Early December is one of the most wonderful times of the year. Cold and windy days have arrived, leaves have fallen and we’re busy prepping for the many holiday festivities ahead.
Early winter is also an important time for native wildlife. Many are newly independent creatures who travel to find and establish their own territory. Others are beginning to slow down their activity and prepare for colder months with fewer resources. Regardless of the reason, most native wildlife will be seeking shelter that provides a safe, warm place to live over the upcoming winter.
If you are a homeowner who finds yourself unprepared to exclude wildlife from taking up residence in or under your home, you may just find an unexpected guest taking shelter in the months ahead. In order to coexist with urban wildlife, it is important to deter wild animals’ access to your home, garage, shed and deck. The following steps can help you prepare for wildlife encounters as we move into the cold of winter.
Harsh weather and the eventual breakdown of housing materials can lead to problematic opportunities for wildlife to enter your home. When resources start to dwindle and the weather turns colder, animals will seek out warm, safe places in order to survive. Inspections of the outside of your home should be completed in the fall (before winter) and in the early spring before baby season begins.
These first few mild days of December promise a welcome breeze, and many like to leave their windows and doors open so that the fresh air can fill their homes. If you are one that does this, make sure all screens covering your windows and doors are securely fashioned to their frames and have no holes in them. Faulty screens only provide animals another chance to try to enter your home.Image by Gene Wilburn/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
While this is a habit that should be practiced year-round, taking extra precautions in making sure both animal and human food are picked up is essential. Pet food should be stored in air-tight containers, as should any bird seed. Those that take advantage of late-season grilling should make sure to pick up any spilled food or cooking materials once finished. Taking away the attraction of food will help lessen the chance of wildlife exploring — and potentially entering your home. Now that it’s post-Thanksgiving, be aware that remaining pumpkins and gourds outside your home may attract hungry critters. Consider artificial decorations, or make sure to coat your real pumpkins and gourds with peppermint spray or cayenne pepper to discourage tasting by wildlife.Image by Nathan Rupert/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Any animal that can climb can use tree limbs to reach your home. Now that nesting season is over, this is the best time of the year to trim unruly limbs not only for curb appeal but also to protect your home from unwanted guests. Limbs should be at least 6 feet away from the roof of your home.Image by Kerron L/CC BY-NC 2.0
If you find an animal residing inside of your home, give Willowbrook Wildlife Center a call at 630-942-6200 before taking action!
Finding wildlife inside of your home can be unsettling and frustrating. Habitat loss due to urbanization has forced many species to rely on urban environments for their most basic needs, and it is important to face this situation with an empathetic mindset. If preventing wildlife has not been successful, the next step is to successfully exclude them from your home. There are many suggested methods for removing wildlife, but not all of them are safe, effective or legal. Willowbrook Wildlife Center recommends a variety of humane options that do not harm the animal or people involved.
In the event you have an unexpected guest, it is important to identify the type of animal found and call us at Willowbrook Wildlife Center. If it’s after hours, visit our website for tips on how to care for the animal. For more information about how to live in harmony with our wildlife neighbors, visit Living With Wildlife on our website.
By Aimee Clayton, Community Services & Education and Willowbrook Wildlife Center
The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County manages nearly 26,000 acres in 60 forest preserves containing prairies, woodlands and wetlands.
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