Living on the Wild Side
Co-Existing with Wildlife
Wildlife in Your Home
Wildlife in Your Yard
Encountering Wildlife Back to Top
Chances are you have encountered wildlife in your neighborhood, backyard, or home. As a humane-minded individual, you are probably wondering the best way to peacefully live with these animals. Setting up small eco-systems for wildlife is a great way to learn more about them. For example, a log pile in your backyard might attract insects, squirrels, chipmunks, and other small animals. Putting out corn might attract deer into your yard. Just keep in mind that it is important not to interact with these wild animals, and these ecosystems should never be set up in suburban or urban environments.
If you do not want to have these animals in or around your home but, of course, do not want to hurt or kill the unwanted visitors, there are many humane ways to get them to move on.
Wildlife in Your Home Back to Top
Wild animals coming into your home can be quite frustrating—you do not know if they are just there for a vacation or if they are moving in. You worry they might be carrying diseases, will harm your pets or children, or contaminate your food. You could sleep better at night knowing these creatures were anywhere but in your home; but of course, causing them harm is not an option.
Rodents Back to Top
If your home has become a popular hang-out for rodents, you have a couple humane options to consider. The humane mousetrap offers a painless way to trap and relocate unwanted mice. This trap is a simple metal box with a one-way entrance. It is baited with fruits, peanut butter, or some other delicious morsel with which to lure the mouse. Once the mouse crawls in, the mouse cannot crawl back out.
Be sure to check this trap often, as rodents could become agitated once they realize they are trapped. Release them far from your home, in an environment similar to the area around your house. For example, if your house is in the woods, release the animal in the woods. If your house is in a suburb with large lawns and grassy areas, release the animal in a large grassy field. However, it is not a great idea to release rodents found in urban areas into cityscapes. Choose an area outside the city.
You might also consider using ultrasound to deter rodents. These devices emit a range of ultrasonic sound waves that fall within the rodents’ sensitivity level, yet are unheard by humans. However, this is recommended for use only in homes without pet gerbils, hamsters, or other small animals.
No matter how desperate you are to rid yourself of these unwanted “pests,” do not consider using a conventional spring trap or glue trap. The spring traps do not always close on the neck; therefore, they do not always instantly kill the animal. Glue traps, although seemingly more humane than the spring traps, are actually worse. Animals become stuck on the glue and panic, ripping out hair, tearing skin, and breaking bones.
Bats Back to Top
Bats are timid creatures who avoid contact with humans; so, in the unlikely event that a lone bat has entered your attic, cellar, or chimney, do not panic. Removing a bat is as easy as asking the bat politely to leave. Simply don a pair of heavy work gloves, place a shoebox (or something similar) over the bat, slide a heavy piece of cardboard between the wall and the box, pull both the cardboard and the box away from the wall, bring the trapped bat outside, and release the bat.
If you think bats are roosting in your house, your first step should be to determine where they are entering. Bats can fit through a space as small as ½ inch, so keep your eyes open while searching. Do not immediately seal off all holes, as you will most likely trap bats inside, killing them just the same. Also, do not poison bats. Not only is this inhumane, they will die in your house, causing unwanted odor and attracting further “pests.”
You will need to buy or construct a device called an “extruder,” which allows bats to leave, but not come back inside. To build one yourself, simply place a length of mesh (with holes wide enough for bats to get through) over the opening of the roost and attach a piece of cloth to the top, on the outside. This will allow bats to push the cloth away from the mesh to get out, but not to get back in. Take care not to do this during the summer months, because there might be babies in the roost who are unable to fly, leading you to believe the roost is empty when it is not.
Insects Back to Top
Nothing causes chill bumps quite like watching a column of ants march across your kitchen counter top, a cockroach skitter across your living room floor, or a spider creep across your bedroom wall. Do not fear. There is hope for humane removal. One of the best ways to keep insects out of your home is to deter them before they even consider it a cozy place to live. This means ensuring all food is in sealed containers, trash is taken out often, floors are free from edible debris, and your house foundation is free from leaves and weeds.
If you have taken all of these precautions and still have an infestation, you may need to invest in a bug vacuum. This device gently sucks up insects and allows you to release them, unharmed, outside. Not only is it humane, but there is also no need to spray harmful chemicals or scrape bug parts off your wall.
Other interesting tidbits about deterring insects:
- Ants dislike paprika—sprinkle this over where they are entering the house.
- Fleas are opposed to tea-tree, eucalyptus, mint, rosemary, and lavender oil; or try Xenex, a chemical-free repellent available from your vet.
- Flies do not like the smell of burning citronella or basil—keep some near your open window sill.
- Spiders can be deterred with chestnut and clove spray.
Snakes Back to Top
Unfortunately, there is no way to deter snakes from taking up residence in your basement or cellar. You cannot spray natural repellents or sprinkle anti-snake powder to deter them. You cannot capture them in humane traps or suck them up with a snake-vac. The only way to humanely remove snakes from your house is to call a professional snake trapper or your local wildlife management office. Pest control companies typically will not handle or remove snakes—they usually call the professional snake trappers. One important note: Be sure to research humane trappers—those who trap and release snakes rather than euthanize them.
Once you determine you have snakes living in your house, do not attempt to handle them. Snakes are shy creatures who generally want nothing to do with you. They will try to get away from you if you approach; or if they know they have been spotted, they will freeze. However, once a snake becomes defensive, the snake will make her presence known. Some snakes will rattle their tails or hiss. This is a sign to step away or the snake might bite.
