University of Illinois Extension

How to Prevent Problems with Wildlife

Wildlife Basics

All creatures have three basic needs for survival: food, water, and shelter. By providing any of these resources on your property you will likely attract wildlife. Many studies have shown that people enjoy viewing wildlife. Indeed, people often landscape their properties to specifically attract wildlife. But they might not realize when they start feeding birds that they might also attract other wildlife. For example, deer love to eat birdseed, and coyotes will hunt mice that are attracted to seed under bird feeders. Wild animals are very resourceful and will make use of easy food resources such as bird feeders, improperly stored trash and pet food. Additionally, vacant buildings, unsecured chimneys, attics, crawlspaces, and the space under decks or porches are all dark, quiet locations that may be viewed by wildlife as a good place to take shelter or as a place to raise their young. It is when wildlife help themselves to crops of fruits and vegetables, eat shrubs and flowers, or decide to raise their families in attics or under decks that people find themselves looking for help in dealing with “problem” wildlife.

The spatial arrangement of food, water, and shelter will dictate how many animals live in a given area. For example, homes located near less-developed areas such as forest preserves, parks, golf courses, and rivers or lakes will have higher concentrations of wildlife than those in more urbanized areas. Railroad tracks, power line rights-of-way, and roadsides all make convenient travel lanes for wildlife, making it easier for them to gain access to your neighborhood. Older neighborhoods with mature trees and landscaping may be at higher risk for wildlife related problems than new developments because there may be more cover available. However, neighborhoods near new development may also see an increase in wildlife numbers as animals are displaced from their natural habitat.

Not all wildlife problems can be prevented. However, learning about wildlife, knowing what resources attract wildlife, and taking steps to prevent wildlife damage are keys to reducing human-wildlife conflicts. The best approach to managing wildlife is a strategy of prevention based on removing resources and using exclusion techniques and repellents and frightening devices.