Wild animals pose no threat in Westbrook, officer says

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WESTBROOK — While residents have had issues with wild animal attacks in other parts of the state lately, Westbrook Animal Control Officer Phil Hebert said there is no cause for concern in the city.

“I don’t think it is an issue, but I do tell people if they see a wild animal hanging around, acting like it is sick or off balance to certainly give us a call,” he said.

Recently, an otter bit a woman in Rockland and several Brunswick residents were attacked by rabid fox.

Hebert regularly sees foxes and raccoons out and about during the day, especially in the more remote parts of town. He said seeing a nocturnal animal out and active in daylight is not unheard of and likened it to seeing a person out during the early morning hours.

Wild animals “seem to always have been around residential areas,” said William Eklund, a Westbrook resident who works as an animal damage control cooperator. Noting the rabies cases in Brunswick, Eklund said he hasn’t seen an “uptick” in wild animals making themselves known around Westbrook. 

Wild animals wander toward houses and neighborhoods for a variety of reasons, not just when they are sick, Eklund said. Many of the city’s neighborhoods outside of the downtown area are surrounded by animal habitats because they abut wooded areas, he said. When these wooded areas are developed, it displaces the animals.

As animal damage control cooperator Eklund helps the Maine Warden Service and biologists with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife with wild animal issues and aids homeowners in getting rid of wild animals in their homes by relocating the animals.

In hot weather, Hebert said, it’s not just people looking for a place to cool off.

The recent string of high temperatures in July may be driving some wild animals closer to people because they are “looking for a little getaway,” he said.

Recently many Westbrook residents have taken to Facebook to note wild animals they have seen in the city over the years, including a coyote, fox, woodchuck, opossum and deer around Larrabee Road and Main Street, moose near Berkley Street and by the high school, a deer interrupting a badminton game on Sterling Drive and deer, opossum, skunk and fox sightings near New Gorham Road and Saco Street.

The most important thing to do when coming in contact with a wild animal, no matter the size, is to call Hebert or another wildlife professional if there is cause for concern and not try to address the situation yourself, he said.

“You never know, especially with a wild animal, if it is sick or frightened or what the case is. They are not to be handled and are not the be approached,” he said.

One way to help keep wild animals away from your home is to feed your cat or dog indoors, he said, because pet food left outside can attract wild animals. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife also suggests keeping trash can lids secure, because trash can draw for wild animals, especially coyotes, raccoons and skunks.

Michael Kelley can be reached at 781-3661 x 125 or mkelley@keepmecurrent.com or on Twitter @mkelleynews.

Two moose, a mother and calf, were seen along the Mill Brook Preserve Trail last December. With many areas of the city abutting dense forests, animal control officer Phil Hebert said it is not uncommon to have run-ins with smaller wildlife like fox and raccoon.

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