Living with Wildlife

Whether we live in cities or towns, suburbs or farms, wildlife often makes its way into our lives. This can be a joy for some, a disaster for others. If we remember a few simple rules, sharing space with wildlife can be made safer and more enjoyable.

Tips for Handling Human-Wildlife Conflicts

Please don’t feed wildlife.
Feeding wildlife is rarely a good idea – for you or for the animals – and. A healthy fear of humans is an important survival tool for most animals. Those that become accustomed to handouts from people may then associate humans with food. They become less fearful, maybe even more demanding of us, and are no longer shy about entering tents, garages or other structures.
Natural food sources help animals maintain a healthier diet; some human foods can be harmful or even deadly. A few servings of chocolate or a steady diet of peanuts and raisins could spell disaster.
On the other hand, wildlife benefits from having access to a clean water supply for drinking and bathing. Keep birdfeeders clean and change water often to prevent disease.

Feed your pet(s) indoors and refrain from leaving
pet food outdoors.  

Feeding your pet(s) indoors ensures that no scraps will be left behind to attract wild animals. Even the odor remaining on an empty food dish can attract wildlife.

Restrict access to buildings by keeping doors
and windows closed or screened.

Leaving garages, storage sheds, attics, and basements open can be risky for wildlife. Animals may become trapped or damage contents. Restrict access to these areas by keeping doors and windows screened or closed (including pet doors), especially at night.

Check for animal nests before cleaning chimneys
or eaves, and before trimming or felling trees.

Cleaning, landscaping, gardening, and even mowing the lawn need not result in displaced or injured baby birds or mammals. Check for nests first, and if someone else does your chimney cleaning or yard work for you, have them check too. Unoccupied chimneys should have an approved screen or cap installed at the top to prevent animal access and flying sparks.
Try to avoid disturbing nests that have already been established. In most cases, babies grow quickly and leave the nest in a short time.
If you have concerns about wildlife near your home, or want to humanely encourage mammal mothers to relocate young, call a wildlife rehabilitator. They can usually give advice that will keep you safe, and keep the wild family together.

Some birds will fly at their reflection in windows
and hurt themselves.

To prevent this, a mesh pattern of vertical and horizontal tape or fabric strips, or a light covering of soap (such as Bon Ami™) can be placed over the windows to alert the birds. Wonder what to do if a bird does hit the window? Bird rehabilitators often suggest carefully placing a cardboard box with air holes over the animal, then sliding a second piece of cardboard underneath. In this way, you can pick the bird up without touching it.
Tie or tape the box closed, and call a rehabilitator.

Use wildlife-proof garbage containers or barrels.
Place garbage out the morning it is to be picked up. Garbage left out at night is an easy food source for wildlife. The same is true for bird feeders and BBQ grills. Keep them inside at night to avoid tempting wildlife with a midnight snack. Raiding garbage is a bad habit for wildlife and can result in the animals becoming a nuisance at least, and a danger at worst.

Don't worry if a wild mammal starts digging a den
near your home.

Just put a small amount of ammonia on a rag and place in the hole. Wild animals generally don't want to move into a "smelly" neighborhood, and may decide to move on. Killing a nuisance wild animal rarely solves the problem, since another animal will likely move into the now-available habitat.
If poison is used, non-target animals (e.g., pets and raptors) may be injured or die from secondary poisoning.

Has a hole in the attic or roof become a door?
Occasionally people find a hole in the attic that has allowed raccoons or squirrels to take up residence. Make the attic a less desirable home: place some rags with ammonia in strategic places; put a loud radio turned on talk or heavy rock music in the attic; keep the lights bright. After a few of days of this, at a time when the wild resident is out, "a one-way door" can be placed over the hole. (It is critical to first check to make sure all babies are out before placing a one-way door)
 Wildlife rehabilitators can provide information on when different species of animals have their young. Again, poisoning or live-trapping and relocating rarely solves the problem for the reasons mentioned above.

Remember that woodpeckers, nuthatches, and
flickers make their nests in dead wood.

Since people often remove dead trees from around their homes, these birds improvise by using buildings (often a large source of dead wood). They may be discouraged by hanging metallic strips or plastic bread bags that twist in the wind near the selected site. An alternative is to place the appropriately sized birdhouse over the proposed "excavation site" and invite them to join the neighborhood. These techniques should be used before eggs are laid.
Note: if there are many small holes instead of one large potential nest hole, the birds may be feeding on insects infesting the structure - a different problem!


Go Native!

One of the best things you can do to help and protect local wildlife is to plant native species in your garden, or even on your lawn. Native plants provide shelter and proper food for wildlife, while minimizing the energy and water requirements of your landscape.

Non-native plants are often dined upon as “gourmet fare” for deer, chipmunks, rabbits and other wildlife. Insisting on showy, non-native blooms or trees may leave you in constant conflict with hungry animals. The recipe for successful landscaping begins with native plants.

Native plants can offer protection from feral cats. Few neighborhoods are free of these predators, and well-manicured lawns provide few hiding places for wildlife. Tall grasses and low shrubs are ideal for small mammals, birds, and the young of many species.

Consider helping wildlife in your backyard by going native!


Copyright 2007 Carbon County Environmental Education Center