In Massachusetts, nearly 6 million people share 5 million acres with native wildlife. From geese and turkey to moose and bears, many animals have adapted and moved into suburbs and even urban areas, so it can be surprising to see some of these creatures in residential areas. As residents and visitors enjoy the outdoors in their neighborhoods, playgrounds, and conservation lands, it is inevitable that there will be unexpected encounters between people and wildlife. It is important to know what to do and how to prevent potential conflict to keep yourself, your family, and your pet safe, and the wild creatures who are our neighbors wild and wary of people.
- Eliminate food and shelter that attracts wildlife. Squirrels, raccoons, and foxes are commonly found near homes, yards, and neighborhoods because they’re drawn to areas where there is an abundant supply of food and shelter.
- Make sure garbage, compost, and pet food are stored securely.
- Don’t fill or use birdfeeders during the warm months as the wildlife that visits attracts even more wildlife.
- Erect fencing, or netting to discourage wildlife from your vegetable garden.
- Block access to attics, chimneys, or crawl spaces under decks and sheds that can be used as shelter.
- Never relocate wildlife, even if you believe it is for the best of the animal. Doing so can result in unintended consequences that affect both wildlife and people. In addition to a Massachusetts law that prohibits the capture and relocation of wildlife, there are other very important reasons to avoid moving animals:
- The animal may try to return to its original location and be killed or injured in the process. A relocated animal may also have difficulty finding food, water, or shelter in an unfamiliar area. Wildlife that already inhabit the area do not welcome newcomers and will harass the interloper, causing stress, injury or even death for the relocated animal.
- If a relocated animal is carrying a disease, it can spread that disease to new, unexposed wildlife populations.
- Moving an animal simply transfers the problem elsewhere. Additionally, if the area where an animal was moved from is attractive, another of its kind will likely soon move in.
- If you find a sick or injured wild animal, do not try to care for the animal yourself. Instead, if it is not exhibiting signs of rabies, locate a licensed wildlife rehabilitator who can provide the necessary advice on how to safely handle the animal. You can bring it to them for care with the ultimate goal of releasing the animal back into the wild.
Sharing our great state with so many different kinds of wildlife makes Massachusetts a beautiful place to live, work, or visit. Knowing how to keep wild things wild helps preserve that natural beauty now and for future generations.