Knowing what resources attract wildlife and taking steps to prevent wildlife damage are keys to reducing human-wildlife conflicts. The best approach to managing wildlife damage is a strategy of prevention based on removing food and shelter, exclusion techniques, and repellents and frightening devices.
All creatures have three basic needs for survival: food, water and shelter. Wildlife will be attracted to these resources if they are on your property. That is great news if you want to attract birds, squirrels or other wildlife to your property. Steps such as installing bird baths or feeders, putting up a bat house, or landscaping with native plants are all good ways to attract wildlife. But sometimes we unintentionally attract wildlife.
Wild animals are very resourceful. They quickly make use of easy food resources such as bird feeders, improperly stored trash and pet food that is left outside. For example, coyotes and foxes will hunt mice or rats that are attracted to seed under bird feeders, opossums and skunks love to eat pet food, and raccoons aren’t shy about climbing into trash cans. Additionally, vacant buildings, unsecured chimneys, attics, crawlspaces, and the space under decks or porches are all dark, quiet locations that wildlife sometimes decide are good places to take shelter or raise their young.
It’s when wildlife help themselves to our crops of fruits and vegetables, eat our shrubs and flowers, or decide to raise their families in our attics or under our decks that we find ourselves looking for help in dealing with problem wildlife.That’s where habitat management comes in. By modifying the availability of food, water, and shelter on your property, you can increase the number of species that you’d like to see, while deterring the ones you don’t.
Wildlife management is really a community effort, because the spatial arrangement of food, water and shelter in a given neighborhood or area will determine how many animals live there. For example, homes located near less-developed areas such as forest preserves, parks, golf courses, rivers or lakes will have higher concentrations of wildlife than those in more urbanized areas. Railroad tracks, power line rights-of-way and roadsides all make convenient travel lanes for wildlife, making it easier for them to gain access to your neighborhood. Older neighborhoods with mature trees and landscaping may be at higher risk for wildlife related problems than new developments because there is more cover available. However, neighborhoods near new development may also see an increase in wildlife numbers as animals are displaced from their natural habitat.