The escalating population of our species and the resulting development is wreaking havoc on natural areas and the animals with whom we share this planet. The constant reduction in wild areas brings about more human-animal conflicts as these wild creatures are forced to seek refuge in less than natural settings. As the human population continues to grow out of control, these conflicts are going to increase. However, with some knowledge, patience, understanding and compassion we can learn to peacefully live with our wild friends.
Respect, Diversity & Maintaining a Natural Environment is Vital
A healthy environment is one that is rich in diversity and consists largely of natural areas. When left alone nature maintains itself in a state of balance. When humans move into an area we clear the land, displace and kill wild animals and generally turn the previously healthy, natural area into an ecosystem in turmoil. To make matters worse, after we destroy the habitat of wild animals we unintentionally invite them to share our homes by maintaining buildings in poor repair, designing buildings that make ideal homes for animals, leaving areas open for animals to move in and even providing them with a source of food (intentional or otherwise). Unfortunately, many human-animal conflicts result in the animals being injured, killed or separated from their families.
Benefits of Wildlife
Besides their obvious beauty and the pleasant company that they provide (can you imagine a world without wild animals) wild creatures have many other benefits. The many species that we share the planet with make Earth a healthier and more meaningful place.
Diversity means strength. Animal populations, when left alone, live wonderfully together keeping each other in check and providing many other benefits to the natural world. Mice, bats and raccoons eat insects, among other things. Skunks consume insects, grubs and mice. Squirrels help with reforestation as they plant many nuts that grow into trees. The burrows of groundhogs provide homes for other animals.
Unfortunately, with an exploding human population, many of these animals find themselves in the middle of conflicts with our species. And, while our species is usually to blame for these conflicts, the animals are the ones who suffer. The lucky ones lose their homes, the less fortunate lose their lives. Fortunately, we can virtually eliminate human-animal conflicts with some compassion, tolerance and education.
Peacefully Co-existing With Wildlife
One of the best ways to live peacefully with wild animals is to avoid conflicts with them. And one of the best ways to prevent conflicts is to “wildlife proof” your home. Effective ways to exclude wild animals from making your home theirs are listed below.
Wildlife Proofing Your Home
Living in harmony with wild animals involves ensuring that your house is in good repair and is “wildlife proof.” As the population of our species increases, we are destroying natural areas at an alarming rate so that we can live in “our” less than natural environment.
Some animals who have had their homes destroyed in the name of “development” or who have difficulty finding homes in an ever-decreasing natural environment turn to human dwellings for shelter. Homes, sheds, factories and other buildings which are in poor repair and lack animal proofing are welcome havens for animals seeking refuge. Animals are also attracted to these dwellings as a result of people providing them with food (either intentionally or unintentionally.) Don’t leave food lying around and don’t feed wildlife. Attracting wild animals to urban areas increases the chances of human-animal conflicts.
While some animals will move into a human dwelling at any time of year, late winter and spring are common times to be invaded by wild creatures. This occurs because wild animals are more active at this time of year and many are seeking homes to have their young. Spring is also when construction projects are initiated. This destruction of natural habitat results in animals losing their homes; some turn to human structures for shelter.
The saying “prevention is the best medicine” certainly applies when it comes to co-existing with wild animals. If you keep your home well maintained the chances are good that you will keep wild animals outside where they belong. Roofs in poor repair, uncapped chimneys, unprotected garbage, open or damaged vents and open areas beneath decks, houses or sheds are some areas that wildlife are attracted to.
If you have to make repairs to your house or other building, ensure that there are not any animals already residing there. You do not want to disrupt animals with their young or trap animals inside.
Generally the mid to late fall, and prior to a long cold snap, is a good time to make repairs since wild animals are still active (and not sleeping for days at a time) yet they have probably had their young months earlier. By leaving a light plastic barrier over the location where the animals are gaining access for a few days you will have a good idea if the creatures have left or not.
If you are not up to making the repairs yourself or if you are unsure if there are still animals inside you might want to contact a quality wildlife removal company (check the yellow pages of your phone book.) Refer to the section below on “Selecting a Quality Wildlife Removal Company” to help you choose a company that will not only make quality repairs to your home, but which will also do what is best for the animals who have to be evicted. The following are some of the more popular areas targeted by wild animals seeking shelter and what you can do to prevent them from moving in.
Chimneys are prime locations for birds, raccoons and other animals to make their nests or dens. Birds can even gain access to stovepipes for wood stoves which have an existing “rain cap”. The birds enter under the “rain cap” and end up in the wood stove.
Quality chimney caps can prevent wildlife from gaining access to chimneys. For stove pipes used with wood stoves which have a “rain cap” you can make a “sleeve” out of half inch galvanized hardware cloth (available at most hardware stores) by rolling the hardware cloth into a cylindrical shape (wide enough to fit over the stove pipe and “rain cap”) and attaching the ends by intertwining the loose wire ends into the rest of the hardware cloth. Cut another piece of hardware cloth large enough to fit over one end and attach it with the loose wire ends to one end of the cylinder. This is the top. This cylinder made of galvanized hardware cloth can then be placed over the top of the stovepipe so that the top of the cylinder rests on the cap of the stovepipe and the rest of the “sleeve” extends 2-3 feet down the stovepipe. The holes in the hardware cloth are small enough to keep birds out and large enough to prevent the holes of the “cloth” from getting plugged with creosote or debris (check just to make sure.)
