Animal Services

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Wildlife in the City

We share the city with a wide variety of animals that have adapted to our urban environment. Find out how you can protect your property and live in harmony with the city's wildlife below.  Read the Toronto Public Health Urban Wildlife Fact Sheet.

How to Live with Wildlife

ExpandDo not feed wildlife!

Raccoon and skunk eating prepared food

Feeding wildlife can be harmful to both people and animals and is not allowed under the Municipal Code. The city educates and warn residents first, but if this does not stop the behaviour, further action can be taken.

Municipal Licensing and Standards can investigate and bring charges against Toronto residents under the following sections of the City of Toronto Municipal Code:

Parks

It is an offense to feed wildlife, including coyotes in public parks under Chapter 608, Parks, Section 608 - 36.

Littering and Dumping

Chapter 548, Littering and Dumping, Section 548 - 3 makes it an offence for anyone to dump garbage including organic waste (including fresh, frozen, dried, cooked, prepared foods and leftovers) on any piece of land in Toronto.

Property Standards (private property)

Chapter 629, Property Standards, Sections 9, 10B and 22A, requires all yards and any other part of a private property be kept free from garbage, pests or conditions that may attract pests or constitute a health, fire or other hazard. Garbage that is kept on private property has to be stored in containers.

Waste

Chapter 548 Section 548 - 4 prohibits the dumping garbage on any land, except as required or permitted under commercial and residential waste bylaws. Section 548 -5 also requires the owner of land to immediately clear it.

ExpandCanine Distemper in Raccoons

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Canine Distemper (CDV)

Canine Distemper (CDV) is a virus that is generally present in the raccoon population, but at low levels. Dogs can also contract this virus.

Raccoons with distemper may approach people, or curl up to sleep in open areas in close proximity to people. They generally act disoriented or lethargic, but can become aggressive if cornered. They may have seizures.

Canine Distemper does not pose a threat to human health. Dogs that have not been vaccinated for distemper can become infected if they come in contact with a raccoon with distemper.

If residents notice a raccoon displaying abnormal behaviour, they should call 416-338-PAWS.

Residents are not to approach or feed the raccoons.

What is normal raccoon behaviour?

Raccoons in an urban setting can become quite tame and seem to have little or no fear of humans. They are nocturnal and sleep during the day however during breeding season you may see an active raccoon during daylight hours. Raccoons may also be seen during the day if they have been flushed from hiding. They are not true hibernators which means they may be seen during the mild winter weather. Raccoons are only aggressive if cornered -  they would sooner run away if confronted.

Male raccoons are solitary and these are usually the ones you will find sleeping on deck, roof tops, etc. Females usually have a den site and prefer protected elevated areas for the protection of their young.

What is abnormal raccoon behaviour?

They appear blind and confused and may wander aimlessly and may become aggressive if cornered. A mucus discharge will often be present around the eyes and nose and may be accompanied by coughing, tremors, seizures or chewing fits.

What is Canine Distemper?

Canine Distemper is a viral disease affecting animals in the canine families, in addition to some other mammals. It affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems. Raccoons, dogs and skunks can be infected. The disease is most often fatal and animals that recover may display permanent neurological damage.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can humans catch Canine Distemper? No. Humans cannot get Canine Distemper.

2. Can my dog catch Canine Distemper? Yes. If your dog has not been vaccinated against distemper, and comes into contact with a raccoon with distemper. Most dogs are vaccinated as puppies, and then have regular boosters. Puppies that have not been vaccinated are at particularly high risk.

3. How can I keep my dog safe? Keep your dog on a leash and check your backyard before letting your dog out.

4. What are the symptoms of a raccoon with distemper? Raccoons with distemper may move slowly or stumble as they walk. They lose their fear of humans, appear blind and confused and may wander aimlessly and may become aggressive if cornered. A mucus discharge will often be present around the eyes and nose and may be accompanied by coughing, diarrhea, vomiting, tremors, seizures or chewing fits. They may only exhibit some of these symptoms and otherwise appear quite healthy.

5. What should I do if I see a raccoon that I think has distemper?  Do not approach them. Do not feed them.  Call 416-338-PAWS and give them the location and time of the sighting.

6. Can anything be done to help the raccoons? Once a raccoon is infected, there is little to no chance of survival for the animal. It can take several weeks for the disease to run its course in the raccoon. Young raccoons are most susceptible to this virus. 

7. Should I feed the raccoons? No. Do not feed raccoons or leave food out for them. Any food that is left out may only attract other wildlife, or attract sick raccoons to areas that pets frequent.

To discourage raccoons or any wildlife from coming onto your property: 

  • Do not leave any food out. At this time, it would also be advised to take down any bird feeders, or regularly clean up the area around the bird feeder so you do not attract raccoons
  • Ensure all garbage, recycling and green bins are secure and left out on the morning of your regular pick up
  • Keep your pet on a leash when on a walk and scan your yard before letting them outside
  • Explain to your children why they should not approach raccoons or any wildlife even if they seem docile
  • Check with your vet to ensure your dog has been vaccinated against distemper if you are not sure

 

ExpandFoxes

Fox Facts

Fox with tree

Foxes live an average of four years in the urban setting and usually breed from January to March. Gestation is about 52 days, and six cubs is the average litter size. The parents share duties and the cubs are weaned at about five weeks. Cubs leave their parents in the fall. Adult foxes are usually most active at dawn and dusk, but will often be seen sunning during the day. 

