Wild animals are our neighbors. Whether you live in a rural area near farms or forests, a suburb near a large park or other wild open space, or in the middle of a dense downtown, wild animals are a part of life. In southern California, encounters – for better or worse – with predators like coyotes have made headlines in recent months. It’s important for people to learn how to behave around wildlife in order to keep animals and people safe.

bobcat closeup SBS sml-2

Bobcats, while shy, are common throughout Orange County’s wild lands.

Adopting a culture of wildlife awareness is especially important for people living and playing in neighborhoods adjacent to wild areas, such as those next to canyons, parks, the beach, etc, since these are places where animals will most likely be seen and encountered. There are many benefits of living next to nature: beautiful surroundings, cleaner air, stress relief, and higher property values, just to name a few. Along with that comes the responsibility to be a good neighbor to wildlife – in turn, wildlife will be a good neighbor to you!

All animals, including birds and insects, have four essential needs: water, food, shelter, and protected nest or den sites. You can encourage or discourage wildlife bothering your home or business by controlling these elements.

Do:

  • Cultivate a culture of wildlife awareness. Educate yourself and your loved ones about the wildlife in your neighborhood and the best way to avoid negative confrontations with these animals.
  • Maintain gates and walls responsibly to keep scavengers and predators from coming onto your property in search of food from trash bins or by searching out pets.
  • If your neighborhood has a homeowners association, work with the management to make sure property boundaries are helping to keep wild animals out and not contributing to the problem.
  • Respect fences put in place to separate people from wildlife. Wildlife corridors are meant to provide spaces exclusively for animals to move adjacent to development – they are not meant to be shared with humans.
  • Haze coyotes or other predators if you see them to prevent them from becoming comfortable with humans. Make yourself look large and yell loudly or make noise with nearby objects, and throw small objects to scare off the animal.
  • Cover or clean all food and sauce off your barbecue immediately after use. Skunks will knock over even a hot small grill for food scraps.
  • Choose bird feeders with built-in trays to catch scattered seed. Seed on the ground attracts rats and mice.
  • Screen all openings into the crawl space under the house and keep the garage door closed, especially at night, to prevent wildlife from moving in. Protect all pets within a fenced back yard.
  • Keep all pets, including cats and small dogs, inside at night.
  • Enclose bird or rabbit pens on all sides, including roofs or secured chicken wire tops. Bury wire walls of large enclosures one foot in the ground to prevent animals from tunneling under. Check the perimeter frequently.
  • Accept that raccoons and herons will eat the fish in your garden pond.

Don’t:

  • Above all, don’t feed scavengers or predators! These include skunks, coyotes, raccoons, foxes, rats, and mice. You are not doing them a favor. A problem animal can become aggressive, and will most likely have to be destroyed.
  • Don’t allow your garbage to be a food source. Use receptacles with locking lids, or store garbage bins in the garage. Never leave trash accessible for animals.
  • Don’t befriend or try to tame wild animals.
  • Avoid feeding your pets outside, and don’t leave food out overnight.
  • Don’t let pets roam. Dogs and cats carry diseases that harm wildlife.
  • Don’t leave pets unattended outside – they may attract predators to your home.
  • Avoid creating large brush piles or rock piles anywhere near the house.