Think About Wildlife In House, Yard Design

By Eleanor C. Foerste
MORE HOUSES and more people mean less natural habitat for some wildlife but new homes for others. Wildlife living in close proximity to people means more wildlife encounters.

As we develop the natural landscape, our homes, our pets and our cars put native animals at risk for injury. Do your part to minimize the damage. Our homes can be hazardous to wildlife. Window films with reflective coatings interfere with bird flight patterns, resulting in thousands of deaths and injuries each year. There are other energy-efficient window alternatives to minimize wildlife injury. You can try placing the silhouette of a diving hawk on the window to scare birds from the area.Your Cooperative  Extension office has patterns that may be helpful.

Our homes can invite wildlife into dangerous situations. As seen in the recent cartoon movie Over the Hedge, pet doors allow more than pets to enter your home. The onscreen havoc pales in comparison to some real-life adventures I have heard of when skunks and Raccoons also learn to use the pet doors to gain access to your home for food and shelter. If you are considering this as a convenience option for your pet, perhaps you could limit the access to only the storage room or the garage, rather than the entire house.

Wildlife encounters may be fatal for animals as well as humans when they involve roads. We read signs and change locations when detour routes are posted, but it is hard to train the animals to change their travel paths when roads are built. Cars have overturned when they hit a wild pig on the road because they are small enough to get under the vehicle frame. This is bad news for car, driver and pig. Evasive maneuvers to avoid injuring wildlife on the road can also be dangerous as portrayed in car insurance commercials.

Wildlife rehabilitators, those licensed to care for injured wildlife, provide several other suggestions to reduce animal injuries as we continue to expand human territory:

Check lawns and grass fields for nests before mowing high grass. This is especially important in the spring when rabbits and birds are nesting. Check for active nests before pruning tree limbs and dense shrubbery. Leave some dead trees as homes for cavity-nesting wildlife.

Keep pets and their food indoors. It is safer for them, because they will not be exposed to diseases they can catch from wild animals. Dispose of litter properly and clean up litter in natural areas. Litter can be mistaken for food and cause digestive problems.

Don’t feed wildlife. It is against the law and is not good for the animals. A neighbor’s porch was destroyed by an otter that had gotten used to eating bacon. Locals’ cars and homes have been damaged by the powerful pecking of sandhill cranes looking for another handout.

Wildlife needs to forage or find the best food for their bodies, and our diets may alter their nutritional intake, making them more likely to get sick. It also changes the animal’s behavior and puts them at more risk of injury by humans and our pets. Feeding songbirds to supplement their diet is popular, but be sure to keep feeders and birdbaths clean to prevent disease. Wear gloves so you don’t get germs that can make you sick.

Cap chimneys to keep birds and wildlife from moving in and becoming a nuisance.

Don’t try to keep wild animals for pets, and use special care with injured or orphaned wildlife. The best policy is often to do nothing and let the animals care for themselves. If you want to help injured or orphaned wildlife, support licensed trained wildlife rehabilitators. They need volunteers and donations of feed, blankets and money to pay for veterinary services.

Contact your Cooperative Extension office for names of local rehabbers and a free handout on caring for inured or orphaned wildlife.

Walk in the woods
Take a walk on the wild side and see nature in action. Walks in natural areas provide an opportunity to better understand wildlife behavior and animals’ connection to the ecosystem. Though you may not always see animals and birds, you can learn to look for evidence of their presence and find out why they occur in some areas and not in others. — Orlando Sentinel

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Eleanor Foerste is a natural resources agent with the University of Florida/IFAS Osceola County Extension Office