to feeders.
That doesn’t necessarily mean a surge in the most-typical birds that are seen at feeders, said Larry Rizzo, a natural-history biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. But there should be more birds such as robins, cedar waxwings, bluebirds and mockingbirds that usually rely heavily on fruits in the winter, he said.
“When you have less food available, birds will push into the feeders quicker than usual,” said Mark McKellar, an ornithologist who operates a feeder supply store and tracks bird trends. “We’re already seeing it this fall.”