Wildlife in Your Yard Back to Top
Whether deer are eating your flower bulbs or raccoons are getting into your trash, wildlife can sometimes be a nuisance outside of the house, too. Chances are, one of the reasons you chose to live where you do is because of the appearance of the neighborhood—the landscaped lawns, the wooded lots, maybe the ease of small yards close to the street so you do not have to walk your trash down a driveway.
For these same reasons, resident wildlife are also attracted to your neighborhood. Deer love the manicured lawns with easy access to wooded areas. Raccoons enjoy the close proximity of your garbage to the street—it makes for an easy getaway. They do not seem to have issues sharing their neighborhood with you, but you do not see it quite the same way. How is it possible to declare peace with the neighborhood wildlife? There is hope for your beautiful lawn and garden and your neighborhood’s furry friends.
Deer Back to Top
One of the most often seen wild animals, deer are frequently found munching on vegetation in the backyard or bolting away into the woods at the sight of humans. Considered a “nuisance” by many homeowners, these sentient beings get a bad reputation. There are several ways to humanely deter deer from entering your property. Deer fencing, repellent, and scare systems are excellent ways to keep them out of your yard.
Fencing needs to be high enough so deer cannot leap over into your yard—there are many companies that make fencing specifically for the purpose of keeping deer out of yards. Repellent is an excellent way to humanely deter deer because is it non-poisonous and does no physical harm to the deer. Many of these repellents are all natural and safe to use around children and pets. Although they sound inhumane, scare systems offer a humane way to deter deer because they emit a loud sound, small electric shock, or ultrasonic sound waves.
Feral Cats Back to Top
How do you know if you have a feral cat problem? Chances are, you have seen them. Feral cats sometimes are not very secretive about their actions. Although you probably cannot get close enough to catch these creatures, you have seen them stalking birds and bugs in your yard. They are also probably keeping an eye on your trash. There are several ways to persuade feral cats to live somewhere else.
If you are interested in keeping feral cats out of your yard, repellents work really well. Some smell or taste bad, keeping all wildlife out of the area, while others deter feral cats by squirting water. These unique systems are motion activated, shooting a squirt of water when something triggers it.
If you merely want to restrict the number of feral cats on your property, a Trap-Neuter-Release (T-N-R) program works best. By trapping feral cats and having them spayed/neutered, you will reduce the number of cats. If you wish to feed feral cats, make sure you do so in a way that does not affect your neighbors’ homes and properties. Visit Alley Cat Allies to learn more about T-N-R.
Scavengers Back to Top
Scavengers, like raccoons and opossums, can cause messy yards if they get into trash. Often called nature’s garbage men, opossums are frequently accused of carrying out nocturnal trashcan invasions, although their ring-tailed neighbors are just as guilty. Raccoons and opossums have adapted from their natural environments to increasingly urban environments. Most people understand it is good to be adaptable, but some homeowners do not tend to agree in this case.
The best way to deter these scavengers is to keep your trash secure. Raccoons and opossums are very intelligent, so do not think that slapping a lid on your trashcan will do the trick. Your trash needs to be somewhere out of reach of these animals, or they will figure out how to get into it. Also, be sure to keep compost piles away from the house, do not leave pet food outside, remove all dead leaves from around the house, and keep the yard mowed and clean.
If you are still having a scavenger problem, obtain a humane trap. Operating just like the rodent trap mention above, this trap allows the animal to enter but not back out. Some of the best bait to use for both raccoons and opossums is canned pet food. Take care when setting the animal free, however, as the animal will not be very happy. Wear heavy work gloves, long pants, and close-toed shoes. Before relocating any animal, check your local laws to be sure it is legal to relocate trapped animals. Some counties have laws prohibiting trapping and releasing wildlife. If it is legal, take care to release the animal in an environment where the animal will be able to blend. Contact your local wildlife management office to ask about the best place.
Birds Back to Top
Birds can sometimes be considered a nuisance in both urban and rural areas. In cities, pigeons roost in the eaves of buildings, leaving unsightly droppings around town. In rural areas, swallows roost in barns and outbuildings, creating bird droppings and potentially carrying and spreading disease. Geese, notoriously territorial during mating season, will actually chase people out of their own yard if the geese feel threatened.
To keep birds off your property in urban areas, use bird wire, spikes, or electric track. These devices will prevent birds from landing or roosting on your building. In rural areas, scarecrows, bird netting across the ceiling of barns and outbuildings, and bird repellents are great humane deterrents. To deter geese, consider goose repellent, scare devices that make unpleasant sounds (at least to the geese), or placing fake predators on your yard, such as fake coyotes.
Caution Back to Top
Your local wildlife services office is the best place to contact if you have any questions or issues concerning wild animals in or around your house. They can instruct you on the best course of action, or whom to contact for further assistance. Please do not attempt to feed or handle any wild animals. Some are known to carry diseases or parasites that can be transferred to you or your pets. Never bring a wild animal into your home, even if you suspect the animal is injured or orphaned.
Take Action to Protect Wildlife inside or outside Your Home
How can you co-exist peacefully with wildlife who enter your home or live near your property? First, learn to respect all of nature and to approach wildlife cautiously. Other humane actions include:
- Accept that nature is all around you and that her creatures have a right to their own lives.
- Protect your property and home by being aware how you might be the cause of animals entering your home and yard.
- Volunteer at a wildlife sanctuary to learn more about the wildlife in your area.
November 2009 Back to Top