Living with Wildlife

The Sacramento Valley is home to a diverse animal population, from the colorful Yellow-Billed Magpie to the energetic native Western Grey Squirrel. However, as our population continues to grow and expand, many of these animals begin to face being displaced, being injured, or being deemed pests. With a little knowledge, we can live in greater harmony with wildlife, allowing all parties to thrive.


#1 Keep Wild Animals Wild

One of the best ways to help wild animals and keep them safe, healthy, and happy is to keep them wild. We can help keep them wild by doing the following things:

Do not feed wild animals
Wild animals that are fed by humans may become nuisance animals. Once fed, they will often begin to expect food and can become aggressive or invasive in their attempts to get it. Additionally, we often inadvertently feed them the wrong thing. For instance, ducks naturally eat aquatic vegetation, insects, and mollusks and the feed we feed them is not good for them and can cause serious health problems for them. The best idea is not to feed wild animals at all. Finally, do not allow wildlife access to food or trash. Especially at night, close pet doors, keep pet food inside and keep trash locked up. This will help both the wild animals and your pets stay safe.

Wild animals NEVER make good pets
Please do not attempt to raise or keep wild animals. When young, wild animals will develop bone problems if fed not fed the correct (specialized) diet, and can develop pneumonia or even die if fed incorrectly. Young birds need to be raised with their own kind to be successfully released, and adult birds will damage their feathers in wire cages and will often die of stress. Mammals and reptiles will often turn on the people who raise them, can bite and scratch, and can carry diseases and parasites. Finally, in California, it is illegal to keep wild animals as pets without proper permits. Wild animals NEVER make good pets.

#2 Keep Wild Animals Safe

Keep cats indoors – for the health of wild animals and your cat.
Cats can make wonderful loving companion animals. However, cats that go outdoors kill thousands of wild animals, especially birds, a year. These cats are fed by loving people but they hunt and play with wild animals. Cats teeth and claws contain bacteria that is lethal, so even if the animal survives being “played” with, even those that seem unharmed will often die in 2-3 days. Young animals are particularly susceptible, as young birds cannot fly, and young mammals do not realize that cats are predators, as they are not natural predators, even if they have bells on.

Cats that roam outside have an average lifespan of approximately 3 years, compared to 15-18 years for the average indoor only cat. This is because they have an increased chance of becoming sick (including FIV, rabies), injured (by other cats, dogs, predators, cars, or even people), poisoned, or even killed. So, keep your cat inside for its health and safety, and for the health and safety of wildlife.

Keep bird feeders clean
While feeding animals can do more harm than good, bird feeders are not generally considered wrong. However, in order to keep the feeder free of disease (that birds can get) and grime, bird feeders and water baths should be scrubbed clean at least once a week and between refills. After cleaning, disinfect with a ten-percent solution of bleach water and allow it to air dry before refilling. Since wood objects cannot be disinfected properly, use metal or plastic. Finally, make sure you keep seed secure, in an air tight container, as insects and rodents can feed on and contaminate the food.

Make windows safe
There are a number of ways that might help prevent birds from striking your windows. First, you can make the window appear as a wall/solid object by closing any drapes or blinds on the inside (especially when the reflection is the worst) or applying stickers (including hawk silhouettes) or strips of paper to the windows. Some glass manufacturers are starting to design etched glass that may help prevent this as well.

Second, you can prevent birds from hitting the window by hanging the screen from eaves about a foot away from the window. It can either be a solid screen or with twirling flags in between. The birds fly towards the glass and bounce off the screen without hitting the window. However, make sure the bird and other animals cannot get caught in the netting.

If despite your best efforts, a bird still hits the window, you can put the bird in a box with air holes and paper towels in the bottom in a warm, dark, quiet location away from pets and noise. Often you can later release the bird. However, if the bird is not acting correctly, you are not sure if the bird is good, or you are worried the bird is in danger from a cat, dog, cars, etc. please bring it to WCA.

Prune trees and shrubs between October and December
In temperate areas of the United States, including the central valley, animals begin nesting in January and end in late August. So, the safest time to trim trees and shrubs is between October and December. When you prune trees and shrubs (even between October and December), carefully check for nests and be sure any animals (especially babies) are gone before you prune.

