Many problems with wildlife are caused by attractants left in the yard like pet food, water, bird feeders, fruit, vegetable gardens, and garbage cans. Never feed wildlife!
Advice from Wildlife Services
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. The Wildlife Services (WS) program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) assists in solving problems between wildlife and humans.
Equipped with the right information and tools, most homeowners can handle 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 wildlife visitors. Many problems with wildlife are caused by attractants left in the yard like pet food, water, bird feeders, fruit, vegetable gardens, and garbage cans. Never feed wildlife! The following information may assist you in living with wildlife. 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 the California Department of Fish and Game, or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Squirrels and other Rodents
To keep these animals from becoming a permanent part of the family home and yard, screen louvers, vents, and fan openings; keep doors and windows in good repair; tighten eaves; replace rotten boards; cap the chimney; trim overhanging trees; remove bird feeders or use squirrel-proof feeders; and remove acorns and other nuts from the yard. Chipmunks can be deterred by removing denning habitat, which includes logs, rock walls, and stones.
Opossums and Skunks
Opossums and skunks become a problem to homeowners by raiding garbage cans and bird feeders; eating pet foods; and living under porches, low decks, open sheds, and any other areas that provide shelter. Skunks also dig holes in lawns, golf courses, and gardens. Both animals sometimes kill poultry and eat eggs. To keep opossums and skunks from denning under buildings, seal off all foundation openings with wire mesh, sheet metal, or concrete. Chicken coops can be protected by sealing all ground-level openings into the buildings and by closing the doors at night. Foraging in garbage cans may be eliminated by providing tight-fitting lids and straps.
Bats prefer to avoid human contact; however, they are known to establish roosts in attics and abandoned buildings. Building and attic roosts can be eliminated by sealing entry and exit holes (after the bats have left) with such materials as 1/4-inch hardware cloth, caulking, or wire mesh. If a bat makes its way into the house, you can usually encourage it to leave after dark by turning on lights and opening windows and doors.
Rabbits can be kept out of the garden or away from ornamental plants and small trees by using repellants or by placing a 2-foot poultry fence around the area. It is important to bury the fence at least 6 inches beneath the surface of the ground. For information about taste repellants, check your local garden or farm center.
Raccoons are attracted to easy food sources, like garden produce, garbage, and pet food. To help prevent scavenging, use metal trash cans that are fastened to a pole or to another solid object. A strap or latch that secures the lid of the garbage can is also helpful. To keep raccoons out of the garden, use two strands of electric livestock fence. The strands should be placed 4 and 8 inches off the ground and surround the entire garden. Exercise caution when implementing this exclusionary method in urban areas. Raccoons will also readily inhabit attics, chimneys, and sheds. Use metal flashing and 1-inch-mesh hardware cloth to block entrances.
The best way to keep snakes out of your house and yard is to seal cracks and openings around doors, windows, water pipes, attics, and foundations. Removing logs, woodpiles, and high grass and controlling insects and rodents are also helpful. Remove nonpoisonous snakes from inside buildings by placing piles of damp burlap bags in areas where snakes have been seen. After the snakes have curled up beneath the bags, remove the bags and snakes from the building. To remove dangerous snakes, call a professional pest control company.
These birds damage buildings by drilling holes into wooden siding, eaves, or trim boards, especially those made of cedar or redwood. If the pecking creates a suitable cavity, the bird may use it for nesting. Effective methods of excluding woodpeckers include placing lightweight mesh nylon or plastic netting on the wooden siding beneath the eaves, covering pecked areas with metal sheathing, and using visual repellants like "eye-spot" balloons.
Deer feed on row crops, vegetables, fruit trees, nursery stock, stacked hay, and ornamental plants and trees. Deer can be discouraged by removing supplemental food sources and by using scare devices and repellants. The only sure way to eliminate deer damage is to fence the deer out. A wire-mesh fence is effective if it is solidly constructed and at least eight feet high. Electric fencing also helps reduce damage.
Coyotes and Foxes
These animals may carry rabies and sometimes prey on domestic pets, rabbits, ducks, geese, chickens, young pigs, and lambs. Coyotes also kill calves, goats, and deer. Net-wire and electric fencing will help exclude foxes and coyotes; however, because they are good climbers, a roof of net wire on livestock pens may also be necessary. For more information about fencing, contact your local county extension office.
The protection of livestock and poultry is most important during the spring denning period. Foxes and coyotes will often den close to farm buildings, under haystacks, or inside hog lots or small pastures used for lambing. Shed lambing and farrowing in protected enclosures can be useful in preventing predation on young livestock. Additionally, noise- and light-making devices, such as the Electronic Guard, may keep these predators away. Guarding dogs are also useful in preventing predation on sheep. Regrettably, dispersal methods are not effective in all situations, so other methods including trapping or snaring, may have to be used.
Mountain Lions and Bears
As bear and lion habitat continue to decrease, interactions between these animals and humans continue to increase. Bears are noted for destroying cornfields and trees, scavenging in garbage cans, demolishing the interiors of cabins and campers, and killing livestock. Lions are serious predators of sheep, goats, domestic pets, large livestock, poultry, bighorn sheep, and deer. Typical bear and lion predation on sheep leaves 10 or more killed in a single attack, and both species are known to attack humans. Prevention is the best method of controlling bear and lion damage. Heavy woven and electric fencing can effectively deter bears and lions from attacking livestock and damaging property. Loud music, barking dogs, exploder cannons, fireworks, gunfire, nightlights, scarecrows, and changes in the position of objects in the depredation area often provide temporary relief. The best way to protect pets is to keep them inside an enclosed kennel or shelter. Using guarding dogs, removing garbage and dead carcasses, and placing crops and beehives at considerable distances away from timber and brush may reduce damage by bears. Mountain lions also prefer to hunt where escape cover is close by; removal of brush and trees within a quarter of a mile of buildings and livestock may reduce lion predation. For more information about State laws and regulations concerning control of mountain lions and bears, contact the California Department of Fish and Game.
You may obtain more detailed information about how to solve these and other wildlife problems from any State APHIS, WS office. Contact the WS Operational Support Staff at For assistance or more information, please contact one of the following offices:
California State office, Sacramento 916 979-2675
North District 530 336-5623
Sacramento District 916 438-2706
Central District 209 545-4639
San Luis District 805 237-0912
South District 619 561-3752
or visit the Wildlife Services website at: www.aphis.usda.gov/ws/.
Wildlife Services Protecting California
Many wild creatures add esthetic value to urban and suburban environments by contributing to our enjoyment and marvel of nature. Wild animals are beautiful when they're safe in their habitat...and we're safe in ours. But when these environments overlap, there are sometimes dangerous and damaging consequences. The threat of physical harm, damage to property and crops, loss of pets and endangered species to predators, and the spread of deadly diseases can be very real.
The Wildlife Services program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service works with other Federal and State agencies to find safe, humane solutions to wildlife conflicts in California and across the nation.
Wildlife conflicts can be complex. Once problems develop, resolution can be costly and restricted by environmental laws. However, many problems can be avoided by people who become informed about how to live in harmony among wild animals. If you need assistance, careful planning and consultation with a qualified wildlife damage-management professional is available by contacting Wildlife Services. Cooperative planning can result in solutions that will keep destruction at bay.
Wildlife Services will respond to your request for assistance in helping limit conflicts with wildlife. A customer-service-oriented program, Wildlife Services assists in preventing and solving problems with wildlife. Wildlife Services staff provide biologically sound, effective, and responsible technical recommendations and direct control solutions to wildlife problems.
California Department of Fish and Game.
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