The pups are often active throughout the daytime. Foxes are territorial and a pair will occupy an area of about four square km. Competition for available natural den sites sometimes forces the fox to create a den in a residential area.  The fox is omnivorous. Its diet includes small rodents, amphibians, reptiles and insects, as well as nuts, grasses, vegetables and fruit. Foxes will also go after small domestic animals such as rabbits and cats. During late spring and early summer foxes are seen more often because they hunt and forage more to feed their young.

Across the Greater Toronto Area, foxes have been very successfully vaccinated against rabies since 1989, by the Ministry of Natural Resources. The ministry advises that the removal of foxes from one area will open up territory for unvaccinated foxes to move in and potentially reintroduce the rabies virus.

In the city, foxes will live along the lake shore, beach, ravine and woody stream areas. If left undisturbed, foxes will sometimes make a den in residential areas, under decks or sheds or where there are a lot of bushes or shrubs.

When foxes do not feel threatened by people, they will live near homes and apartments. It is important to know that the only reported, unprovoked attack by a fox on a person was by a rabid fox. Our fox population in Toronto is well protected against rabies. This is especially important because the urban fox is less fearful of people and occasionally may come very near a person.

Solutions

Enclose areas underneath patio decks and sheds and other places where foxes may make a den. To keep foxes from burrowing under these sites, dig a trench around the base of the structure and use galvanized heavy wire screening as a prevention skirt. The screening should go at least 20 to 30 cm. straight down and 20 to 30 cm., angled 90° outwards underground. Backfill the area with dirt. If you pile rocks or other items over this area against the structure, the animal can burrow around the wire mesh barrier.

  • Closely watch small, domestic pets when they are outdoors, or, keep them inside.
  • Get rid of piles of rock, wood or debris. These attract small animals such as mice.
  • Foxes will eat garbage and pet food left outdoors.
    • Take your green bin and garbage containers to the curb on the morning of pick-up.
    • Use composers that are enclosed (rodent-proof).
    • Do not place pet food outside.
    • If you feed birds, the seeds can attract squirrels, which foxes prey on. 
    • Keep small pets indoors, especially cats and rabbits.
  • In early spring, spend more time in your back and side yards. Foxes will be more likely to visit or look for den sites near a home where people stay indoors most of the time.
  • If you see a fox in your yard, make loud noises directed at the animal. To chase the fox away, spray it with a garden hose. Loud noises and a squirt from a hose will not physically harm the animal but will make it feel unwelcome.

Evicting a Den of Foxes

Keeping these animals from moving in should be your first step, but the following ideas will help discourage and evict unwanted foxes:

  1. If you are not sure foxes are using a den site, look for fox fur and food remains nearby.
  2. Encourage foxes to leave on their own by making the den site unlivable.
    • Dig up the ground around entrances to the den.
    • Play a transistor radio tuned to a talk station at the entrance to the den. Turn the volume up loud.
    • Place dog hair in and around the site.
    • Place dog or human urine soaked rags in and around the den.
  3. When you are sure eviction is complete:
    • Secure the hole to prevent re-entry. Make sure that all boards or galvanized heavy wire screening extend at least 20 to 30 cm straight down and 20 to 30 cm angled 90° outwards underground (see diagram of prevention skirt). Foxes are excellent diggers and continuing the barrier at a 90° angle makes it much more difficult to dig under. Tip: using wire is better, foxes give up sooner.
    • Backfill the area with dirt.
    • Repair siding and holes in buildings.
    • Place wood or wire screening around the base of porches and buildings as a prevention skirt. Ensure that you cover these areas to at least 20 to 30 cm straight down and 20 to 30 cm angled 90° outwards underground.
    • Eliminate piles of rock or debris and stack woodpiles neatly to eliminate holes.

Trapping, Hunting and Poisoning

Live trapping using a humane trap has proven to be ineffective with foxes. Leg hold traps may only be operated by Ministry of Natural Resources licensed trappers. Illegal use of leg hold traps, discharge of firearms or use of poison can result in criminal charges and fines up to $5,000.

Unusual Behaviour

Foxes that are protecting their young, or injured and sick foxes, may behave strangely. If you see a fox growling and attempting to attack people, larger animals or inanimate objects, call 311. 

Also see how to wildlife-proof your home.

