Encounters with wildlife are becoming more common in towns and neighborhoods as urbanization increases, yet people are generally unaware of how to handle these encounters which are resulting in an increased risk for both humans and animals. And because of habitat loss to fragmentation, urbanization and expanding agricultural production, suburban and urban spaces are becoming increasingly attractive for wildlife looking for new habitat. While animals like butterflies, bees, beetles, lizards, bats, and most birds aren’t dangerous, displaced coyotes, snakes, foxes, and even bears aren’t quite as benign.

What’s The Big Deal? If you grew up in the suburbs or somewhere rural then seeing a possum eating out of your cat’s food dish or a raccoon sniffing around your trash probably wasn’t that uncommon. But just because animals are cute doesn’t mean that they aren’t dangerous, they could be a carrier for rabies, parasites, influenza, salmonella or other pathogens that can endanger people and pets.

What To Do If You Spot an Animal? As the Washington Post explained:

  • If critters such as coyotes, deer or foxes do appear in the yard, the best option for a peaceful encounter is to give them space. When you move in too close, animals can feel threatened and may attack to defend themselves.
  • If an animal won’t wander away on its own then you can consider contacting local wildlife experts or authorities.
  • Homeowners who don’t want any furry or scaly visitors should be mindful not to provide food or shelter. Secure outdoor trash can lids, scoop up spilled seed at birdfeeders and remove outdoor pet food bowls that may attract these creatures.

Be Extra Wary of Large Predators: If you live somewhere with bears, coyotes, mountain lions etc., then you should know what to do beforehand if you spot these animals to take extra precautions. Here are some practical tips if you encounter large cats or bears in your yard or when you’re out in nature. However, one thing to note is that trapping or poisoning these animals is incredibly inhumane, ineffective and unnecessary–if you hear of someone proposing this in your community please be a voice for animals.

What if you want to help? The best thing people can do to help wildlife in their backyards is to not disrupt them or feed them. But you can always plant a pollinator garden to help create wildlife habitat without making animals dependent on you for food. Other than than, just know that coexistence is the only solution–human encroachment means that we will likely continue to encounter wild animals near our homes and we’re going to have to learn to live with it.

Why This Matters: We humans often want a solution that usually doesn’t force us to alter our behavior and comes at the detriment of animals. We must learn to coexist with wildlife in our backyards–as the International Fund for Animal Welfare often reminds us–which will mean modifying our behavior to protect ourselves, our pets and wild animals alike. And please, we beg you, don’t try to take selfies with wild animals!

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