Animal control facilities communicate with citizens daily regarding wildlife related issues. While these are great opportunities to educate individuals on resolving animal conflict, it also raises awareness to the fact that we need to do more as a community to understand the life that surrounds us.

There is a fear of wildlife that comes from misunderstanding. We can replace that fear with respect. Fear creates a monster out of something we don’t understand, but respect allows humanity to view and appreciate our universe’s infinite beauty while still ensuring that we do not put ourselves or the species we are observing at risk.

Respecting wildlife means knowing enough about something unfamiliar to us to appreciate boundaries. Only this way can we live in peace with the life that surrounds us.

Some fear is taught. A good example of this is the common worry that a wild animal is sick if it is out during the daytime. It is not abnormal to see wildlife throughout the day as they may be hunting, gathering food for their young, traversing their territory, or just passing through. While it is always good to use caution and respect a wild animal’s space, a sick or injured animal would be limping, stumbling, falling over, or in rare cases acting very bold. Instead of teaching our children to be afraid of wildlife out in the daytime, we should teach our kids to respect wildlife as a whole and not to approach wild animals at any point during the day or night. If you are concerned about a potentially sick wild animal, it is always best to call your local animal control facility to have them take a look.

What should you do if you are having trouble convincing one of your wild neighbors to respect your space? Never feed wildlife directly or indirectly. Sources of indirect feeding are open trash containers and bird feeders. Keep garbage covered, and keep areas around bird feeders clean. If you are having an issue with wildlife in your yard, you can remove bird feeders entirely.

The most important thing to do when you see a coyote or unwanted wild neighbor is to haze (except in the case of skunks)! This means shining lights, playing a loud radio, and banging pots and pans. This is to show that your yard is inhospitable and the critter should move on to a new area. If you encounter a skunk, the best thing to do is move slowly and calmly away.

Always protect your livestock by ensuring that your enclosure is predator proof and supervise children and pets when they are outside in the yard.

For more information about wildlife in Massachusetts, visit https://www.mass.gov/learn-about-wildlife, to learn about squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, raccoons, coyotes, and fisher cats. You will also be able to learn more about the laws governing interactions with these animals.

The first step to resolving human and animal conflict is understanding that the wildlife in our backyards are not intruders or pests, but wild neighbors who live in the trees, burrows, dens, and nests in our communities.

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