In New Jersey, we share space with a number of commonly seen animals—squirrels, deer, rabbits, raccoons, skunks, opossums, woodchucks, turtles, snakes, hawks, owls, geese, and songbirds—as well as other, sometimes more obscure animals such as flying squirrels, bats, foxes, coyotes, black bears, and beavers.

Many people enjoy seeing these creatures in their yards and parks, but sometimes these animals get a little too close for comfort (such as when they take up residence inside a home). There are ways for humans and animals to coexist peacefully.

Put Wildlife to Work For You
Did you know that the insects you use pesticides to eliminate are actually savored by many of our local wildlife? For example, aphids are favorites of songbirds and grubs are like snacks to skunks. And, amazingly, a single bat can consume more than 3,000 mosquitoes each night. Put wildlife to work for you!

Please try to avoid using herbicides or pesticides on your lawn or in your garden. Not only can these products be dangerous to you, your children, and your pets, but they can also poison wildlife or interfere with their reproduction. Pesticides affect more than just the creatures they are intended to target. The insects that pesticides target are eaten by birds, which in turn are eaten by larger birds and some mammals.

Consider using organic fertilizers such as compost, ground leaf litter, and seaweed. These alternatives are not only safer for humans, pets, and wildlife but are also better for the environment.

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Give Wildlife a Helping Hand
Here are some other ways to make your yard "wildlife-friendly":
  • Feed the birds. Put up bird feeders and bird baths and plant trees and shrubs that produce food for the birds throughout the year. For more information about making your backyard a wildlife habitat, visit the National Wildlife Federation web site.
  • Keep feeders and bird baths clean. Clean bird feeders regularly (every few weeks) with a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Clean bird baths more often (about twice a week) using the same solution mix. This helps prevent birds who visit your yard from passing contagious diseases to each other.
  • Keep your cats inside. Cats that are permitted to roam freely outside do affect the songbird population. We receive many, many animals at the Center who have been caught by cats. Unfortunately, over 80 percent of them die as a result of their injuries. If at all possible, please keep your cats indoors. In addition to preventing injury to wildlife, indoor cats are also spared the perils of outdoor living, such as possible poisoning, car impact, and altercations with other animals.
    Cat Facts pdf 138k.
  • Time tree pruning carefully. Most tree-nesting animal species begin building their nests and having young in early spring. If you need to prune or remove trees in your yard, try to schedule this work for late summer or autumn to make sure young animals have left their nests.
  • Discard plastics and other dangerous items carefully. Animals can injure themselves when they get caught in fishing line, balloons, and even in the plastic rings that hold beverage six-packs together. Be sure to destroy these items with scissors and dispose of them carefully.

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Prevent Wildlife from "Moving In"...
You may enjoy watching songbirds eat berries and seeds in your yard, but the very thought of a mammal taking up residence in your house may not thrill you. We don't blame you! Wild animals can be noisy, messy, and destructive when they attempt to share living quarters with humans.

Here are some ways to prevent them from getting too close:

  • Install chimney caps. Installing chimney caps, on furnace chimneys as well as fireplace chimneys, will help prevent animals from getting into your house by climbing or falling down your chimney.
  • Secure trash cans. Many animals are attracted to household trash, including raccoons, skunks, opossums, and black bears. Keep your trash in a closed garage until trash day or use a sturdy container with a secure lid.
  • Do not feed pets outside. Pet food is even more attractive to some wildlife than trash! If you must feed your pets outside, be sure to bring in the bowls as soon as your pets are finished eating, or at least before dusk.
  • Seal holes and cracks in and around the foundation and along the roofline of your house. Animals can squeeze into small spaces!
  • Prune branches near your house. Branches that hang over your house are easy routes to the roof and windows of your house. Prune branches that are close to or touching your house.

Magical Skunk Recipe

To remove skunk odor from people or pets, combine:

  • 1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 tsp. liquid dish or laundry soap

While solution is still fizzing, use a rag to rub it on affected areas. Leave for 3-4 minutes. Rinse well. Discard unused portions.

Warning: Hydrogen peroxide may give a dark-furred animal "rust-colored highlights."

Read more about preventing wildlife problems around your home in our brochure, Coexisting with Wildlife [PDF 211k].

