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Wildlife Whispers...

Dealing with Wildlife

by Dee Walmsley,
Clever's Nature Writer


It’s that time of year again, ‘The Mating Season.’   

This not only means weird noises in your trees at night but possible trouble for the homeowners who don’t practice prevention tips before local wildlife seek out new denning sites and food sources. Most people look for ways to help, not harm wild critters who co-habitate with them. You can make your life and the lives of these animals easier by keeping informed and following a few tips:

Practice Prevention:

Check your house and shed for openings wildlife can enter for denning. Use heavy gauge wire screening to block off these entrances. To ensure that you are not trapping wildlife inside your dwelling, plug that last hole with a cloth. If it stays in place for 8 hours, the animal has vacated your residence. If not, a two-way trap may be required, or you may have to monitor the entrance. 

Place caps over all chimneys and vents on your roof to prevent birds, squirrels and raccoons from taking up residence and becoming a nuisance or getting trapped.

Trim trees leading to your roof.

Fill in under hot tubs with brick or screening.

Do not encourage wildlife by feeding or leaving out pet food in your yard.

Secure your garbage with bungy cords. Keep in garage if possible.

Cover your swimming pool!

Use a deterrent such as pine sol or ammonia-soaked rags. Noise, (blaring radio), lights and constant intrusion from humans will make animals uncomfortable enough to seek out a safer den.

Animal repellents may be effective on plants.  Deer often avoid trees and bushes that have been hung with small bars of soap. Hotel soaps are best suited for this tactic. Pierce them with a bent paper clip and hang them just above and below the animal’s head height, every 3 feet or so. This has been effective with a number of species. 

If animals are abundant and nibbling on your ornamental plantings, investigate alternative planting which may not be as inviting. Check with Dept. of Agriculture for suggested plants. 

Black Dacron bird netting, purchased from a plant nursery, is effective when placed over planting beds or individual plants. The nets let new growth through, so they must be lifted and reset every few days to maintain protection. Repellents containing the bittering agent thiram also work. 

A homemade recipe can be effective if sprayed directly on plants and reapplied weekly.  Mix well two eggs, one glass of skim milk, one glass of water, and a spreader-thickener (a wetting agent available at plant nurseries). Apply. Repellent should be applied in the fall, when plants first go dormant, and repeated per instructions.

Raccoons are repelled by the smell of ammonia and pine-sol. Rabbits do not like human hair or Ropel, a commercial product.

Predator urine, available at most garden shops is another alternative. Used kitty litter may be used to deter mice and rats from taking up residence.

Most animals are adaptable, so it is important to vary the methods.

Rather than trying to get rid of so-called “nuisance” wildlife, the best coping strategy might be to learn to enjoy and appreciate the species that are simply trying to survive by sharing our environment.

NOTE; Raccoons do carry rabies, however, there are no known cases west of Ontario at this time. Preventative measures against the rabies virus are underway in the Ontario-New York areas.

Simple things you can do to avoid harming wildlife:

Prevent your pet cats and dogs from attacking and/or "playing with" wildlife. Don't allow them to run without supervision. Raccoons do not seek out cats and dogs as a food source! However, the raccoon will win any scrimmage should your pet be territorial and insist on defending its grounds. As a rule in an urban situation, raccoons tend to ignore cats and will run from dogs. However, if the animal is cornered or defending its young, it will attack!  Coyotes aren’t so benevolent.

Reducing the reflection will cut down on the number of birds who collide, often fatally, into windows and doors. Should a bird fly into a window and still be alive, place it in a safe warm place until it recovers. Shoe or tissues boxes make good holding facilities. Do Not Feed!

Bird collision prevention tips.

Dusty window help to cut down on reflections, so don’t wash the windows near feeders.
Place netting or screens over windows
Move bird feeders and birdbaths away from windows.
Plant landscaping that discourages birds from using flight paths that go near windows.
Use orange flagging or Mylar strips outside the window to break up the reflection.
Draw shades when you can.
Hawk silhouettes are only partly effective.
Remove reflective coating or plastic coating on windows.

Millions of birds die yearly due to cat attacks, raise your cats as indoor pets.

If you find young birds on the ground, attempt to return them to the nest. If they are fully feathered they may just be resting after flying practice. Should they be in harm's way and can be easily picked up, place them in a safe environment. The parents will be nearby.

Check trees to make sure there are no active nests or residents in cavities before cutting them down. Even better, avoid cutting down dead trees if they pose no safety hazard, since they provide homes for a wide variety of wildlife.

Keep birdfeeders and surrounding grounds clean to avoid disease and rats.

Do not leave used motor oil uncovered. Contain and return to place of purchase for recycling. Birds often fall into these pans and will not survive without expert cleaning.

Educate children to respect and care for all wild creatures and their habitats. Teach them that wild animals are not playthings and should go about their lives unmolested. Children should also be taught not to destroy nests, burrows and other wildlife homes.

Pick up litter and refuse that could harm wildlife, including six-pack rings, monofilament fishing line, and watch batteries -- if consumed by waterfowl they can cause mercury poisoning.  (Plastic connectors from cans may be recycled at liquor outlets). Do not leave fishing line or fish hooks unattended or lying about outdoors. Try to retrieve any kite string left on the ground or entangled in trees.

Do not use lead shot when hunting or target shooting.

Be alert when driving, especially near woodlots and parks, to avoid hitting or running over wild creatures. Animals do not recognize the danger from an oncoming vehicle. Know where to take an injured animal or who to call.

As a general rule, leave infant wildlife alone. The parent may be nearby feeding. Be certain they are in need of help before you remove them from their territory. Same goes for baby seals, give the parent at least 12 hours to return.

