6 Ways to Protect Wildlife During Spring Home Maintenance

Spring and summer are the busiest seasons for Kim Cassidy, a wildlife rehabilitator in Orange County, NY. She is currently feeding 50 wildlife babies including 28 squirrels who lost their homes after trees were felled and three squirrels who fell from a nest when a homeowner was cleaning the soffits on his roof.

Protecting Animals During Spring Home Maintenance

Every year homeowners reach out to wildlife rehabilitators or environmental centers for help when wild animals are accidentally injured or orphaned during spring home maintenance. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect wildlife during spring cleanup in and around your house.

1. Whenever possible hold off on cutting down or trimming trees.

Cassidy said the best time to cut down or trim trees is during the winter. March through October is breeding season for squirrels, raccoons and opossums who nest on branches or in the hollows of trees. If trees have to be cut during the breeding season, be sure to choose reputable arborists who care about wildlife.

“Ask them if they check for wildlife babies before hiring them,” Cassidy said. “Guys who love and care about trees will also care about the animals who live in them.”

Baby squirrels and birds are most likely to be displaced during tree trimming. When this happens, Cassidy said every effort should be made to reunite the babies with their moms. Baby squirrels should be placed in a box and left at the foot of the tree. Cassidy suggests putting a recording of baby squirrels crying alongside the box to attract the mom’s attention.

“Squirrels usually make two nests and the mom will come back and take her babies to the second location,” Cassidy said.

To reunite baby birds with their moms, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) wildlife experts offer the following guidelines:

  • Retrieve the babies and their nest and place them securely in nearby limbs.
  • If the nest is broken, rebuild it, if possible, or make a replacement nest of the same shape.
  • Use a clean household container, such as a margarine tub, strawberry basket or plastic bottle with the top cut off, but don’t use cleaning product containers.
  • Poke holes in the bottom for drainage and line the container with natural materials like those of the original nest.

If the mother doesn’t return to her babies contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for help. Remember that most rehabilitators are volunteers and use their own funds to care for the animals. Donations of money or supplies are always appreciated to help care for the animals until they are ready to be released.

Kim Cassidy Returning Possums to the Wild

Wildlife Rehabilitator Kim Cassidy on horseback taking two opossums into Minnewaska State Park Preserve for release back to the wild.

2. Check for wildlife before mowing the lawn.

Always walk around your lawn before mowing to check for wildlife. If there’s a fawn in the grass, he or she will likely jump up and run away. Toads, frogs or turtles can be gently moved to a safe area.

If you find a rabbit nest you should mark the area so you know to avoid it. If your dog has access to the nest, Cassidy said to cover it with a basket and make sure it has a hole big enough to allow the mother rabbit to get to her babies. Also, place a weight on top of the basket to prevent dogs or other animals from getting to the nest.

“The mother rabbit usually feeds her babies at dawn and dusk, and she won’t care about the basket,” Cassidy said. “Anyone concerned that the mom has abandoned her babies can sprinkle cornmeal or flour in a circle around the nest. If mom is coming back, you’ll see her footprints.”

3. Share your space with wildlife until they’ve raised their young.

Open chimneys and accessible dryer or stove vents provide cozy places for wildlife to raise their young. Tolerating these animals until they’ve raised their babies is the best option, say HSUS wildlife experts.

Never try to smoke any animal out of a chimney. This action can be deadly, since young mammals and some birds may not be able to get out on their own. Once you’re absolutely sure the animals are gone for good, cap the chimney with an approved chimney cap or cover vents with screening to prevent further problems.

4. Use a humane approach whenever animals have to be relocated.

Never remove or force adult animals from an attic or garage without checking for babies. If you’re concerned about damage to your attic, the HSUS recommends seeking professional help to figure out the species of animal and ensure that mothers are humanely encouraged to relocate their families on their own.

For example, wildlife can be encouraged to leave a chimney by placing a radio in the fireplace and turning up the volume or putting a rag moistened with cider vinegar in the fireplace.

Cassidy has received several calls from homeowners looking for humane ways to relocate skunks who have taken up residence under porches. Her first piece of advice is to leave them alone, and they will move on when their babies are old enough.

When people are not willing to do this, she tells them to play loud music near the den and shine a bright light under the porch at night. This humane harassment will encourage mom to relocate her babies. Raccoons aren’t fans of loud music either.

“Recently I got a call from a woman about a raccoon who had a nest of babies in a classic car in the garage,” Cassidy said. “I told her to start playing loud music in the garage, and that night the raccoon took her babies and left.”

5. Make windows visible to birds.

This spring after you’ve finished washing those windows think about how you can make them more visible to birds.  Experts say when birds fly into windows, it’s usually because they’re seeing the reflection of the sky or trees instead of a pane of glass.

At least half of the birds who hit windows die from their injuries or because they were killed by predators when they were too stunned to escape. There are a number of different ways to make windows visible including attaching a light net over the window, hanging strips or installing sun shades or awnings.

6. Make sure your home is wildlife-proofed.

Up to 80 percent of the calls to the HSUS’ Humane Wildlife Services regarding wildlife inside the home could have been avoided if cracks and crevices had been sealed. While you’re doing your spring home maintenance, make sure it’s wildlife-proofed.

Check for small gaps where animals might enter your house, such as behind appliances or anywhere pipes enter the building. Experts at the HSUS say that even a half by a quarter-inch hole or crack is big enough for a snake or mouse to squeeze through.

Plug holes loosely with insulation, paper or cloth, and wait a few days to make sure that no animals are inside before sealing any gaps.

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62 comments

Marie W
Marie W14 hours ago

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Angela J
Angela J5 months ago

Thanks

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Danii P
Past Member 5 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Leo C
Leo Custer5 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Danii P
Past Member 5 months ago

thank you.

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Danii P
Past Member 5 months ago

thank you.

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Janis K
Janis K5 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Danii P
Past Member 5 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Danii P
Past Member 5 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Leo C
Leo Custer5 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

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