How To Avoid Conflicts With Wildlife in the City
Colorado is known for its abundance and variety of wildlife. People come from all over the world to enjoy the wildlife, from the prairie-chicken of the plains to the bighorn sheep of the Rockies. To the surprise of some people, wildlife can even be found in and around the urban areas of Colorado's fast-growing Front Range.
The presence of wildlife in the cities is usually a delight to Colorado residents. The close proximity, however, of wildlife sometimes causes problems. Most people agree that a porcupine in an apple tree, a family of skunks under the front porch, or a squirrel in the fireplace can be unsettling. Many people encounter these situations; yet few know what to do about them.
Avoiding Wildlife Conflicts
As cities along the Front Range and throughout Colorado grow, subdivisions impact wildlife habitat and wild animals are often displaced. Some species continue to live in open space areas, parks, undeveloped parcels of land, river bottoms, and on or near bodies of water. Others have adapted well to urban living; skunks and raccoons, in particular, seem to thrive in and near cities.
In most situations, people and wildlife can coexist. The key is to respect the wildness of wildlife. "Wildlife" is just that—wild. Most dangerous and potentially harmful encounters occur because people fail to leave the animals alone. Wildlife should not be harassed, captured, domesticated or—in most cases—fed. Intentional or inadvertent feeding is the major cause of most wildlife problems. It is illegal in Colorado to feed deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, pronghorn, and elk.
An Ounce of Prevention
The key to avoiding problem wildlife encounters is keeping unwanted wildlife out of homes, buildings, and yards.
Do not feed wildlife! Feeding songbirds is okay, but be aware it may attract other animals. Place bird feeders where they are not accessible to other wildlife species. Wild animals are capable of finding plenty of food on their own.
- Cover window wells with commercially available grates or bubbles, or make a cover using quarter-inch hardware cloth or chicken wire.
- Close holes around and under the foundation of your home so that animals will not be tempted to homestead. Bury wire mesh one to two feet deep in places where animals might gain access.
- Don't give wildlife the opportunity to get into your garbage. Store it in metal or plastic containers with tight-fitting lids. Keep the cans in a garage or shed, and put trash out only when it's scheduled to be picked up.
- Keep pet food inside.
- If birds are flying into windows, mark them with strips of white tape or with raptor silhouettes.
- Fence gardens and cover fruit trees with commercially available netting to protect your harvest.
- Screen fireplace chimneys and furnace, attic and dryer vents, and keep dampers closed to avoid "drop-in" guests. Chimney tops should be screened from February to September to prevent birds and animals from nesting inside. To prevent fire and safety hazards, check with a knowledgeable source before attempting this.
- Seal all cracks and holes larger than a one-quarter inch in diameter to keep out rats, mice, bats, and snakes.
- Protect hobby livestock with electrified enclosures.
Exclusion is the best policy in preventing bats from gaining entrance into buildings. It isn't always easy, though, because of their size. Bats can squeeze through cracks as narrow as an inch wide. Some of their preferred entrances are in older frame structures where boards are loose or have shrunk. They may also enter houses through loose vents, eaves, spaces around water pipes, electrical outlets, corrugated roofing, doors or windows.
Caulking cracks is most effective if applied during dry weather when cracks are the widest. Weather-stripping—which seals spaces around doors and windows—is also effective in repairing cracks.
If you're certain the noises in your attic are being made by bats, wait for them to leave, then seal the entrances before they return. Unfortunately, you'll need to do the work at night when bats depart for their nightly feeding forays. It's also wise to do this in the fall after the young have learned to fly. Or, wait until winter when many bats have migrated south. Never handle a bat that appears sick or wounded.
Bats can be helpful in your neighborhood because they consume a lot of insects and usually do not pose a health threat to humans.
Geese are attracted to areas with open water and large expanses of grass, such as golf courses, parks, and large apartment complexes. The problem is most noticeable during winter when large numbers of migrating geese join year-round residents.
- Do not feed geese. Feeding compounds the overpopulation problem and invites disease.
- Fence your yard. Eliminate some of the large expanses of lawn by planting shrubs and other visual barriers.
- During fall and winter, noise-making tactics may discourage these birds from staying on your property. Also, remove old nests during this time to stop geese from returning in spring.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife helps control the urban goose population by rounding up molting geese in summer and transporting them to states that hope to increase their goose population. In residential areas, homeowner's associations must request trapping. Contact CPW to inquire about this.
If you see a deer-crossing sign, slow down and drive cautiously for the length of the crossing—especially at night. Remember, if you see one deer on the road, at least one more may be nearby.
When deer appear in or around the city, it's usually best to leave them alone. In most situations, they will move to new areas. Deer and other large animals are usually injured or killed when people try to capture them in developed areas. In fact, tranquilizing deer, elk and other large animals is done only as a last resort.
In areas where deer are common, shrub and tree damage may be a problem. Commercial deer repellents or mixtures containing eggs have proven successful in warding off deer. However, these solutions may need to be reapplied after rain or snow. You can also keep deer from eating flowers and shrubs by putting wire cylinders and fences around the plants. See CSU's Extension's "Preventing Deer Damage" article and resources to learn what plants deer avoid. Also, consider planting native flowers and shrubs.
It is illegal to feed deer in Colorado. Violators may be fined $50 for doing so.