Urban growth on the Peninsula has led to the loss and disturbance of thousands of acres of wildlife habitat. While some wild animals have migrated to quieter, more remote areas, others (especially raccoons, opossums, squirrels, skunks, and other rodents) have learned to adapt and thrive alongside humans.
Wild animals are most likely to become a nuisance if they are provided with an attractive environment. These attractions include safe nesting areas and available food and water. There are, however, effective steps you can take to prevent these animals from making your home their home.
Please note: City of Palo Alto Animal Control Officers do not provide services for healthy/nuisance wildlife. If you are having an issue with nuisance wildlife, please call the Santa Clara County Vector Control District at (800) 675-1155 for assistance, or a private pest control service.
Injured or Sick Wildlife
If you have located an injured or sick wild animal, you may call the Palo Alto Police Department's 24-hour dispatch center at (650) 329-2413 and the on-duty Animal Control Officer will respond to assess the animal. If you found an animal after the Animal Control Officer is off duty, you can either place the animal in a box (if safe to do so) and bring to MedVet at 601 Showers Drive in Mountain View at no cost to you; leave the animal in the box overnight and the on-duty officer will respond in the morning, or do nothing and an Animal Control Officer will assess when able. (Do not offer food to any wild animal!)
In the spring and summer, baby wildlife may be found in parks, streets, and backyards. It's important to know when and if you should intervene. Below are some handy flow charts, and if you have questions call the Peninsula Humane Society's Wildlife Dept. at (650) 340-7022 x456.
I FOUND A BABY BIRD! I FOUND A BABY MAMMAL!
Wild animals can be vectors (carriers) of various diseases. The Santa Clara County Vector Control District provides information on dealing with many animal and insect disease vectors.
Keep Them Wild!
You may not realize it – a simple bag of garbage, bowl of pet food, or a wild bird feeder, can create problems with wildlife. If wild animals have access to human food and garbage, unnatural foraging behavior can begin. Wildlife venturing into neighborhoods, puts both people and animals at risk. Wildlife become susceptible to vehicle strikes, pesticide poisoning, injury from other wildlife, and disease. Public safety may be compromised.
Whether you live in a city or a rural part of California, wild animals are your neighbors. They naturally fear humans and keep their distance – so long as they remain fully wild. Be a good steward of wildlife. Stash food and trash.
For additional information about specific types of animals gathered from CDFW & SCC Vector Control, please see below:
Favorite nesting sites for wild animals include the attic and crawl space under a house. Before an animal moves into your home, take the following preventive measures:
- Check your property regularly to ensure that screens barring entrance to your home or basement are intact. Cap chimneys with hardware cloth bolted to the masonry. Securely fasten heavy screening or metal hardware cloth over vents and dryer exhaust openings. Stuff coarse steel wool into gaps between pipes and outside walls.
- Eliminate access routes by pruning tree branches overhanging the roof. Remove ivy leading from trees to roof, or wrap 18" or wider metal guards around tree trunks five or six feet from the ground. Keep pet doors closed at night, and install an inside latch to keep them locked.
When animal nesting or habitation is discovered, many excellent solutions to your unwanted occupancy problem exist. Unless you remove whatever is attracting it, however, unwanted wildlife will continue to visit. Animal Control Officers do not provide nuisance removal service.
A private pest control service will trap and euthanize the animal since relocating wildlife is illegal in the State of California. Trapping and euthanizing is also a short term solution because a new batch of wild animals will move in if the reason for them being there is not changed. Wild animals come for food, water, and shelter. Securing holes under sheds and decks is recommend, as well as picking up all fallen fruit. Also do not feed domestic animals outdoors, especially at night.
The goal is just to keep wild animals from calling your property home because we’re never get rid of all the wild animals (nor do we want to.) the animal is removed, improvements to your property will be required to keep them from coming back. Use of a one way door for example can assist with humane extraction from under sheds and decks.
Indoor or Under the House Prevention
If an animal has taken up residence in an attic or crawl space, block off all entrances accessible to the animal except one. Place a radio near the entrance and play music loudly during the day. Place dishes of ammonia-soaked rags near the same spot. This should annoy the animal enough to convince it to leave within a day or two.
Place a piece of cloth (such as an old T-shirt) with your scent near the resting area. Nesting mothers are concerned with the safety of their young, and human scent will encourage her, within a week or so, to relocate her family.
Anytime you think there are nests of young, be sure the mother and her babies have relocated before sealing up all access points. Otherwise, babies will starve, or mothers will return and destroy the seal to retrieve their young.
If you have pets, bring their food and water indoors at night. Clean up leftover food, seeds, and dropped or discarded fruits and vegetables. Secure trash containers with weighted lids, or secure the lids with straps or chains attached to the handles.
To prevent raccoons or other wildlife from digging in your garden, sprinkle cayenne pepper around the perimeter. Soak rags in ammonia or bleach and place them in bowls or tie them to posts around the garden. This should deter uninvited animal visitors from foraging for grubs or insects. Some success has been achieved using motion detector lights.
Secure outdoor fish ponds with a wooden cover, or horizontally submerge wire mesh around the circumference of the pond. Attach the outside edges of the mesh to the edge of the pond, leaving the inside free. Fish then have the center of the pond to themselves, and animals cannot reach over the wire, because it provides an unstable surface on which to perch.
Protect your Pets
Urban wildlife is usually not aggressive. Animals will, however, defend their young and their territory, so it's a good idea to keep your pets indoors at night while many wild animals are out.
Rabies is a potential threat in this area. Because of this and other diseases such as distemper, it is important to keep your pet vaccinations up to date, to protect pets from diseases that can be prevented by immunization. Please avoid direct contact with wildlife, especially if they seem sick, injured, or oddly unafraid. If you or your pet has been in contact with or was bitten by a skunk, raccoon, bat, coyote, fox, or other rabies vector, please alert Animal Control immediately at (650) 329-2413.
Animal Services strongly discourages the live trapping of wildlife. Living in this area means living with wildlife. Humane trapping is usually a short-term solution for a long-term problem. And relocating a wild animal without a permit is illegal in the state of California, and usually means certain death for the relocated animal as it struggles to survive in an unfamiliar please. In addition, a wild animal becomes stressed and frantic when trapped, and might injure itself trying to escape. Trapping also separates mothers from babies who cannot survive without the mother's care. For assistance with extraction, please call the Santa Clara Co. Vector Control District.