To make sure that the cap you install is safe and installed properly you can contact your local fire department. Once installed, make sure that the cap you install does not become blocked or plugged with creosote or any debris. Both the cap and chimney should be cleaned as often as necessary to prevent chimney fires.
Roofs in poor repair are prime locations for birds and other animals to settle down. Animals can gain access to the attic if the fascia is in poor repair, not properly constructed or the location where the roof meets the soffit allows animals to gain entry. Keeping your eaves troughs clean will ensure proper drainage and prevent water damage which often results in the creation of animal entry areas.
Kitchen & Bathroom Exhaust Vents
If allowed access to kitchen and bathroom exhaust vents, birds will choose these locations to build their nests. Make sure that all of your exhaust vents are adequately secured with galvanized hardware cloth to prevent birds from gaining access.
Many kinds of roof vents are totally inadequate when it comes to excluding wild animals. Raccoons, squirrels and other animals can easily gain access to attics via some roof vents. If you can’t find vents that are capable of deterring animals from gaining access to your house at these potential entry points, reinforce existing vents with galvanized hardware cloth.
Plumbing Vent Pipes
Animals sometimes try to gain access to a house through the plumbing vent pipes. You can attach some galvanized hardware cloth to the tops of these pipes to keep animals out. Make sure that you extend the hardware cloth above the pipe (and not flat against the top of the pipe) to prevent ice from forming on the hardware cloth and blocking the pipe.
Beneath Houses, Decks and other Places.
Sometimes wild animals, particularly skunks, build their dens under houses and decks. This usually occurs when the space below the deck or house is 18 inches, or less. Animals will often not live under decks and houses when the space is greater than 18 inches - particularly if these areas allow significant light. You can discourage animals from using these potential sites by closing these areas off. Attach galvanized hardware cloth from the frame under the deck or house and bury it at least six inches into the ground and extending it (in an “L” shape) another six inches away from the deck or house. This should prevent animals from digging to these potential den sites.
Block Up the Holes & Cracks
Animals such as mice and bats can fit into very small holes and cracks. To ensure that these small animals do not pay you unexpected visits you have to carefully inspect the exterior of your house, including the foundation, and repair any holes and cracks and other areas that have fallen into disrepair. Before making these repairs, make sure that there aren’t any animals inside who will be trapped. By securing lightweight plastic over the openings and monitoring the situation for several days you will have a good idea if animals are using this opening as an entry point.
Keep the Garage Closed
Homeowners often experience problems with wildlife because the garage doors have been left open. Animals can gain access to other areas via the garage. Raccoons have paws that are excellent for grasping things. A raccoon can easily open garage doors that are only partially closed and garbage containers. For everyone’s sake keep the garage doors closed.
The Early Bird Cleans Up the Garbage
Sometimes it pays to be early. Sometimes it doesn’t. The latter is often the case when it comes to putting out the garbage. Wild animals such as raccoons and skunks are attracted to garbage. They are also nocturnal animals so if you put your garbage out for pickup the night before or even very early in the morning on “garbage day” you may have some garbage to clean up.
Putting your garbage out just prior to pickup and keeping the debris in “animal proof” containers is the best way to avoid problems with animals, both domestic and wild, getting into your trash.
Give Something Back
Since we have destroyed much of the natural environment, it is important to help wild animals find homes away from our own. You can do this by allowing a corner of your property to revert back to a “natural” area. Erect bird and bat houses. Plant trees. If animals have more natural areas to live they will be less inclined to try living rent free in yours! Also, do not feed wild animals as this will increase the chances of animal-human conflicts - if not with you, maybe your neighbours who may not be as tolerant or understanding as you are when it comes to such conflicts.
Selecting a Quality Wildlife Removal Company
As with most things there are good wildlife removal companies and there are bad ones. If you require the services of one of these companies it is important that you find a good one - for your sake and for the sake of the animals causing the problems.
When you are looking for a wildlife company try to hire a company that does the following:
· humanely removes animals and sets them free in their familiar territory
· provides quality house repairs
· guarantees their work
· has several years of experience in wildlife removal
· offers preventative work
· are willing to educate you about wildlife and exclusion techniques
· can provide referrals (better yet, contact animal welfare organizations, wildlife rehabilitators etc. for your own referrals about humane, ethical wildlife removal companies)
The Benefits of a Good Wildlife Removal Company
It is a good idea to hire (or at least contact) a quality wildlife removal company if your home is being used by animals. Not only will they be able to safely and humanely remove the animals, repair the areas where they are gaining access and wildlife proof at potential entry points, but they are also knowledgeable about potential diseases and can take appropriate precautions when dealing with the wild animals.
Living in harmony with nature and wild animals is a wonderful experience. By maintaining natural habitat and keeping our homes in good repair we can virtually eliminate conflicts with wild animals. We can then sit back and enjoy these wonderful creatures in their environment. Like our own, the life of each animal is precious. When you have the opportunity, politely educate others as to how we can peacefully co-exist with the animals whose environment we share.