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Urban Wildlife: The dos and don'ts

As cities expand and habitats deplete, coexistence becomes more important than ever. City folk may find themselves encountering a wide variety of wildlife in their yards and communities.

While pest control is often the immediate solution turned to, it is important to look further into how these animals are benefiting the ecosystems we share.

Some common urban wildlife include various birds, hares, skunks, beavers, and deer.

What benefits do these species provide and how are they contributing to the environment?

Birds provide several services, from pollination and seed dispersal, to pest control. In fact, having a bird of prey choose your neighbourhood as their territory means that pretty soon populations of rodents often considered as urban pests, such as mice, and gophers, will return to a normal level.

Deer and hares act a little bit like natural lawn mowers, by keeping grasses and weeds in check!

Beavers and skunks tend to gain notorious reputations for their chewing and smell respectively, but in actuality both of these animals are crucial to urban ecosystems.

Beavers provide several important environmental services for free! They contribute to cleaner wetlands, provide habitat for a variety of other animals such as birds and insects, contribute to cleaner water, and they even sequester carbon dioxide.

Skunks, who perhaps have the worst reputation of all, are imperative to having a healthy neighbourhood! Although so quickly labeled as pests themselves, skunks work hard as natural pest controllers. They eat many insects which are damaging to crops and gardens, including beetles and various larvae. They also eat small rodents such as mice and voles.

Skunks are also scavengers and, like magpies and crows, will feed on carrion. Although some may find this practice alarming, animals who act as nature’s clean up crew are very important as they help to dispose of dead animals which helps to stop the spread of diseases, they also convert that organic material and recycle it back into the environment.

While some may recognize these animals’ contributions to their community they may want to keep them away from certain areas of their yards to stop them from feeding on garden plants or having run ins with pets.

Why relocation isn't the answer

A wide misconception is that relocation is a humane answer. The truth is that relocation is rarely a beneficial solution, for the animal, or the community.

If an area provides ideal habitat for a certain species, it is extremely likely that another animal of the same kind will move in after the first has been removed.

Relocation can also be detrimental to the health of many animals. Prey animals, such as hares and deer for instance, can become so stressed when being moved that they could die.

Relocation can cause a plethora of potential issues such as separating mothers from babies, loss of important food supplies and infringing on existing territory of other animals.

What should you do?

There are several cost effective and easy solutions to keeping urban wildlife in your community, while still creating boundaries for your home and yard, should you wish to.

Several natural household items will deter certain animals.

Deer can be repelled by the scents of garlic, thyme, mint and oregano. Deer are also repelled by human hair, so next time you have a haircut and need to keep a deer away from your tulips, consider sprinkling some clippings in your garden!

Skunks dislike the smell of citrus, a safe and easy skunk repellent is citrus peel.

Hares and rabbits highly dislike the smell of vinegar, so if you want to keep them out of your garden, you can spray the ground with some vinegar.

To protect your trees from a neighbourhood beaver consider wrapping the trunk in chicken wire, beavers cannot climb and therefore won’t get to it if the trunk is off limits. Beavers also seem to have an aversion to sand, so you could consider putting sand around the base of your trees as well.

To deter birds from your garden, consider using a brightly coloured pinwheel or scarecrow. Some birds also dislike the scents of cayenne pepper, garlic and lemon.

Other good coexistence strategies include cleaning out tins, jars and other food containers before throwing them out to prevent attracting animals to your yard and garbage bins.

If you have a pet cat or dog, bright coloured collars or collars with bells can alert wildlife of your pet approaching and help to avoid encounters. It is also good practice to call out and make some noise before you let your pet out to alert wildlife in your immediate vicinity. Making noise is often enough for an animal to vacate the area.

Implementing a few easy and natural practices can help provide a safer and healthier community for both you and your urban wildlife neighbours.

It is important to allow wildlife to thrive in urban communities, as more animals are forced into the city, they need what spaces they can find to survive.

You can contribute to their well-being by welcoming them into your yards and communities and only using deterrents when absolutely necessary.

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