Before mowing your lawn or rototilling your garden, walk through the area first to make sure no rabbits or ground-nesting birds are in harm's way. Remember, it only takes a couple weeks for these babies to grow and leave the nest. Be tolerant and give them the time they need.

Use non-toxic products on your lawn and garden.

Do not attempt to raise or keep wildlife. Not only is it illegal, but also wild creatures do not make good pets and captivity poses a constant stress to them. Young wild animals raised without contact with their own species fail to develop survival skills and fear of humans, virtually eliminating their chances of survival in the wild.

Do not release helium balloons into the air. They drift out to sea and kill, whales, turtles and other sea life.

Bring home for disposal any garbage you take to the wilds or beach.  Plastic bags and Styrofoam kill wildlife through strangulation and starvation. 

Should a mother raccoon or squirrel give birth in your home and you want her removed call a “reputable” wildlife control company for a free estimate and removal techniques. Ask about humane removal. What do they do with the animals? Check around and ask questions before hiring a wildlife control firm. If at all possible do not remove the animals while babies are still in the nest. If you wish to share your residence with the new family, the mother will usually move her kits into a new den once they are weaned at 8 - 10 weeks. That is the time to board up any entrances and disinfect premises.

NEVER put a barrier between the mother and her young.  She will rip your house apart to save her kits.

If birds, squirrels or other animals accidentally enter your house and run or fly around the room in a panic to escape the best way to deal with this situation is to close off the room from the rest of the house and open an outside door or window. If you leave the animal alone, it will usually find its way out of the house.

Enjoy wildlife by cultivating plants and trees that attract them. Leave a little wild area, make a rock wall or stack branches for ground birds to nest in.

Remember prevention is still the best method, the easiest and the cheapest!

What To Do With an Injured or Orphaned Animal?  

Remember, the animal is frightened and sees you as a threat.  It will try to defend itself.    

Always wear gloves and protective clothing when handling wild animals.  Take care to protect your eyes and other vulnerable body parts. Many animals, such as some sea birds, will instinctively grab for shiny objects.  Exposed or dangling jewelry and buttons may be a tempting target, as are your moist shiny eyes. Take proper precautions.

Wash your hands and clothes thoroughly after handling any wild animals.  Immediately report bites or other injuries to your doctor. Some animals carry life-threatening diseases, which can be transmitted to humans and to domestic animals.    

Do not attempt to pick up an injured animal if it is conscious and a threat to your safety.

Try to contain it for pick-up, this can be done by covering with a blanket or placing it in or under a box. A heating pad placed under part of the box on a “low” setting will be sufficient. Check periodically to be sure that the animal is not too hot, and can move away from or nearer the heat as required.

Cover baby mammals that do not have their eyes open with a warm towel. They will die of exposure quickly if left unattended

Call your local wildlife facility. Provide a safe environment. Stay with the animal until help arrives. Do not keep peeking at animal.

Do not attempt to FEED. Special formulas are required. Cow's milk will cause intestinal problems. Your wildlife rehabilitater will instruct you on any emergency treatment. Should the wildlife facility be closed, keep the animal or bird warm and in a dark environment until help is available


If you decide to take in and care for a baby bird or other wild animal beyond giving basic first aid or transporting it to a veterinarian or wildlife rehabilitation facility, you may be subject to laws, which regulate the possession of wildlife.  

Are Squirrels Driving You Nuts?

Try taking a squirrel’s eye view of your house so it doesn’t become a squirrel haven.

Do you know that a grey squirrel can jump 8 feet sideways, 4 feet straight up, and down 15 feet, and then hang on where it lands? Positioning bird feeders more than 8 feet from a tree or building and on a pole with a squirrel baffle may save you money, and allow the birds to eat in peace. I say may, because nothing is ever ‘for sure’ when it comes to dealing with these furry-tailed rodents.

If you have a tree next to your house, does it provide access onto the roof?

Robbing bird feeders is nothing compared to the damage that squirrels can do to your attic once they have gained entrance. Chewing electrical wires is a favorite pastime along with gnawing on those lovely wooden tresses. Squirrel’s teeth continue to grow so they must constantly chew.

Screen your soffits, and cap your chimneys, then watch your resident squirrel for a day or two. Find out where it is nesting.  If it is in your attic, have it professionally removed, and then you might try a nesting box near the old entrance. If you have a tall tree, try providing the animal with a nesting box.  A little peanut butter or a handful of nuts placed inside the box may entice the critter to use it. The wildlife control person will repair any damage the errant squirrel caused and screen off potential entrance sites.

Are squirrels denning in your chimneys?  If they are in the chimney and you’re not using it, leave them alone. Keep draft vent shut. Once the babies have left, have the chimney cleaned and capped by a professional.  Do not try to smoke them out.

If you must use the chimney, have a humane wildlife control company remove the animals and relocate them in your yard. The mother will take her babes to another den site nearby.  This allows the squirrel to maintain its territory forbidding other squirrels however, the trauma of the capture will make your home a hostile environment and she will not re-enter. Ensure the area is screened and disinfected to remove the squirrel’s scent. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning from occurring within your home, chimneys must be cleaned of the nesting debris before lighting a fire.

Do not trap and re-locate any wildlife. Some pest control companies remove squirrels and re-locate them into our local parks. This practice spreads disease, causes undue stress and usually death to the animal while seeking out a new territory and will not solve a thing. Why?  Because the minute you remove one animal from its territory another will take over. 

So practice prevention, give the squirrel a feeder away from the birds and enjoy nature in your own backyard.

Got feedback? Dee would love to hear from you! deew74@shaw.ca

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