Mills Gone Wild

By
October 7, 2004

Mills College Weekly

Mills College has long been known as an oasis for students, but
what people may not know is that the campus is also an oasis for
wild animals.

The invasion of wild animals is not new to Mills, according to
Paul Richards, director of Campus Facilities. Most complaints that
Richards gets are about skunks. “Skunks have been on the campus for
many generations. They savor this area, and skunks can get
territorial,” Richards said.

The skunks will find a place to breed, so the offspring come
back, digging in the ground and tunneling under buildings. One of
the places hardest hit by the invasions of skunks is Sage Hall.

Jennifer Uhlich, who works at the Writing Center, recently moved
to Sage Hall. “We had an Open House and food was all around. The
hallway smelled of skunks. It was just funny, a periodic skunk odor
in the hallway. It left us kind of wondering that if someone was
walking around the hallway, a furry little visitor” said
Uhlich.

Michele DeLeon, who also works in Sage Hall, agreed. “It depends
on which office, but usually all of Sage Hall is kind of
skunky.”

Richards stressed his main concern was to not kill the skunks,
because there’s a family underground. “You just keep at it. It’s a
constant task,” he said. They put out humane traps and barriers to
catch the skunks, and then release them off campus.

Feral cats are also common around campus, said Richards. When
cats breed in the neighborhoods surrounding Mills they come onto
campus. The mothers hide, and once they give birth, “they go back
to their feeding bowls,” Richards said. Once one group of cats is
gone, another generation moves right in.

Richards said it’s important to trap the cats as soon as
possible. They use traps for feral cats, skunks, and other wild
animals. Once the cats are trapped, they are given shots and are
spayed or neutered, then are let off in a safe place.

Feral cats can also disturb the natural wildlife, killing birds,
reptiles, and ducklings.

It’s terrible,” Richards said. “Reptile lives, bird life, are
hit hard by these animals. It’s not possible to have wildlife with
these animals around.”

People feeding the cats has proved to be a problem in the past.
“Some people would come and put down two cans of cat food for
them,” Richards said. “Thirty or forty cats would come around. The
people thought they were doing a great thing for the animal world.”
Richards said.

But raccoons and skunks would eat the food as well, and that was
when Richards told people to stop feeding the cats. One person had
to be forced off campus because he kept on feeding feral cats.

There was also an instance early last year when an animal used a
sandbox at the Children’s School as a litter box. Fortunately, it
was taken care of before the children came to school. Suzanne
DiLillo, director of the Children’s School, stressed that her staff
takes great pains in not letting that happen again.

“We have our sandboxes raked each morning, before the kids come,
to make sure. So far we’ve been really lucky. Our plan, should it
occur, is we’ll cover the sandboxes at night.” DiLillo also said
that when they see animals, they try to make it an educational
experience for the children. “We see the squirrels, we see an
occasional mole. Occasionally, we see a skunk. The children would
be fascinated if they did see an animal.”

A mountain lion was seen last summer around the Mills campus,
along with other sightings at UC Berkeley. A bobcat was also
sighted last December on the fitness trail, and the trail was
closed after both of the animal sightings.

Richards said both animals are being forced from their natural
habitat, often because golf courses and houses are being built.
“Animals are being pushed around,” Richards said.

Wild turkeys have also popped up around Founders Commons.
Richards described them as “big as life.” Wild turkeys reproduce
quickly so it’s important that they are trapped right away.
According to Richards there are now at least 20 on campus.

Richards stressed that if wild animals are spotted, please call
Campus Facilities as soon as possible at 636-7213 and they will
come to trap the animals right away. “It’s not a cruel thing to do.
It’s better than just leaving them.”


Mills Gone Wild was published on October 7, 2004 in Features

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