Living with Wildlife

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.


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.

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.

Outdoor Prevention

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 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 are bitten or injured by wildlife, obtain appropriate medical care and contact Animal Control for advice.

Humane Trapping

Animal Services strongly discourages the live trapping of wildlife. Living in the Mid-peninsula means living with wildlife. Humane trapping is a short-term solution, and never the best option. Relocating a wild animal without a permit is illegal. 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.

If you have tried the above options, as a last resort, you might be able to get additional assistance from an Animal Control Officer. The section on Regulations that Vary by Community describes the Animal Control support available to the various communities served by Animal Services.

Vector Control

Wild animals can be vectors (carriers) of various diseases. Vector Control of Santa Clara County provides information on dealing with many animal and insect disease vectors. Tree Squirrels in Santa Clara County is only a portion of the information available from them.

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