Author(s): Russell Link, Urban Wildlife Biologist
From bats to woodpeckers, the animal species covered in this series were selected after surveying agencies and organizations that receive calls from the public about local wildlife. While many people call for general information about wildlife, in many cases the calls are from people who are "or think they are" experiencing a conflict with a wild animal and are seeking a way to remedy the problem.
It's important to note that not all wildlife create conflicts. Although it might not appear so at the time, the animals, which are often referred to as nuisance or problem animals, are innocent. When a conflict exists between humans and animals it is usually because the animal is only doing what it needs to do to survive. It is simply following its own instincts, and intends no harm or discomfort.
Dealing with a conflict can be difficult because it is often a community issue. Some people habitually feed and perhaps inadvertently shelter wildlife, while their neighbor may not want wildlife around at all. "One persons nuisance is another persons joy", etc. This scenario can create undesirable situations for people, pets, and the animals themselves. Raccoons, coyotes and squirrels that are fed by people often lose their fear of humans and may become aggressive when not fed as expected. These hungry visitors might approach a neighbor who might choose to remove these animals, or have them removed.
A conflict also can quickly alter a wildlife lover's perception about a certain species, especially when the situation exceeds his/her current level of tolerance. Such is the paradox that wildlife around homes and property present: We want them and we don't want them, depending on what they are doing at any given moment.
Each entry in the "Living with Wildlife" series begins with a description of a species followed by details on feeding behavior, reproduction, and other biological information. For people needing to learn more about an animal to help solve a conflict, details on tracks, burrows, nest sites, etc. are provided. Finally, for those interested in attracting the animal, tips for attracting and maintaining its habitat are provided.
The section "Preventing Conflicts" encounters between home and property owners and wildlife found in yards, gardens, and structures are described. This section describes several methods for resolving human-wildlife conflicts, including changing human behavior or perceptions so that people are willing to tolerate some damage.
Next, public health concerns for each species is described followed by the animals' legal status. Before taking any action to remedy a conflict associated with wildlife, its legal status must be determined. All mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians that occur in the wild in Washington are protected or regulated by state and/or federal laws. These laws not only pertain to the killing of regulated species but may also prohibit live trapping and relocation, harassment, and possession of the animal dead or alive.
Adapted from "Living with Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest"
Written by: Russell Link, Urban Wildlife Biologist