While many of us may watch with interest and delight as squirrels, raccoons, rabbits, opossums, skunks and a number of other woodland creatures cavort in and around our yards, their presence can actually be quite problematic. Wildlife can damage plants and property, and can often bring with them disease and disease-carrying fleas and ticks.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wild animals accounted for 92 percent of reported cases of rabies in 2010 (the latest data available). Raccoons continued to be the most frequently reported rabid wildlife species (36.5 percent of all animal cases during 2010), followed by skunks (23.5 percent), bats (23 percent), foxes (7 percent), and other wild animals, including rodents and members of the rabbit family (1.8 percent).
As urban areas experience an increase in populations of these animals, homeowners may encounter these animals for the first time and not be fully prepared to deal with an intrusion. While wildlife plays an important role in nature, these animals can become a nuisance and a health threat when they come too close and sometimes into people’s homes.
During the cooler months, wild animals are more apt to wander closer to human environments as they search for food and shelter. Some homes, more than others will be more inviting to these animals. Homes that are located near wildlife habitats such as forest preserves, parks, golf courses, rivers or creeks, railroad tracks, and vacant buildings and have a presence of mature trees in the yard or the neighborhood are more likely to be visited by wildlife.
The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) reminds homeowners who may encounter a wild animal on their property to contact a local wildlife or pest professional instead of attempting to remove it on their own. Experienced wildlife removal experts know how to approach the animal and trap it while avoiding being bitten. Even though an animal may not exhibit signs of rabies, it doesn’t mean it is not a carrier of the virus.
NPMA offers the following tips to homeowners to ensure wildlife stays in the wild:
•Install door sweeps on exterior doors and repair damaged screens.
•Install chimney caps.
•Cover exhaust fan openings; soffit and attic vents.
•Cover tops of window wells.
•Replace loose mortar and weather stripping around the basement foundation and windows.
•Inspect roofs annually for signs of water damage.
•Keep tree limbs cut back 6 to 8 feet from the roofline and store firewood at least 20 feet away from the house.
•Keep your garbage in a secure container that cannot be opened by animals.
•Keep attics, basements and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry.
•Store birdseed in a secure place and hang your feeders in locations where only birds can reach them as bird feeders can attract raccoons, possums, or even bears.
•Place birdbaths where wildlife cannot reach them or provide birds with water away from the home. Birdbaths, fountains or pet water dishes may draw wildlife pests, especially where water is scarce.
•Keep in mind that fencing, plant choice and landscape design can play a role in whether your yard and garden is more or less attractive to nuisance wildlife.
•If you have fruit trees in your yard, be sure to pick or dispose of ripe fruit.
•Do not leave brush, leaf piles or other debris to accumulate.
•Keep food in airtight containers and dispose of garbage regularly.
•Keep pet food and water dishes indoor. Do not encourage raccoons, deer and squirrels by feeding them.