Raccoon Foraging for Food in Trash Cans

Many kinds of wildlife adapt and thrive in habitats dramatically altered by man. In fact, wildlife such as raccoons, gray squirrels and red fox can be found in greater numbers in the suburbs than in a similar sized area of rural characteristics.

The reason? These animals capitalize on the abundant supply of man-made foods and shelters found in suburbia allowing them to survive and reproduce more successfully than in areas where these artificial resources are lacking. This adaptability inevitably brings wildlife in close proximity to people resulting in many questions and concerns. Many kinds of wildlife will always make their home in residential areas, the key is learning when and how to live with wildlife and to make sure your behavior (and the neighborhood) is keeping wild things wild and wary of people.

To learn more about some of the common wildlife found in neighborhoods and recommendations on ways to co-exist with wildlife, check our Living with Wildlife section and fact sheets. Of general interest, is a good introduction to learning about wildlife in your back yard. Below are some basic facts about suburban wildlife and general recommendations regarding wildlife and people.

  • Wildlife appears in backyards for a reason; identifying and understanding that reason is the first step toward minimizing potential conflicts.
  • Most often, conflicts with wildlife can be avoided by eliminating or securing any food source that can attract unwanted animals. Examples of this suburban buffet would include birdseed, suet, garbage, fruit, compost, vegetable gardens or pet food that is left accessible.
  • Problems with denning animals can be solved by blocking off access to shelter afforded by attics, chimneys or the crawl space under decks and garden sheds.
  • Occasional wildlife encounters around the home can be handled by scaring a nuisance animal away with loud noises, bright lights or a human presence.

What else can a property owner do?

Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 131, Section 37, gives property owners the right to use lawful means to destroy wildlife in the act of causing damage or threatening personal safety. Landowners may only destroy wildlife actually causing damage or posing immediate threats. No one may randomly destroy wildlife simply because it is on their property. It is also illegal to live-trap a problem animal and move it for release on other public or private property.

Property owners are encouraged to consult MassWildlife's Living with Wildlife fact sheet series or contact MassWildlife District Office personnel for technical advice. If a property owner cannot resolve a wildlife problem on his or her own, the owner may contract with a licensed Problem Animal Control Agent .

Sick or injured wildlife may be transported to a licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator for treatment.