Solutions for Wildlife Conflicts

Wildlife is a vital part of the Colorado ecosystem and to the health and well-being of our lives. Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center encourages everyone to become environmentally responsible and appreciate the diversity of life that Colorado offers.

Part of environmental responsibility is the appreciation of wildlife and the understanding that, at times, conflicts with wildlife are bound to occur. Environmental responsibility and appreciation for the diversity of life demands humane, effective solutions to conflicts with wildlife.

Contrary to popular belief, live-trapping a wild animal and relocating it elsewhere is not a good way to solve problems with wildlife. In the State of Colorado, you must get permission from Colorado Parks and Wildlife to trap nuisance wildlife. While it may seem like a humane option, it usually ends up being a slow death sentence for the animal. It also leaves your property vulnerable to ongoing wildlife conflicts. Here are some of the reasons that relocating is discouraged:

  1. Wild animals removed from their home territory have trouble adapting and often can’t survive in their new surroundings.
  2. Babies left behind after a mother has been relocated are almost always orphaned.
  3. It doesn’t work moving one animal out because it just opens up space for another one to move in.

Instead, here are some compassionate actions you can take:

Spring visitors. Mother mammals and birds try to choose a safe place to have their babies or lay eggs. Sometimes they don’t choose very well. Locations they’ve used in the past may no longer be available.

Nests of baby bunnies in compost piles are common, as are bird nests in precarious hanging baskets. Spaces under houses or sheds may seem like ideal dens for foxes and raccoons, as do attics and even window wells. If you have an animal that is nesting or “denning” in or near your house at this time of the year, you can be certain that there are babies not far away.

So, what can you do? The best and most humane solution is to keep the mother and babies together for as long as possible. A fox under your porch or a raccoon in the attic may only need a few more weeks to get their young ready for the outside world.

If at all possible, let the mom and babies stay put until they’re old enough to be moved safely. Greenwood can give you information about timing the move and also tell you about humane ways to encourage them to leave on their own if temporary coexistence just isn’t possible.

Red fox

Education and tolerance. Learn more about the animals that live in your area. You may discover that what you consider a “nuisance” is an animal that provides an essential element to a healthy environment.

Change human behavior. It will be easier for you to change than to get an animal to change. For example, to discourage “garbage raiding” by raccoons or other animals, place your trash cans at the curb on the day of pick-up rather than the night before. Store cans inside a shed or garage in between pick-ups.

Change the environment. Make your home or yard less attractive to the animals you don’t want there. Landscaping choices and habitat modification can encourage or discourage certain species. Deter snakes, skunks, or other animals by removing potential hiding places, such as rock and woodpiles or storage sheds with space under the floor.

Keep them out. Cut off access to the places where animals enter buildings—cap chimneys and seal holes, for example. Close off potential den sites under decks, porches, steps, and crawl spaces. Fence vulnerable gardens and trees or use netting to exclude birds and other animals from plants.

Humane eviction solutions. Use humane harassment to encourage wildlife to leave. The Sight-Sound-Smell Harassment is detailed below and should be placed at the opening to the problem area. If raccoons are living in a chimney, for example, you can put the items at the mouth of the chimney or at the fireplace. This method is best used after most babies are weaned and before the weather gets too cold. Although most mothers will move their young babies to a new den site when frightened, it is always possible that an evicted mother might abandon or become separated from her babies.

*Sight-Sound-Smell Harassment – place the following items near the den opening:

  1. A bright light. A motion activated light is ideal, but any powerful light will do. If the light is used near a structure, you may wish to enclose it in a wire cage so that it doesn’t come in contact with flammable material.
  2. A radio. Tune the radio to an all-talk station. The sound of human voices is threatening to wildlife. The radio should be as loud as possible, but does not have to be so loud that it keeps you or your neighbors awake.
  3. Rags soaked with apple cider vinegar. Place rags near the entrance and replenish daily. The smell of the vinegar is strong enough to annoy the animal without harming it.

Continue sensory harassment for three consecutive nights from dusk to dawn. Sometime during this period, the animal will probably relocate itself and its family to a new home.

If you have tried all humane ways of removing wildlife, Greenwood recommends calling:

Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center does NOT endorse or support wildlife trappers and extermination specialists in Colorado.

If you have questions about wildlife in your area please contact us.