Living with wildlife
Every year as animals move around looking for food, shelter, and places to nest and have their babies, the potential for nuisance wildlife situations arises. While most people are thrilled to see wildlife, not everyone relishes the idea of sharing their property with them. Animals that take up residence under a house, eat food left out for pets, or get into the garbage are usually not very welcome. Out of frustration, people sometimes react to the presence of nuisance wildlife with short-term, quick-fix methods of control, such as trapping, relocating, or killing the animal.
At the Chintimini Wildlife Center, we feel that these methods fail to address the real problems, and in fact, usually result in other long-term complications. When trapped and moved to a new area, a relocated animal will be on unfamiliar ground, putting it at a distinct disadvantage. It will not know where to find food, water, or shelter, and will be extremely stressed from its ordeal of being captured and handled by humans. Furthermore, the animal is being dumped into an area that already has an existing population of animals of the same species. This creates an artificial competition for available resources, resulting in conflicts with the resident population. Being at such a disadvantage, the introduced animal usually is forced to move around a lot looking for a suitable home. Often these animals have to settle for marginal habitat, and many of them do not survive the ordeal.
Even though an animal is relocated or killed, other animals will simply move in to take its place unless the underlying nuisance reason is removed. Every year young animals disperse from their parents' home ranges and look for good habitat to occupy.
Some species, such as the coyote, will respond to a decrease in their population levels by increasing their reproductive rates. So continually killing off animals is not the solution to the problem.
Prevention is the best Medicine
There are many effective, humane, and long-term solutions to the problems associated with nuisance wildlife. The following suggestions will help you peacefully coexist with the wildlife in your neighborhood. It is when wild animals find three components essential for their survival – food, water, and shelter in and around our homes that they often become nuisance animals. By removing these essential components, the animals are forced to move on to find them elsewhere.
Do not feed Wildlife
Although we like to think that we are helping wildlife by providing food, the reality is that:
- Supplemental feeding encourages wildlife to become dependent on handouts that are not part of their natural diets.
- Juvenile animals that are taught to depend on humans sometimes never develop normal foraging behavior, and could starve if the artificial food sources are removed.
- Human foods are usually nutritionally inadequate for wildlife and may lead to subsequent health problems.
- Wildlife may lose their fear of humans and pets, a behavior that could result in wild animals not avoiding contact with aggressive dogs and cats, or people who might intentionally harm them.
- Wild animals being fed by humans may congregate in unnaturally high numbers, increasing the chances of disease transmission.
What you can do
- Keep garbage in sturdy garbage cans with secure lids. Thoroughly rinse bottles and cans for recycling, and put compost in closed bins instead of in an open compost pile.
- Do not feed your pets outside, or if you must, feed them outside during the day and take food and water bowls inside during the night.
- To protect livestock and poultry from predators, enclose them in predator-proof barns or pens during the night. Electric fences, guard dogs, and llamas have also proven to be effective deterrent against predators.
Do not provide shelter for wildlife
Following these precautions will help prevent potential problems and will allow you to peacefully coexist with wildlife.
- Animals can squeeze into small spaces in their search for shelter, so thoroughly check for holes and cracks in and around the foundation of your home.
- Check under the eaves and in the attic for openings, and cover any holes with suitable material, such as hardware cloth.
- Prevent entry through chimneys and vents by covering these openings with hardware cloth. Make sure that you are not trapping any animals inside before you cover these opeings.
- Remove brush piles from your yard, store wood off the ground, and keep trees and brush pruned away from the house.
- If you have a dog or cat door, keep it closed in at night to prevent wild animals from coming inside.
For much more information about interactions with wildlife, please see our Living With Wildlife
for more info.