PESTS & WILDLIFE — Preventing nuisance wildlife problems

Opossum raiding a bird feeding station. (Photo by Soni Cochran, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County)
Opossum raiding a bird feeding station. (Photo by Soni Cochran, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County)

By Soni Cochran, Extension Associate

Wildlife living near our homes can provide wonderful opportunities to observe and learn more about their behaviors. It is exciting to see a hummingbird in a pollinator garden or a fox with its kits in a local park.

Animals wandering through our neighborhoods should be left alone. Young animals you may find in the spring are usually not abandoned, the parents are nearby. Fledgling birds will soon be hopping and flopping around our yards as they gain strength and learn to fly. Dog and cat owners should keep pets away from the young birds for a few days until they are able to fly. If you find an injured or sick animal, you should call your local animal control or wildlife agency.

We can enjoy our local wildlife and help prevent problems by taking a few steps to discourage nuisance behavior by making a few changes around our homes and landscape.

There are some things you can do if an animal is coming onto your property searching for food or shelter. The best option is to take away those things they want or change them so the animal is discouraged and moves on. Leaving pet food out (especially overnight), unsecured garbage cans, poorly managed bird feeding areas and gardens can attract wildlife.

For people with backyard poultry houses, unsecured enclosures can attract predators of eggs and birds. Chimneys, siding, slabs, sewer systems, woodpiles, ledges around your home, wood piles and tall weeds are all examples of habitats wildlife can use to find protection, food or raise their young.

Here are a few suggestions to help you prevent problems with wildlife:

• Do not leave pet food out overnight. Clean up pet feeding areas and bring in all cat and dog food.

• Secure garbage cans by placing them in your garage or shed. Elevate them off the ground and secure the lids tightly to keep animals like raccoons from prying off the lids. Take your garbage to the curb on pick up day.

• Fence your garden to prevent animals in your area from gaining access to your crops. If you have problems with deer, you’ll want to use different fencing than what you would use for cottontail rabbits.

• Clean up brush piles and manage tall plants and weeds where rabbits and other small animals hide.

• Walk around your home to see if there is loose siding or holes or gaps in your foundation which should be sealed. Check around doors and windows. Do you need to seal and caulk or fix the weather-stripping around your door? These are also access points for insects and spiders who may wander into your home.

• Regularly clean up the fallen seed from bird feeders.

• Properly manage compost piles.

• Cover your window wells.

In Nebraska, if you must remove any wild animal (including snakes), you can legally release it 100 yards or less from the original point of capture. Sometimes just the experience of being caught in a trap is enough for the animal to leave your yard. As always, check for any permits from Nebraska Game and Parks and/or your local city ordinances. Contact a pest control professional if you need assistance removing a problem animal.

• Nebraska Extension’s wildlife website at has numerous resources on prevention and control methods.
• A list of local wildlife agencies is at