Our wild neighbours have the same basic needs as we do: food, water and shelter. Sometimes, this can lead to conflicts. Farmers can't afford to lose their crops and livestock to predation, so they invest in preventive measures such as fencing, noisemakers, watchdogs or other guardian animals. Homeowners also need to consider how they can prevent wild animals from moving into their walls or attics, or rummaging through their compost bins, by animal-proofing their homes.
Try to look around your house and yard, and see things from the animals' point of view. If you were looking for food, water and shelter, where would you find it? Then think about it from your own point of view: do you want wildlife finding what they need in those locations? Once we understand what attracts animals to a particular location, we can take steps to control it if necessary.
Of course, if you want to encourage wildlife to share your yard, you can also take steps to make it more attractive and welcoming! Refer to the Fletcher Wildlife Garden for more information.
Parents should make sure that their children understand that wild animals are not pets. Teach them to enjoy and appreciate wildlife from a respectful distance. This is safest for everyone involved, including the animals. Encourage your children to tell you when they see wildlife in your yard or neighbourhood, since they may notice things that you miss!
- Putting out feeders for birds (and squirrels and chipmunks) is a popular way to attract these animals to your yard. Problems can occur if your feeders start to attract large flocks of birds that annoy your neighbours, or other wildlife such as rats, raccoons or even bears! You may need to stop feeding for a while, or only put out small amounts that can be quickly eaten during the day.
- Do not feed animals that are likely to become a problem for you or your neighbours, whether in your yard, the local park or other greenspaces. Wild animals should not depend on humans for their food, and should not learn to expect food from us. It could put them at risk of being hurt or killed, if they start approaching people aggressively in search of food.
- Do not leave food outside for your pet cat or dog. You could wind up feeding a lot of animals from that bowl, and some of them are likely to be unwelcome to you or your neighbours (e.g., rats, stray cats, raccoons, or coyotes). It could also place your pet at greater risk of injury or disease, either from fighting or from sharing their bowl with sick stray or wild animals.
- You may not mind rabbits nibbling on your lawn and garden. If you're trying to grow vegetables for yourself, though, you'll need to protect them with a fence or other measures.
- Keep your barbeque clean and empty the grease-catcher frequently. Cover your barbeque or put it away when not in use.
- Keep your green bin in a secure location until collection day. For more tips on how to secure your green bin, see our web page .
- Cover inappropriate sources of water, such as swimming or wading pools and rain barrels.
- If you do choose to provide water for wildlife, in bird baths or other containers, change it frequently to keep it fresh and clean.
- Don't let standing water remain in pails or other containers; mosquitoes will use it to breed in.
- If you have an ornamental pond, include a small fountain or waterfall feature to keep the water moving and make it less attractive to mosquitoes. The sound of moving water also attracts birds.
- Always make sure your pets have access to fresh, clean water, but don't leave it outside all the time if they're not there. Sharing their bowls with wild or stray animals could increase their exposure to contagious diseases.
- Inspect the outside of your home carefully (especially the vents, eaves and roof, and around door and window frames) and make sure there are no cracks or holes that could allow animals to get in. Keep in mind that small animals such as mice and bats can squeeze into very small holes! If you suspect there may already be animals such as squirrels, raccoons, bats or birds living in your home, make sure you do not close up the hole(s) they are using until you're sure they are all outside. If you are dealing with a family of wildlife, this may mean that you have to wait a few weeks, to allow the young animals to grow up enough to leave their nest. Have a professional help you with the inspection and any necessary repairs if you are unable to do this yourself.
- Raised decks are very attractive to many species as a hiding place. If you do not want animals living under your deck, you'll need to enclose it. Make sure there's nothing already living under it before you do this!
- Don't leave your shed or garage door open overnight.
- Keep window screens in good repair.
- Window wells may trap animals if they fall in. Consider covering your window wells with a screen to prevent this.
- Be aware that woodpiles often attract wildlife. If you have a woodpile, keep it enclosed if possible.
There are steps you can take to prevent vermin, including rats, mice and cockroaches on your property.
Eliminate food and water sources
- Secure garbage and compost (both indoor and outdoor) in plastic or metal receptacles with tight fitting lids
- Remove pet food right after feeding and clean waste from pet enclosures
- Eliminate water sources such as, but not limited to, leaky faucets, bird baths and all standing water
- Keep areas around bird feeders and birdbaths clean. Remove bird feeders during a rodent infestation
Eliminate hiding and living places
- Cut tall grass and weeds back from the home’s foundation
- Remove clutter from around the home, garage and inside the shed
- Lift wood piles on stands 30 cm (12 inches) off the ground and away from the home
- Repair cracks in the home’s foundation
- Use metal weather stripping under exterior doors
- Cover drain pipes, dryer, fresh air and attic vents with fine metal screening
If you are experiencing a vermin infestation and require professional services, you may wish to contact a licensed pest control company.
For more information about wildlife-proofing and avoiding problems, consult the following links:
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources – Living with Wildlife
Ottawa Humane Society – wildlife issues
Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre – human/wildlife conflicts
Ontario Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – wildlife fact sheets
City of Toronto checklist for wildlife-proofing your home
Protocol for Wildlife Protection during Construction
Rat Control - Ottawa Public Health