Just like our own kids, baby wild animals ultimately are compelled to strike out on their own. Occasionally they may hang around a little longer than expected, but parents eventually give them a good-natured nudge to find their own turf. Either way, you may see these animals—foxes, raccoons, skunks, armadillos, black bears, mountain lions, or others native to your area—in your yard as they look for a suitable place to live. Usually, they continue along on their journey, but if your yard features easy food options and shelter—however unintended these offerings may be—they may want to stay. Here’s your roadmap for making your yard less likely to be chosen as their new home.
Baby wild animals are looking for food…
In late summer and early fall, young animals are hungry animals! They’re suddenly responsible for feeding themselves, and your yard may be full of easy temptations:
- Veggie Garden: Building potential grazers out, adults and juveniles alike, is the best defense. Fence off the garden to keep them out and, if necessary for areas where animals are challenging your garden protection efforts or in cases of very large gardens you might consider using a single strand electric wire to discourage access (make sure you are setting at the right height and marking to warn humans). For smaller garden plots motion-detector sprinklers have been used to successfully discourage animals from raiding the garden.
- Fruit- or Nut-bearing Trees: Keep fruit and nuts picked up off the ground, and consider netting fruit trees, if necessary.
- Pet Food: Feed pets indoors, or remove dishes immediately after they eat.
- Bird Feeders: There are several options depending on the situation. Bring feeders in for a week or so; bring them in each evening; only put out enough for each day; hang high; or add a raccoon guard on pole-mounted feeders, and use a catch tray with any of these methods.
- Trashcan: Use a sturdy trashcan with a tight-fitting lid; add a bungee cord to keep it closed; keep it in the shed or garage until pick-up day.
- Compost Pile: Use a closed compost bin; don’t add meat, fish, or dairy items.
Keep your pets’ safety in mind…
Your pets are precious to you, but may look like prey to a hungry wild animal, so keep them indoors when you cannot be with them. If you keep small pets in an outdoor enclosure, make sure that it is sturdily built, and if a wild animal could dig underneath the enclosure to get to your pets, add an “L-footer” of hardware cloth at the base. As always, keep your pets’ vaccinations up to date in case of an unanticipated encounter.
Places they might choose for shelter….
Animals looking for homes often choose chimneys, attics, crawl spaces, and areas under porches, decks, or sheds. Best to make these spaces “off limits” before they are claimed, but make sure no one is inside before sealing up. Consider having a commercially made chimney cap professionally installed if raccoons are common in your area; if they’re not, you may be able to leave it open and available to nesting or roosting chimney swifts. Monitor the roofline and areas where different building materials meet, so you can make repairs when weather or other damage open up a potential access point for animals. Use heavy-gauge metal cloth to make an “L-footer” that blocks access to space under porches, decks, and sheds. Now you can enjoy the chance sighting of these animals in your yard, knowing that they’re just passing through.