Our definition of “undesirable” or “nuisance” wildlife can differ, but typically it refers to any animals that enter a yard or home that are unwanted and unsolicited. Examples of such animals include termites, roaches, mosquitoes, rats and mice. For some, undesirable or nuisance wildlife extends to animals like snakes, spiders, raccoons, and opossums.
While not everyone is excited to see these animals inhabiting or frequenting their yards, homes or neighborhoods, these animals do have a purpose within the ecosystem. Remember, animals like opossums and raccoons often take care of dead animals, rotten fruit, and excess insects in your yard; while animals like snakes, hawks and coyotes help keep invertebrate, rodent and other small mammal populations in check. Ecosystems have a natural balance. When we do things to upset that balance, like use rodenticides to poison unwanted rodents for example, we often affect the entire food chain in that area. For more information on the impact of rodenticides and alternatives, visit Citizens for Los Angeles Wildlife.
We must all do our part across the nation and the globe to keep wild animals wild. Consider the things you may be doing to accidentally attract undesirable or nuisance wildlife to the yard or neighborhood, as well as the things you should be doing to help deter wildlife and prevent them from becoming too comfortable around humans. Be proactive and prevent unwanted encounters with wild animals!
How to prevent accidental attraction
- Do not leave pet food and water outdoors, especially overnight.
- Do not leave small pets and children unattended - even if fenced - in an active wildlife area.
- Quickly harvest ripe or fallen fruit. Rodents who eat the fruit ultimately attract predators such as coyotes, bobcats and foxes.
- Trim all trees and bushes within 4 feet of a house so that animals cannot reach the roof.
- Make sure that compost piles are kept in secure, closed containers.
- Place trash cans away from structures and secure lids with bungee cords. Deposit smelly refuse in trash shortly before pickup.
- Cover all access openings to a house with mesh securely attached to house and install chimney caps.
- Put woodpiles on raised platforms at least 18” high to discourage nesting by rodents and other animals.
- Make sure you clean up under bird feeders so that discarded seeds are not attracting rats, mice, squirrels, etc.
- If you have a water source like a pool, fount ain or fish pond, be sure the water is being circulated to avoid providing a mosquito nesting ground.
Photo credit: US Fish & Wildlife
Photo credit: US Fish & Wildlife
Photo credit: National Park Service
Sound, water, lights, odors and bright moving objects can keep animals from feeling “at home” on your property. Keep a loud whistle, air horn or tin can filled with washers, bolts and small rocks handy. These can be used to shake or throw in order to scare unwanted, wild animals away from your property. Keep in mind, the animal needs to fear the method being used, or be surprised by it, thus you may have to vary the combination to keep the animals from getting used to any one deterrent.
If You Encounter an Animal in the Wild
- When hiking in wilderness areas, taking a good size dog on a leash is a good idea. Dogs are often more perceptive than humans, and can provide you with an early warning of the presence of a predator.
- Making a reasonable amount of noise, conversation, whistling, crunching on leaves, etc. can forewarn animals of your presence in their vicinity and chances are they will leave the area to avoid you.
- Carry bear pepper spray, even if there are no bears in your area. It is strong and can work on large predators.
- Do not turn your back on the animal and run away. Running may stimulate the animal to chase you.
- Do not stare into the animal’s eyes as that can be interpreted as a challenge. Look at the side of the animal’s face so your peripheral vision can gauge the animal’s intent.
- If you do encounter a mountain lion or bear, stand your ground and make yourself appear as big and as imposing as you can -- stand straight and raise your arms wide. If you have a jacket or shirt spread it over your head to look like a sail and speak in a stern voice while backing away. The animal will most likely be intimidated by your posture and leave.
- If attack is imminent, use the bear pepper spray and fight for your life. If possible, cover your head and neck, as many carnivorous predators will go there first during an attack.