Coexisting With Wildlife
When it comes to wildlife, people are either wild because they like it or wildly upset because they don’t. Urban wildlife helps us maintain our connection with nature; people need to understand that wildlife is here to stay and humans need to find a way to coexist. Urban wildlife plays an important role in a unique and beneficial way, as it fills a niche in an ecosystem. Case in point, you have a bird feeder that attracts birds to come and eat seeds.
Ever wonder what else is feeding at your bird feeder? Squirrels for one, and when that seed falls to the ground, mice. Skunks and/or snakes eat the mice. Opossums eat the snake. Owls can eat the opossum if it is small enough. This is just one example of the circle of life that happens in backyards everywhere. Where the number of opossums, skunks, and raccoons used to be on the decline, they are now on the rise because they are opportunistic, and man is giving them plenty of reasons to hang around.
All animals have three basic needs for survival — food, water, and shelter. By providing any of these resources on your property you will likely attract wildlife. The arrangement of this food, water, and shelter will dictate how many animals live in a given area. For example, homes located near less-developed areas such as parks, golf courses, and rivers or lakes will have a higher concentration of wildlife than their urbanized counterparts. Railroad tracks, power line rights of way, easements, and levy systems all make convenient travel lanes for wildlife, making it easier for them to gain access to your neighborhood. Older neighborhoods with mature trees and landscaping look attractive to wildlife because they offer more cover for animals to move around. However, new developments may also see an increase in wildlife because of animals being displaced from their natural habitat due to its construction.
Many agencies used to advocate the use of humane traps to trap wild animals and remove them from the area, however while this is a solution, it is only a temporary solution. Chances are that unless you figure out why the animal was there in the first place, trapping an animal will not stop the next animal from moving in. The trap itself may be humane but the whole process of relocating an animal often times is not. Fifty percent of the animals that are trapped are females, and if trapped in April through September, they may leave babies behind to die. Animals that are trapped and released elsewhere almost always die within two weeks to a year due to territorial disputes and food shortages.
Learning where to find food is a difficult process and not easily transferred from one area to another. The relocated animals can also impact the resident animals as there is a competition for food, space, and mates causing additional suffering and death. Although traps have their uses they should always be the last resort.
Preventing Wildlife Problems
Because wildlife is here to stay, preventing problems with wildlife is much simpler and less aggravating than dealing with problems after they occur. Here are some things you can do to discourage wildlife from taking up residency and spending time in your yard:
- Do not feed squirrels, raccoons, deer, or other wildlife
- If you feed birds, install baffles on the bird feeders to keep squirrels out. Do not allow bird seed to accumulate on the ground where it can attract rodents, raccoons, and opossums. Using thistle seed instead of sunflower seeds or corn will help you attract song birds and may reduce attracting other critters of the four-legged kind. To keep squirrels at bay, try safflower seeds instead of sunflower seeds since squirrels don’t seem to like them. You can also take bird feeders down at night and bring them inside to cut down chances of uninvited guests.
- Feed pets indoors when possible. If pets must be fed outside, pick up all food and dishes at night, and any spilled food.
- Store garbage properly. Use solid trash containers with secure lids. Lids can be further secured by the use of bungee cords across the top. Place trash containers in an area where they cannot be easily knocked over or build a frame to hold the cans upright.
- Do not place food scraps in your garden. If you compost your food scraps make sure they are not accessible.
- Clean your outdoor grill regularly.
- If you have fruit trees in your yard, harvest or dispose of all ripe fruit.
- Fence animals out of the garden. Be sure to use appropriate fencing and if using wire fencing make sure the openings in the wire are small enough to keep out the species you are tying to exclude. It is also a good idea to bury a portion of the fence to prevent animals from digging underneath it.
- Stack firewood away from buildings and fences and on a frame that will keep the wood at least two feet above the ground. Only store as much firewood as you will use in a reasonable amount of time.
- Remove tall grass, brush piles, or debris from your yard.
- Remove any dead trees.
- Deny access to your roof by trimming nearby tree branches. There should be a minimum of 10 feet between tree limbs and your home.
- Check your home regularly to make sure it is in good repair. Wildlife can gain access to your home through gaps in the structure such as chimneys, soffit vents, attic exhaust fan openings or vents, or through damaged roofs. If you have a chimney, make sure that it has a secure cap. Cover attic vents and other roof openings with a heavy-gauge rustproof wire mesh.
- Prevent access under decks by installing an L-shaped barrier of heavy-gauge wire mesh to prevent animals from digging underneath it.
- Cover foundation vents with heavy-gauge, rustproof wire mesh.
- Prevent access to abandoned or infrequently used buildings.
- If you have a pet door, be sure to close it at night and secure it.
- Be sure to share this information with your neighbor.
The first step with anyone experiencing a conflict situation with a wild animal in or around his home is to determine whether or not you really have a problem. Many times the problem is actually a misunderstood natural behavior or something somebody has done to invite them in.
Remember prevention is the key. If you find yourself in an animal situation, please call our office and someone will be happy to assist you. If you already have an animal that has moved in, we can help with that too. We are all in this together, and although you may never truly be wild about wildlife, we can learn to coexist.