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ANIMAL DOCTOR

Tuesday, April 5, 2005; Page C09

Dear Dr. Fox:

Our problem is that raccoons have overtaken our beautiful deck and are rendering it undesirable for entertaining and eating. Each morning, we go out and clean droppings off the deck (which I don't want regarded as nature's bathroom). It has gotten to the point that we just don't want to go out there anymore, and did not entertain on the deck at all last summer.

Our house is across from Rock Creek Park (in Washington), which is owned by the federal government. The National Park Service, which has responsibility for park maintenance, has been of no use to us at all. Clearly, they are not interested in helping residents handle this problem.

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Nature lovers, including the D.C. Humane Society and others, have counseled that the effective and constant use of fox urine would keep the raccoons away. The theory is that the fox is the natural enemy of the raccoon, so the scent of fox urine would be a natural repellent. Well, the urine is very expensive and I've concluded that these raccoons relish fox urine because they're still here, alive and well.

Then we paid a reputable local trapping firm to handle the problem. Nothing. The raccoons are still on the deck in full force.

I hope you're not going to advise that we just move out of the house and yield our living space to the raccoons. I was loath to write you about this until a friend (whose townhouse is located downtown near Capitol Hill) started to complain about raccoons on her deck. At that point, I realized the problem is not that we live in an urban parkland -- it's that raccoons are becoming a real problem in the nation's capital and no one seems to know what to do about them.

E.N., Washington

You are not alone in facing the problem of urban wildlife and human conflict, be it with rats, pigeons, raccoons, deer and other species whose numbers can make life difficult for property owners.

My advice would be to have Plexiglas panels installed around the outside of the deck so that the raccoons will be unable to get through the vertical bars. Alternatively, set up a low-voltage electric wire around the outside that will not harm the raccoons but will be an effective deterrent. Similar wires are used to keep pigeons off buildings and monuments and can be low-maintenance solar-powered (municipal authorities, however, should make every effort to provide these and other birds with safe, alternative roosting areas).

With the poor funding and staffing of most city, state and federal wildlife management and environmental agencies, communities and property owners need to be more proactive and push for more funding and volunteer training and collaboration, from having diseased trees and invasive plants removed to more effective and humane control and prevention of urban wildlife problems.

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a very sad question to ask about euthanasia. Our little dog had been sick for about a month and all tests came back inconclusive. He was only 9 years old.

I always promised any pet that became a member of our family that I would never let it suffer. As I lay on the couch with my little dog for almost two hours, asking him if he was "ready," the answer came when he started to moan.

I called our veterinarian and told her it was time. I wrapped my little dog in a blanket and we left for his last ride in the car.


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