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...And Help Them Move Along If They Do
If wild animals have taken up residence in or under your house, wait until they have vacated and then take steps to make sure they don't return. Assume young are present in the spring, summer, and early fall. Be careful not to separate the parents from the young. Be patient—the family will move out on their own when the young are old enough to do so.

Homemade Deer Repellent

Mix together in a blender:

  • 2 cups of water
  • 5 cloves of fresh garlic
  • 1 cup of chopped onions
  • 5 Tbsp. powdered hot pepper

Pour into a covered container and let stand for 24 hours. Strain and mix with 1 gallon of water. Apply to plants with a sprayer.

If you don't want to wait for animals to leave on their own, make their surroundings less inviting. Turn on a bright light and leave a radio tuned to a talk show near their den site. Many animals are sensitive to smell, so deter them with mothballs or ammonia-soaked rags. It is most effective to deploy as many deterrents as possible at the first sign of a problem.

If young are not present, you can exclude adults (that is, discourage them from returning) during their active times. Nocturnal animals such as bats should be excluded while they are out feeding at night, whereas squirrels can be excluded during the day. Set up a one-way door or stretch a piece of plastic across the entrance. When you are sure the animals are gone, close the opening permanently.

If young are present, don't trap them inside. The young will be unable to escape and their mothers will not be able to return to care for them. It is better to wait until they are grown and leave with their mother.

The fact sheets below provide more information about techniques for dealing with specific species of unwelcome wildlife, both in and around your home and garden.

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Learn More About a Particular Species
The following links provide more information about a specific species, including additional tips for coexisting peacefully. Each fact sheet will open in a new browser window in PDF format; you'll need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view them.
Mammals   Birds

Bat [PDF 449k]
A single brown bat can consume up to 3,000 mosquitoes every night.


Crow [PDF 182k]
Crows are considered to be among the most adaptable and intelligent birds in the world.

Black Bear [PDF 156k]
Approximately 80% of a black bear's diet consists of fruits, nuts, berries, seeds, leaves, grasses, and roots. The rest consists of easy pickings such as carrion, insects, and—if given the chance—garbage. If you do nothing to make a bear feel unwelcome, it will consider your yard to be a safe place.


Roosting Birds [PDF 247k]
The most common roosting birds in our area are Rock doves (pigeons), Mourning doves, European starlings, and English house sparrows. All are highly adaptable and capable of finding shelter on and in buildings.

Deer [PDF 191k]
Make your own deer repellent for plants: Blend together 2 cups of water, 5 cloves of fresh garlic, 1 cup of chopped onions, and 5 tablespoons of powdered hot pepper. Pour into a covered container and let stand for 24 hours. Strain, mix with 1 gallon of water, and apply with a sprayer.


Woodpecker [PDF 229k]
Woodpeckers have long, flexible, sticky tongues for probing small holes to catch insects. Resident woodpeckers drum against hard, resonant surfaces (like drainspouts) to proclaim their territory.

Opossum [PDF 263k]
The opossum is the only marsupial in North America.

  General Information

Raccoon [PDF 213k]
Overflowing, uncovered, or easily accessible garbage cans provide an open invitation to hungry raccoons.


Mercer County Wildlife Center General Information Brochure [PDF 467k]
A summary of the services provided by the Center.

Skunk [PDF 166k]
Skunks have a hearty appetite for grubs, frogs, insects, mice, and baby rats. People soon find that their rodent problems disappear after skunks take up residence.


Coexisting with Wildlife  
[PDF 211k]
More tips on humane, long-term, and effective ways to deal with unwelcome wildlife, including ways to discourage them from returning.

Squirrel [PDF 233k]
Nimble and opportunistic, squirrels are always on the lookout for a free buffet.


Cat Facts [PDF 138k]
How cats affect wildlife, when birds are most vulnerable, and answers to other commonly asked questions.

Woodchuck [PDF 179k]
Woodchucks, also known as groundhogs or whistle pigs, are harmless, comical vegetarians who are commonly seen in suburban backyards and along roadways.


Rabies Facts [PDF 187k]
Often, people panic about rabies as a result of misleading media articles and folklore. Human fatalities due to lightning strikes and bad hamburgers far exceed the number of human deaths due to rabies.

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