Coexisting with Wildlife

Raccoons, opossums, skunks, birds, deer, and coyotes are just a few of the wild animals that live with us in Whatcom County.  Urban growth and development have created warm comfortable housing (under decks and against spas) and an abundance of food (pet food and garbage cans).  Many wild animals have adapted quite well to this urban environment and some have even managed to flourish.  See below for helpful tips on how you can peacefully coexist with the wild animals in your area!

If you have any questions about coexisting with your wild neighbors, please call us at 360-966-8845.

Wildlife Tip of the Week!

Alysha Elsby, the manager of the WHS wildlife rehabilitation center and a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, is providing important information on how you can protect & help our native wildlife. Check out our new video segment:
Week 1: Seal Pups
Week 2: Fawns – When to Help & When NOT to Help
Week 3: Baby Squirrels
Week 4: Gulls
Week 5: Why you shouldn’t keep orphaned wildlife
Week 6: Change of Season
Week 7:  Deer in Distress
Week 8:  Meet Humane Education Animal Rainbow!
Week 9: Winter Birdfeeders

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Wildlife in the Winter

It is common for people to want to feed wildlife, especially during the winter months.  While this may seem helpful, it usually does more harm than good. Before you put food out for the wild animals around your home, please be sure you have all the information.  Here are some useful links:

Winter Wildlife Feeding (Department of Fish & Wildlife)
Winter Bird Feeding (Department of Fish & Wildlife)
Feeding Water Fowl May be Harmful (US Fish & Wildlife Service)
Nuisance Wildlife (Department of Fish & Wildlife)
Four Reasons Not to Feed Wildlife (Humane Society of the United States)
Feeding Wildlife (PAWS)
To Feed or Not to Feed (Peninsula Humane Society)


Backyard Conservancy

While many of us may not realize it, a property owner is also a habitat manager. Over 35,000 acres of wildlife habitat are converted to housing and other development each year in Washington. If we continue at this rate, many of our native wildlife species will have few places to live and visit. The things we do, or do not do, in the vicinity of our home have an effect on the quality of habitat for dozens of wildlife species.

If you care about preserving wildlife habitat, want to become a better environmental steward, and would like to add beauty and interest to your property, you can create a backyard sanctuary using simple conservation practices and other methods to build a healthy, natural and hospitable backyard habitat.  Here are some helpful links:

Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)
Create a Certified Wildlife Habitat (National Wildlife Federation)
Backyard Conservation (Natural Resources Conservation Service)
How do I keep wildlife out of my yard? (Bellingham Herald, Animal Tales)
What should I do if I see an injured deer or fawn? (Bellingham Herald, Animal Tales)


Deterring Pigeons and Other Birds

  • Remove all food and water sources.
  • Mount a plastic owl in the area where the pigeons are, but move the owl around every other day so it will look more realistic. A stationary owl is no threat to a pigeon!
  • Put Nixalite or some other material that is made up of sharp barbs where the pigeons are perching.
  • Hang up wind chimes or blast a radio in there direction.
  • Put nets or screens over areas that are off limits to birds.
  • If cleaning or disturbing areas where there is bird feces, always dampen the area with water first. This will prevent air-born diseases that are associated with dry bird feces.
  • If you want the birds away from you house or a certain area, try luring them to other areas with food or housing.
  • Never poison birds; some other animal may eat the dead, poisoned bird and secondary poisoning may occur.

Deterring Skunks & Raccoons

Remember, in Spring and Summer there may be raccoon and skunk babies. Make sure mom can get to them to move them and be patient, as it might take some time to relocate all the babies.

  • Remove all food and water sources. Make sure your garbage is secure by putting the cans in a rack or tying them to a support.
  • Make sure all chimneys, sheds, decks, and crawl-spaces are raccoon proof. These are popular nesting sites.
  • Put metal flashing around trees that are off limits to the raccoons so that they cannot climb them.
  • Make fish ponds more than 2 ½ feet deep to discourage the raccoons from wading in the pond to catch your fish. Or put something along the bottom of the pond for the fish to hide in, like a long pipe.
  • Blast a radio or shine bright lights in their direction; this will disrupt their sleep and they will hopefully go elsewhere.
  • Use moth balls or ammonia-soaked rags in outdoor areas where raccoons are sleeping.
  • Create a one-way door if you know where the raccoon is entering/exiting. The door will swing out but will not swing in, locking them out of the space. Make the door difficult to open from the outside by attaching a strong spring to the door. Note that this is not a good solution if there are babies that need to be moved.

Deterring Squirrels

Remember, in Spring, Summer and Fall there may be babies. Make sure mom an get to them to move them and be patient, as it might take some time to relocate all the babies.

  • Remove all food and water sources and make birdfeeders squirrel-proof.
  • Make sure all chimneys, sheds, and attics are closed off from squirrels; these are popular nesting sites.
  • Cut branches away from your rood to discourage easy access to attics and chimneys.
  • Use ammonia-soaked rags in areas where the squirrels are living.
  • Create one-way doors where squirrels are entering/exiting. Put some type of mesh on the door, so that they can see the outside world. Also make the door difficult to open from the outside by putting a tight spring on the door.
  • Never poison a squirrel; some other animal may eat the dead, poisoned squirrel and secondary poisoning may occur.

Tree Trimming & Power Washing

Tree-trimming in the Spring and Summer can destroy wild animal nests. Baby squirrels and baby birds are likely to lose their home and nest when you start up the chainsaw during this time of year. The best time for tree-trimming is October- February. Also power-washing your home, garage, or shed may also destroy bird nests. Swallows and sparrows love to nest on the sides of buildings or near gutters. Power-wash your home or shed during October- February to avoid unnecessary orphans.


Wildlife & Pets

Many wild animals present a danger to our pets. As humans are increasingly encroaching upon wild animals’ natural habitats, wildlife has become more adapted to living in populated areas.  Because of this, wild animals, especially predators, come into contact with domestic animals more frequently. There are a number of things you can do to protect your pets from harm by wild animals:

  • Pick up pet food after dark.
  • Once your pet is inside for the night, lock all pet doors.Property:
  • Replace plastic trash cans with metal cans and secure the top. Secure trash cans to a fence.
  • If you catch an animal in the midst of a raid, DO NOT attempt to pick up or corner the animal. Use bright lights or loud noises to frighten the visitor(s) away.
  • Close the areas around decks, hot tubs, spas, sheds, porches, foundations, and stairways.

If you have any questions about coexisting with your wild neighbors, please call us at 360-966-8845.