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200 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019

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The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)
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Tips for Living with Wildlife

A rescued turtle receives rehabilitative veterinary care at the Cape Wildlife Center.

At the Cape Wildlife Center, we often care for animals whose injuries could have been prevented, and for orphans whose parents would still be alive if people knew how to live harmoniously with wildlife. For this reason, we offer these tips on how to live peacefully with the wild animals who share our environment. To learn more, contact the Cape Wildlife Center.

Boats and Cars

Fuel: Reformulated gasoline has an additive (MBTE) that harms wild animals and their habitats. Personal watercraft and boats with two-stroke engines leak this chemical into the water, but all vehicles using reformulated gas (including most cars, boats, and off-road vehicles) may release it into the environment.
Minimize vehicle use whenever possible and stick to established roadways to avoid harming vegetation and wildlife.

Driving: Slow down—it's safer for you, other drivers, and the animals. Stay alert when you drive, paying special attention to wildlife on roads at dawn and dusk, during early evening, and after rainstorms. Assume that animals don't know how to get out of your way. And dim your dashboard display lights at night to make it easier for you to see your headlights reflected in animals' eyes.

New Construction

Destroying and fragmenting animal habitat for new buildings and parking lots magnifies the human impact on the environment. Preserve green spaces in your community—particularly those that aren't manicured parks and those connected to undeveloped land.

Your Yard

Enhance the Habitat: Cultivate native plants around your home to make your yard more attractive to wildlife. You can find more information about how to do so in the Urban Wildlife Sanctuary Program section of this website.

Lawn Chemicals: Fertilizers and herbicides can leach into the groundwater or run off into streams and lakes and, eventually, the ocean. Fertilizers are one of the primary sources of nitrogen in groundwater. Too much nitrogen damages water quality, decreasing the oxygen that keeps aquatic animals alive. Nitrogen in drinking water is also toxic to babies and some farm animals. Ask your garden supply store about organic fertilizers and integrated pest-management techniques, which are more sensitive to the environment than traditional lawn chemicals. Better yet, cultivate native vegetation or wildflowers instead of a grass lawn.

Pesticides: What is poisonous to animals considered "pests" is often also poisonous to animals considered "wildlife"—as well as to people and companion animals. If you must use a pesticide, always choose the least toxic one. For instance, pesticides based on boric acid are relatively nontoxic to birds, fish, and aquatic invertebrates. Pesticides based on plant oils (such as neem oil, garlic oil, and sabadilla alkaloids) are less toxic than many common pesticides. But take care when using any pesticide, since most pesticides, even the least toxic, kill beneficial insects and microbes.

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 Reuseable sponges and cloths
Petroleum-based dish washing soaps Soaps derived from vegetable sources

Fishing Lines

Never leave fishing lines unattended in the water or caught on trees or shrubs because they can injure, ensnare, or be swallowed by animals.

Food and Garbage

Food or garbage thrown out of car windows attracts animals to roads, where they can be hit by cars. Containers are equally dangerous. Animals can get caught in plastic rings from six-packs of soda and beer, so cut them up before throwing them away.

Wide-mouth food containers also become dangerous traps—with the bait included. Animals get their heads or legs stuck; some die from ingesting plastic packaging. So recycle and dispose of trash properly.

Outdoor Cats

Keep your cat indoors or safely confined. Cats allowed to roam outside often kill birds and small mammals. They are also at risk of being hit by cars, attacked by other animals, and exposed to diseases.

Published August 15, 2007