Managing Wild Animals in Associations
A lush, pastoral common area covered in flowers and shaded by trees, and a sparkling pond, perhaps stocked for fishing – this may be an owner’s dream when they buy into an Association with special landscaping. However, this may also be a dream environment for birds, deer and furry little creatures also looking for a prime spot to raise family. In autumn, many of these animals are looking for a warm place to spend the winter.
It’s possible for us to live in harmony with wildlife, but property managers may need to exercise special vigilance when animals and humans might be in conflict. These tips for different wildlife issues can help you explain problems to residents and help resolve the issues.
All animals can be aggressive when raising young, but geese and swans often nest near footpaths and can attack people passing by. During the short nesting season, you may need to set caution tape around the nesting area or even relocate the birds. In addition, large amounts of bird droppings can be slippery and make walking unpleasant. Bird control dogs can chase them away from residential areas and allow your residents more enjoyment of their property.
Smaller birds are also a problem when their nests cover up vents or clog gutters, or when their dropping accumulate and stain buildings. Sometimes birds nesting around an entrance will dive-bomb residents entering the building, so encourage your residents to report nests or encounters. You can reassure residents that many birds will nest again if it’s not too late in the summer, so they don’t fear destroying a population by reporting a problem.
Raccoons, opossums, squirrels, mice and other small animals tend to find their way into homes to find shelter – and many cause damage to wiring, insulation, vents and more. In addition, they often carry diseases and fleas. Tell residents to report signs like:
- Animal sounds like chirping, squeaking, rustling or a pitter-patter sound in walls, ceilings and crawl spaces
- Disturbed earth or holes around foundations or steps
- Chewed holes in walls or roofs
- Animals that seem “too comfortable” around their yard or patio
Around a water feature such as a pond or stream, muskrats can be a particular Midwestern problem. Their nests can block normal water flow and when they burrow into the edges of a pond, they cause a falling hazard to anyone walking by. Tell residents to inform you if they see their haystack-like huts, or burrows in the edges of ponds.
While all animals will bite and scratch if cornered, skunks present an additional danger. Resident should report any nesting skunks immediately before a curious dog is sprayed. If you encounter a skunk walking around, know that it has poor eyesight and will spray if surprised. Pest control services will trap the animals and humanely relocate them to better areas.
Many small animals visit human areas to find easy food sources. For this reason, community members should keep trash securely covered, refrain from composting in common areas, be careful with bird seed and carefully dispose of fish scraps after fishing, if allowed.
Communities near wooded areas often see wandering deer, usually near dawn or dusk. Deer can actually jump over a six-foot fence given the right motivation, like tasty shrubs or a drink from the pond. In addition to carrying deer ticks that spread Lyme disease, they can attract predators like coyotes and wolves. Be sure residents don’t feed the deer, and encourage them to shoo the animals away from valuable landscaping.
While coyotes are shy, they are very comfortable living around humans and can be found from forests to cities all over North America. The main concern is them scavenging through trash and spreading disease, but they can attack pets or even children as easy prey. If coyotes are spotted in the neighborhood, tell residents to keep safe in these ways:
- Don’t leave pets or children unattended outside
- Don’t leave meat scraps on compost piles, and clean off grills after cooking meat
- If a coyote approaches, shout, throw stones and make yourself appear larger to scare it off
- Keep your pets on leash near you, and avoid walking near bushy or secluded areas at dusk and dawn
Let the Experts Handle it
Your residents will live more happily with wild neighbors if they know when they should contact their community manager for assistance and when they should live and let live. Conflicts sometimes arise when you handle an animal problem, so make sure residents know why the animals were a problem, and stress the fact that the animals were handled humanely. A proactive communication plan and some guidelines for residents can foster harmony between owners and the wildlife around them.