Tips for Co-Existing with Wildlife

Wild animals contribute to our enjoyment of nature and outdoor recreation, but they can also damage property, agriculture, and natural resources and threaten human health and safety. 

Equipped with the right information and tools, most homeowners can solve their own problems and learn to live with wildlife.  For example, trimming trees and shrubbery are ways of changing a habitat to make it less attractive to unwanted flocks of birds or even snakes.

The following information may assist in keeping that curious raccoon out of the garbage can, that persistent rabbit or deer out of the garden, that goose or duck out of the backyard pool, that woodpecker off the siding, and that swooping bat out of the attic.  Caution should always be taken to avoid overly aggressive animals.

Some wildlife are protected by Federal or State laws and regulations.  For information about protected and endangered species and trapping and relocation regulations, contact your State wildlife agency.

Do Not Interfere

Try not to interfere with the animal.  In many cases the animal may be passing through the area and if left alone will move on in its own time, usually after sundown.

Keep Accesses Closed

If an animal makes its nest in a house or garage, the best thing to do is to locate the opening(s) through which the animal entered and wait until it leaves to gather food.  This will usually happen in the late afternoon or early evening.  Before the animal returns, close off the entrance opening(s) using heavy gauge sheet metal or a similar strong material.  If it cannot access the nest, the animal will usually look for another place.  Make sure, however, that the young have not been accidentally trapped in the nest.

Help Animals to Freedom

Animals that have fallen into a chimney, basement or window well can usually be removed by lowering a rough board or a knotted rope of sufficient length into the opening.  When left undisturbed, the animal will usually climb out on its own, using the board or rope as a ladder.

Do Not Feed

Wild animals are often attracted to your home by the availability of food.  Do not leave pet food outside, especially at night.

Do Not Keep for Pets

Wild animals do not make good pets because of their nature and inherent instinct for survival.  Most of them are protected by law and it is illegal to capture or confine them except when they damage property or threaten human welfare.  Though they may be cute and relatively small, wild animals should be handled with caution and respect.  They can be dangerous and formidable opponents, particularly in the defense of their young.  Wild animals can also transmit serious diseases to humans.  When an animal becomes frightened or confused they are likely to bite.

Remember, nothing can replace common sense.  Maintain a distance from all strange animals, especially wildlife.  Wild animals are often attracted to your home by the availability of food and shelter.  Removing or eliminating the availability of food and shelter may discourage animals from invading your home and causing problems.

Reduce Food and Shelter

  • Remove pet food and water dishes from outside especially at night.
  • Keep tight fitting lids on garbage cans.
  • Do not feed squirrels, raccoons or other wildlife that might cause a problem.
  • If you have fruit in your yard, harvest or dispose of fruit when it is ripe.
  • Do not place food scraps in gardens or compost bins.
  • Do not allow bird food to accumulate on the ground.  Install baffles to keep squirrels and raccoons off your feeders or try models with a weight activated treadle that closes when unwanted animals get on it.  Avoid using sunflower, corn and millet close to your home; use thistle feeders instead.
  • Stack firewood on a frame that keeps logs at least two feet above the ground.
  • Trim branches that extend over your roof.  You can prevent access to trees near your home by installing a three foot wide band of sheet metal around the trunks at least five feet above the ground.  This is effective only for isolated trees (the branches of protected trees must be at least 10-20 feet away from those of any unprotected tree of similar or greater height).
  • Remove brush piles and other debris from your yard.

Animal Proofing Your Home 

  • Attic exhaust fan opening—cover bottom of fan from inside the attic with ½” x ½” hardware cloth (a piece that is 18” x 18” will cover most openings).  Staple hardware cloth to rafters.  For added security, nail or screw 1” x 2” lumber to rafters so that it overlaps the edges of the hardware cloth by about 1”.
  • Attic end louvers (vents)—cover inside with hardware cloth (1/2” x ½” mesh).
  • Soffit vents—cover inside or outside with hardware cloth (1/2” x ½” mesh).
  • Soil stack kitchen or bathroom vents for exhaust fans—cover inside or outside with hardware cloth (1/2” x ½” mesh).
  • Window wells—cover top with commercial grate.
  • Decks—decks that are 2+ feet above ground are not a problem.  For decks built lower to the ground, dig a trench (at least 10” deep) around the perimeter.  Fasten hardware cloth (1/2” x ½” mesh) or welded wire (1” x 1” mesh) from the top of the outside joists to the bottom of the trench.  Leave about 6-8” of extra wire at the bottom and bend it outward to form an “L”.  Fill in the trench and cover the wire with wood or plastic lattice for aesthetics.
  • Stoops, cement slabs and sheds—dig a trench at least 8” wide and 10” deep around the base.  Place “L” shaped hardware cloth or welded wire in trench so that the top of the “L” extends at least 1” above the bottom of the stoop slab or shed.  Fill trench.
  • Roof, soffit and fascia—inspect annually for signs of water damage.  Pay close attention to areas where gables or dormers meet the roof line.  Repair promptly.
  • Fireplace or furnace chimney—install a commercial chimney cap (secure to chimney with bolts or screws).  Hardware cloth (use ½” x ½” mesh) provides an economical alternative but must be secured tightly.  Leave a peak or dome over the flue to keep leaves and sticks from accumulating.

Do not use window screening material because it’s too weak and will clog with soot, causing a fire hazard.

Important!  Take precautions to avoid sealing animals inside the building when you take measures to exclude wildlife.  Sprinkle flour or talcum powder outside potential entry points or stuff 1-2 sheets of newspaper in your soffit, fascia or roof and check for disturbance.