Kenwood Press

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Living with Wildlife: 06/15/2014

Human/wildlife conflicts during birthing season

Have-a-heart traps are not always so friendly.

The above topic could take volumes to fill, so I can only begin to scratch the surface here. This is the time of year when human/wildlife conflicts reach a peak. Most wildlife have their young in spring and summer, although some reproduce year round. The trees at our house are full of nesting birds, and we have a few nesting on various parts of our house. I haven’t seen them, but I suspect we have baby skunks, foxes and jack rabbits here, as I have seen skunk, fox, and jack rabbit couples on our camera trap.

Wild animals have more than one den site, but when they have their offspring, they pick what they think is a safe and secure place to den for a longer term. Most mammal babies are helpless when they are born. They can’t see, hear, walk or do much of anything but nurse. Therefore the parent(s) need to stay in place. And that is what often causes conflict. Sometimes they choose to den under a deck, in or under a shed, in a barn, under a house or in an attic.

Calls to wildlife rescue organizations increase during this time of year. People are concerned that they have wild animals denning around them and wonder what to do. Some want wildlife rescue organizations to come out and remove them. Our first approach always is to explain what is going on and to ask people if they could be patient for a short time and just leave them alone. As soon as the babies are big enough to go out with mom, she will have them out and about and be using several den sites.

Some people don’t want to be patient, and I can understand something like not wanting animals nesting in an attic. There are ways to deal with this, and one is calling Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue (SCWR) at 992-0274, which has a humane eviction and exclusion service. They will get the whole family moved safely and deal with what attracted them there in the first place. The price is right and the funds collected go toward running the center. For do-it-yourselfers, predator scent is a very effective tool. There are some commercial ones available, but nothing beats the real thing. As SCWR has resident but unreleasable coyotes and mountain lions, they have the real thing available and sell packages of both, complete with instructions.

Trapping and relocating wildlife is not only illegal, but inhumane. (I can tell you some real horror stories about people using Have-a-heart traps, but trust me, you don’t want to hear them). This time of year you may well be trapping a mother whose offspring will no doubt die without her. We get a lot of orphans into rescue as a result of trapping. Trapping and relocating separates families, can spread disease, and almost always results in the death of the animal which has been relocated.

Trapping is also indiscriminate. Whatever the attractant in the trap, it will also attract other animals, and you have no idea if the animal in that trap is the one you are after. Most importantly, trapping is not a long term solution. The solution is dealing with whatever attracted that animal in the first place. Once you have trapped and removed an animal, you might as well hang out a “Vacancy” sign, as before long another will come along and move right in.

Remember, all of these animals are beneficial. Nursing moms require a lot of food. So while you might be there figuring out how to get rid of them, they are offering you a free pest control service by eating large amounts of insects, mice and other rodents. Co-existence is the way to go.

To those of you who have extolled to me the virtues of sharing your lives with wildlife, I have three little words: I love you.

Sharon Ponsford has lived in Glen Ellen since 1988. She volunteers with the Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue. Email her at

Sharon Ponsford is a a longtime volunteer with Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue and a former board member of the California Council of Wildlife Rehabilitators. She lives in Glen Ellen. If you have questions or would like to ask her about our local wildlife, please email her at

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