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Cleaning Up With Wildlife in Mind

Cleaning up your house or yard? Please keep in mind that wild animals can be injured when people trim trees, mow lawns, clean chimneys, or find them trapped or nesting indoors. If you take a few simple precautions, you can prevent injuring wildlife when you clean and make basic repairs to your house. Here are some tips on wildlife-friendly house and yard maintenance for homeowners, landscapers, and other professionals. To find out more, contact the Cape Wildlife Center.

Indoors

Chimneys

If you find a nest in your chimney, delay cleaning until the young have left. This should only take a few weeks. Always cap chimneys lined with metal to keep birds and small mammals from getting trapped. Remember that almost all birds are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and cannot be killed or moved.

Attics

Check for animals in the attic before cleaning. Don't evict any animals without checking for babies first. If you find any wild babies, wait a few weeks for them to leave. Raccoons without young can be excluded from an attic by installing a one-way door over the entryway they're using and patching it shut once the raccoons have left.

Household Cleaners

Many commercial cleaning products have harmful chemicals, so choose organic and natural cleaners.

Instead of using: Use:
Glass cleaners Vinegar and water
Paper towels Reusable sponges and cloths
Petroleum-based dish washing soaps Soaps derived from vegetable sources

Outdoors

Windows

Keep birds from running into your newly cleaned windows by placing plants and other visual obstructions inside or dangling strips of Mylar™ tape from the top of the glass outside the window.

Siding

Check for small gaps where animals might enter your house—even a
1/2" x 1/4" space is large enough to allow a snake, bat, rat, or mouse to squeeze through. But make sure that no animals are inside before you seal any gaps.

Lawns

Always walk over the lawn to check for wildlife—especially turtles and nests of baby rabbits—before mowing. Turtles may be gently moved, but nests of baby rabbits should be left alone so that the mother rabbits can find their young when they come back to feed them. They'll be weaned and on their own within three weeks.

Trees

  • Check all limbs for bird and squirrel nests before trimming trees.
  • If you accidentally knock a nest out of a tree, retrieve the babies and their nest and renest them in a nearby limb.
  • If the nest is broken, rebuild it or make a replacement nest of the same shape. You can use a common household container (such as a margarine container or plastic bottle—not from a cleaning product—with the top cut off). Poke holes in the bottom for drainage and line the container with natural materials similar to those used in the original nest.
  • Watch for the mother to return. It's a myth that birds will reject babies touched by humans.