Take fishing lines and hooks with you
Birds, mammals and turtles can be seriously injured and die from getting tangled in fishing line, swallowing fish hooks, or ensnared by fish hooks. Please take fishing lines and hooks with you when you leave and if you see fishing line on shores or in the water, please pick it up and discard it in the trash.

Do not use poisons, sticky traps, or pesticides
Poisons are not only a very cruel way to kill animals (as death can be slow and painful) but they can also kill other predators (including hawks, cats, and dogs) that eat the poisoned animals or that accidentally eat the poisons.

Sticky traps often “catch” other, unintended animals, such as reptiles and small birds and mammals. When animals struggle, they can break bones, destroy their feathers, skin, and scales, and die a slow death.

Finally, avoid pesticides. What is poisonous to animals considered “pests” is often also poisonous other animals, including people and companion animals. Additionally, pesticides can seep into the ground water, end up in rivers and lakes, and can end up in the rain. If you must use a pesticide, always choose the least toxic one. But be careful when using any pesticide, since most pesticides, even the least toxic, kill beneficial insects and microbes (including those that allow plants to grow).

Bring injured, orphaned, or sick wildlife to WCA immediately
Click here for more information on what to do if you find an injured, orphaned, or sick wild animal.

#3 Discourage unwelcome guests

We often invite wildlife into our yards without realizing it by providing easy, secure and consistent access to food and shelter.

Wild animals are attracted to easy sources of food
Often, once the source of food is removed, the wild animal will leave, seeking an easier source. There are many ways animals can acquire food from us and several easy ways to help eliminate the potential sources.

Do not directly feed the animals
Wild animals that are fed by humans may become nuisance animals. Once fed, they will often begin to expect food and can become aggressive or invasive in their attempts to get it.

Remove obvious sources of food
Such as pet food, ripe fruit or vegetables that are on the ground, open compost piles, and dirty barbecue grills. Store food in animal proof containers or secured indoors.Make sure to close pet doors and windows at night! so that wild animals cannot get inside.

Place bird feeders out of reach of ground animals
Wrap metal sheets around the bird feeder poles to keep out raccoons and other climbers. Secure trash can lids! so that animals cannot get into them, clean out and securely cover containers (such as peanut butter and yogurt) so that wild animals are not attracted to the trash or recycling bins. Cut up six pack rings! and other plastic items that animals can get caught in.

Eliminate plants the animals are attracted to
Remove plants and use wildlife repellents or stiff wire netting that has larger mesh; do not use traps, poisons, or bird netting.

Place animal secure netting over fish ponds
Netting will secure fish pond so that wild animals cannot eat the fish.

Wild animals are attracted by shelter
Houses and insulated structures are particularly attractive, as they are warm, insulated, dry, secure and don’t move. Prevent intrusion and eliminate all possible shelters, including your house, shed, garage and other structures. Check for and seal common entry points like roof vents and spaces, plumbing vent pipes, chimneys, foundation openings, roof-fascia interfaces, cellar and crawl space door and interfaces, and window wells. Block, cover, and seal these entrances with galvanized ¼” or ½” wire. Trim tree limbs away from the house to keep animals off the roof and out of the attic, and place metal sheets on the corners of the house to prevent raccoons from climbing up. If this doesn’t work, you can set out rags soaked in ammonia near entrances, as they hate the smell.

Protect the areas under a porch, crawl space, and shed by blockading entrances and holes, and constructing a barrier to protect from burrowing. The best barrier is made by digging a 1-foot by 1-foot trench around the base of the structure. Then attach ¼” or ½” wire mesh or hardware cloth to the wall or side of the structure. Extend the wire down into the trench and bend the bottom of the wire to the outside. The wire will then form an “L” with the bottom leg extending to the outside about another foot. This buried L-shaped barrier keeps animals from digging under the structure. Eliminate other shelter areas such as debris, burn piles, brush, rocks and lumber piles.

“Eliminate” problem wildlife
Once established, wildlife might not want to leave. Make sure that your human neighbors are not providing food or shelter. If they are established in your house or another shelter, one way doors can be installed. However, before doing so, first ensure that babies are not trapped inside the enclosures. Additional ideas include playing loud music or having motion activated noise (such as sirens), shining bright lights or using motion activated lights during the night, and/or using motion activated water jets during the day and night to deter wildlife.