What to do if a wild animal finds its way into your backyard

Raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, coyotes, squirrels, oh my!

Most Canadians are accustomed to seeing various forms of wildlife - some bigger than others - in their respective region. It isn’t uncommon to see squirrels, raccoons or even skunks in urban neighbourhoods, while outlying areas might get the occasional deer or bear ambling through a backyard. Urban sprawl leads to dwindling habitats, making residential areas increasingly prone to four-legged neighbours attracted by the availability of food, water and shelter. It’s only when they decide to make your home their new habitat that they really become a nuisance.

If you happen to find an unexpected guest in your backyard, here are some steps you can take to ensure the safety of you, your family, and newfound furry friend.

Move indoors

Keep a respectful distance if large animals like moose, deer, or a predatory animal like a coyote find their way into your backyard. More than likely they are just passing through, so enjoy the view from the safety of your home or cottage. Never turn and run: you could spook or stress the animal, causing it to become dangerous if it feels threatened. Simply remain calm and walk in the opposite direction of the animal, leaving it with lots of room to go its own way.

Call wildlife control

The presence of most smaller urban wildlife, such as mice and rats, pigeons, raccoons, skunks, rabbits, squirrels, and even foxes and coyotes, can necessitate calling wildlife control if you find they’ve made a home in your attic, basement, shed or garage. It is best to deal with these critters quickly. Not only can they cause structural damage, but they can also be harmful to your health. Do not try to approach or catch a wild animal. Leave it to the professionals.

Large wild animals, such as black bears, white-tailed deer and moose, will likely only pass through your neighbourhood and you won’t need to call the police. However, do call your local wildlife control or conservation officers right away if the animal is injured, displays odd or aggressive behaviour or if children are at risk.

Find out about the wildlife laws in your province or territory. It is illegal in many regions to harm or harass a wild animal or to allow your pet to attack one, even if you fear for your safety. If you end up injuring or killing the animal, you could face serious consequences if it is discovered that you could have done more to avoid the confrontation.

Tips to help you live in harmony with wildlife:

As urban areas continue to expand into natural spaces, wildlife and humans are sure to cross paths. Take necessary precautions and give animals the space and respect they deserve, so you can reclaim your backyard and still create a safe place for wildlife, people and pets to co-exist.

1. Explore Magazine - Canada’s Most Dangerous Predators:
2. British Columbia Conservation Foundation - Deer:
3. Ontario.ca - Black Bears:
4. City of Longueuil, Québec
5. British Columbia Conservation Foundation - Cougars:
6. Canadian Federation of Humane Societies:
7. Canadian Food Inspection Agency - Rabies in Canada:

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