Living With Wildlife in Your Neighborhood
Here in Massachusetts there are many kinds of wildlife that thrive
by living near people. Most of these are relatively common animals such
as skunks, raccoons, gray fox, red fox, coyotes, wild turkey, black
bear, fishers and more
These animals are often attracted to human dominated landscapes because they are highly adaptable, opportunistic feeders that are energy efficient. By highly adaptable we mean that they can easily adjust to changes in their environment. Opportunistic feeders are animals that are generalists, eating a variety of plant and animal material including food often left out by people. These animals are energy efficient in that when given the choice between a meal that has to be chased or one that is easily found in a backyard, they will always pick the easy meal. Everything these animals do is related to food availability.
Here are some simple rules for living with the wildlife that is found or attracted to areas near people. These tips explain how to live with and enjoy wildlife responsibly. Our behavior as people affects the behavior of wildlife.
- Don't feed wildlife! Direct feeding can alter an animal's normal behavior. Problems occur when animals become habituated (used to people) through a prolonged period of direct and/or indirect feeding.
- Keep trash and garbage around your yard contained and picked up. Do not put your trash out for pick up the next day unless it is in a sealed container that wildlife cannot get into as many wildlife species are most active at night.
- Keep compost in a container that allows the material to vent but keeps wildlife from getting into it.
- Do not feed pets outdoors. The pet food attracts wildlife right to your door.
- Restrain or secure your pets. Although free roaming pets are more likely to be killed by automobiles than by wild animals, there are wildlife predators like coyotes, foxes or fishers that view cats as potential prey and dogs as competition for mates and food resources. For the safety of your pets, keep them restrained at all times.
- Remove bird feeders especially if wildlife is seen around the feeders. The seed in birdfeeders can attract many small and medium sized mammals (squirrels, chipmunks, mice) these, in turn attract animals that prey on squirrels, chipmunks, and mice. If possible, try to find a birdfeeder that does not allow seed to spill.
- Close off crawl spaces under porches, decks and sheds. Wildlife will use these areas as dens for resting and raising their young.
- Do protect livestock and produce. Wildlife predators will prey upon livestock. There are techniques for protecting livestock from predation. Fencing can be useful in keeping wildlife out of certain areas. It is a good idea to clear fallen fruit from around fruit trees in the fall.
- Don't approach or try to touch wildlife. Wildlife which becomes habituated may approach other humans expecting food or attention. This is not safe for the animals or for people. Don't provoke an encounter by moving too close to a wild animal or by restricting its free movement.
- Do educate your neighbors. Share this information with your neighbors since your good efforts could be futile if neighbors are purposely or unintentionally providing food or shelter for wildlife. (Flyer on Living With Neighborhood Wildlife )
The kinds of wildlife that thrives in suburban environments are among
the most adaptable and interesting animals. Inevitably there are occasions
when conflicts arise. If you experience property damage or if an animal
appears ill, contact the closest MassWildlife
District Office or Westborough
Field Headquarters during business hours. If a problem requires
immediate response contact local public safety officials or the Massachusetts
Environmental Police at