Living With Wildlife

Wildlife Resource Center
(815) 728-8307
Wildlife@MCCDistrict.org

Further questions? Visit Wildlife Illinois
Also check out our Living With Wildlife brochures.

Animals in our Neighborhoods
Landscaped back yards with trees and shrubs, houses with decks, porches, attics, and chimneys as well as urban green spaces with ponds, fields, and wetlands have created ideal habitats for wildlife. It is not uncommon to find higher densities of certain species (like raccoons) in urban areas as opposed to rural areas. 

The following guidelines can help our human and wild animal populations coexist:

Restrict their Food Sources - Anything edible left unattended is an attractant to critters. Bird feeders by day, also attract raccoons, mice and voles by night. Place trash in a can with a tight fitting lid, stored in a garage or shed to prevent access. Garbage in bags should be put out the morning of garbage day, not the night before. Pet food should be available only when the pet is present. Remove fallen fruit from yard. Never intentionally feed wild mammals. It is actually illegal to feed deer in Illinois.

Secure Possible Entry Points/Repair Holes -  To prevent the possibility of wildlife utilizing your home as theirs, all outside holes must be covered with ¼″ heavy gauge wire (on vents) or aluminum flashing to prevent entry. Fan vents, dryer vents, and chimneys, all possible entry points, need to be secured. Check under the shingles by the gutters for possible gaps and cover them with wire. If water has rotted wooden boards, replace them. All holes larger than ¼″ need to be sealed to keep critters out.

Use Deterrents - Long streamers work as deterrents to frighten woodpeckers away; Spread ammonia soaked rags or sprinkle hot pepper juice with a few drops of dish soap and spray the problem areas; Keep chimney damper closed; Use bright lights and loud radios in attics.

Finding an Injured Animal
If you come across an animal you believe needs help, the first question to ask is: “Is this animal sick or injured?” The following are signs of illness or injury: blood, torn skin, missing fur, exposed bone, a limb or wing not working correctly (dragging, drooping, being held at a funny angle), unable to stand, continually falling over, and acting lethargic (lying still even when approached by a human, not opening eyes, can’t lift head). As long as the animal is exhibiting normal behaviors, leave it be.

Contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator - If you find a sick or injured wild animal contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. If it is safe to do so, the animal can be placed into a container (cardboard box, paper bag with the top folded over, garbage can with lid, pet carrier, etc.) and kept in a dark, quiet place until a rehabilitator is reached. Do not offer it any food or water.

Discovering Baby Animals
Spring and summer months often bring baby animals into our yards or even our homes. While your first thought might be that it is orphaned, it is important to remember that some animals leave their babies for parts of the day in order to avoid attracting predators to them.  Visit our page about discovering baby animals below for more information. 

Discovering a Baby Animal

Relocation of Wildlife
First understand that the relocation of a “nuisance” animal to a “more suitable” habitat is not truly humane. Taking a raccoon from the familiar streets of a subdivision and putting him in the woods, is not doing him any favors. He has no home nor knowledge of food or water supplies. Often times if an individual animal is removed, chances are another animal will move in to claim the now vacated territory. Exclusion and deterrents are better solutions for dealing with nuisance wildlife.

Please note: Wildlife trapping requires a special trapping permit from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). Regulations exist as to what can be done with the animal once you trap it. For example, it is illegal to relocate a raccoon off your property. Also, animals cannot be released on private or public properties without the land owner’s permission. Contact your local IDNR office for more information.

Possible Encounters

Raccoons, tree squirrels (gray, fox, flying), and mice are the most common inhabitants of the attic. Noises heard during the day probably mean a gray or fox squirrel has taken up residence. But if the commotion is at night, chances are it’s a raccoon or if the noises aren’t quite as loud, it could be flying squirrels or mice. Attics supply a warm, quiet place out of the weather. In order to evict these unwanted guests, make their new found home inhospitable. It’s dark. Turn on the lights and leave them on. If you can get the lights to flash (strobe), that’s even more annoying. Try using a flashing head or bike lamp. It’s quiet in the attic. Play a radio loudly. If you know the area where they’re hanging out, soak some rags in ammonia and toss them in the vicinity. If you tie a string around the rag, you can retrieve it and soak it again the following day. If young are present (April-August), avoid using the ammonia since babies could be harmed or killed by the fumes. Dead animals in the attic cause other problems. Think decay and smell. Using mothballs is not recommended because they are ineffective in a large area and are toxic to people as well.
Occasionally birds find a hole in the roof or soffit and make their way into the attic or even a dryer vent to nest. Once the babies hatch, the adults fly in and out to gather food and to feed them. For most small birds, incubation of the eggs lasts approximately 2 weeks, while it takes another 2-3 weeks for the young to leave the nest. If you discover the nest before the eggs are laid, just remove the nest and seal up their entrance. If eggs or young are present, wait until the young fledge, leave the nest, then proceed with the clean up and covering the entrance hole.
Ammonia soaked rags tossed or pushed under the deck or into the burrow work as deterrents. If you tie a string around the rag, you can easily retrieve it to resoak it the following day.
Placing a thick branch diagonally into the window well, usually allows the animal to climb out on its own. Most nocturnal creatures wait until dark before making their way up the branch so don’t be surprised if it doesn’t come running out right away. Occasionally baby animals fall in and can’t climb back out. Place a small wastebasket on its side and allow the youngster to crawl into the container. Then gently lift the container out and place it near a bush or brush pile. Cover the window wells to prevent repeat occurrences.
Keeping the damper closed is of utmost importance. This separates you from them. Never light a fire to smoke them out. Infants who are unable to climb out and trapped adults will die from smoke inhalation inside the chimney, which causes other problems (think decay and odor).

Chimney swifts (small black birds) have adapted quite readily to nesting in chimneys. They do no damage to the chimney but use it as a nesting and roosting site. The chattering noise is the nestlings begging for food. The adults arrive in the spring, build their nest using their saliva to glue the twigs to the inside wall of the chimney, lay the eggs, incubate them (about 20 days), feed the young for about 30 days, and then everyone migrates south in the fall. Before they leave on migration, they continue to use the chimney as a roost. They feed exclusively on insects, which they capture during the day. The easiest solution is to wait until they leave the chimney on their own during migration in late September/October, then have your chimney professionally cleaned and capped.

Raccoons occasionally nest in chimneys. Keep the damper closed. To get mom to move her babies elsewhere, place a radio in the fireplace and in the evening turn it on loud. Once she has vacated the area, cap the chimney.

Occasionally squirrels and birds fall down chimneys and are unable to climb back out. Dropping a thick rope down the chimney allows a trapped mammal to climb out. Birds on the other hand usually have to come out through the fireplace.

Woodpeckers will drill holes in siding while trying to excavate a cavity for nesting and/or roosting. Eyespot balloons, manufactured moving spiders (sold in many lawn and garden centers), and long streamers work as deterrents to frighten the woodpeckers away. Attach these near the favored spot. Occasionally squirrels chew on siding. Commercial repellents are available at most lawn and garden centers to deter chewing. Or make your own by combining hot pepper juice and a few drops of dish soap and spray the problem areas.
Skunks, squirrels, raccoons are prone to digging in lawns and gardens, looking for grubs to eat. Treat your lawn for these invertebrates removes this food source. Sprinkling cayenne pepper around the trouble spots may also discourage digging.
Give the animals somewhere else to go. Raccoons and squirrels readily use nest boxes (a better alternative than your attic). Plans for various style nest boxes are available online or from District staff.