 

ExpandRaccoons

Raccoon Facts

Raccoon snarling

  • Raccoons have adapted well to city life. While raccoon families can be fun to watch, they can also come into conflict with property owners and residents.
  • Raccoons are found in urban, rural and wilderness areas in almost all parts of Ontario.
  • As omnivores, raccoons feed on grubs, insects, small rodents and other small animals, eggs, fleshy fruits (like grapes), nuts and vegetables (like corn). They will also eat from garbage and composts.
  • In Ontario, raccoons breed from January to April; gestation is eight weeks, pups are born from March to June and the litter size averages three to five, which are mobile at seven to eight weeks old and are weaned by late summer. The cubs may stay with the mother over the winter.
  • Raccoons are mainly active at night throughout the year. However, they may be dormant during periods of extended cold or in very deep snow conditions.
  • Den sites include hollow trees, groundhog dens, chimneys, garages, under and inside sheds, attics, porches and under decks.
  • Raccoons have amazing dexterity and use their front paws to pry things open, turn knobs and handle objects.
  • Except during breeding season or when with young, raccoons are territorial and usually solitary.
  • The animal's vocalizations include purrs, whimpers, snarls, growls, hisses, screams and whinnies.

Problems and Best Solutions

Lawn and garden

Raccoons are attracted to lawns and gardens, especially after a rainfall when grubs and larvae are near the surface. They dig small round holes and, in some cases, actually roll up large chunks of sod in order to eat the grubs.

Grubs feed on the grass root system, destroying the grass. For information about natural lawn and garden care see Getting started on a pesticide free lawn

Deterrent methods

  • Sprinkling pure soap flakes on the lawn and watering thoroughly
  • Mixing bone meal in garden soil
  • Sprinkling diluted tabasco sauce over fruits and vegetables (wash before eating)
  • Lighting up the area where raccoons are a problem. Use one 100 watt bulb for every 15 square metres of garden (50 ft. by 50 ft.).

Garbage and composters

Garbage, compost and pet food can provide a real feast for raccoons, and once a free meal is found, they will return again and again. Since raccoons are very good at using their front paws, it is important to close down this potential wildlife café by:

  • storing garbage inside a garage, basement or bin until the morning of pick up
  • sprinkling strong smelling repellents such as oil of mustard, ammonia in or around the green bins and garbage
  • installing lights around green bin and garbage storage areas
  • cleaning up after barbecuing – raccoons are attracted to grease drippings
  • using enclosed-type composters only
  • feeding pets indoors and not purposely feeding wildlife.

Homes, attics, chimneys and there raccoon residences

Uncapped chimneys are an open invitation for raccoons, and so are loose shingles and openings in attics, roofs and eaves, garages and sheds. Raccoons can rip shingles off and chew holes in buildings. The area under decks and other structures may also be used by a determined raccoon. For ways to evict raccoons, try the suggestions for evicting skunks.

Although keeping these animals from getting into your home should be your first goal, the following approaches will help you evict them if they do get in, and will discourage them from re-entering.

 

Step 1: If you think you know where the animals get in, check to see if this entrance is in use by:

  • sprinkling flour in front of it and looking for footprints
  • stuffing a rag or bunched up ball of paper in the opening and checking later to see if it was removed.

 

Step 2: Encourage raccoons to leave on their own by making the home unlivable.

  • Hang ammonia-soaked rags
  • Play a loud radio tuned to an all-talk station
  • Keep the area brightly lit.

Do not attempt to smoke animals out of the chimney - they could be suffocated or burned.

 

Step 3: Before any opening is closed off or any chimney is capped:

  • check to see that all raccoons have moved out, especially between March and July when there may be babies
  • make sure no animal is trapped inside a sealed area. It will starve to death, and you will be left with a smelly, decomposing carcass.

 

Step 4: When you are sure that all raccoons have left:

  • secure the opening to prevent re-entry
  • block all holes with galvanized sheet metal
  • repair siding and holes in buildings
  • use heavy, rustproof screening to cover open air vents
  • cap chimneys securely
  • trim overhanging tree branches
  • remove unused TV towers
  • leave behind ammonia or bleach* to discourage the raccoons in their search for another opening back into their old den.

* Ammonia has a strong odour. When using anything that has an unpleasant odour or fumes to deter wildlife, it is important that you first check to make sure the babies can move around on their own. Any animal exposed to fumes may become ill or die if they cannot escape.

How should I clean up raccoon feces?

Material contaminated with raccoon feces should be removed carefully and burned, buried or sent to a landfill. Care should be taken to avoid contaminating hands and clothes. The use of gloves and facemask will help prevent cross contamination. Treat decks, patios, and other surfaces with boiling water.

Always wash hands well with soap and running water, to help further reduce possible infection.

 

If all else fails...

Live trapping

When live trapping appears to be the only way to remove a problem raccoon, remember:

  • Removal of nuisance wildlife is done by commercial wildlife removal companies. They should be consulted when the animal must be removed from between walls or from crawl spaces or when the home owner is unable to solve the problem without expert assistance.
  • Remember, reducing or eliminating whatever attracts raccoons to your property is the only long term or permanent solution to your conflict with the animal.

Trapping, hunting and poisoning

Although trapping is a quick answer, it does not solve the problem. If one animal has found a way to get in, so will others. Trapping may also leave starving young behind to die, causing a bigger problem. Current Ministry of Natural Resources guidelines state that using body gripping traps or placing poison could result in criminal charges and/or provincial charges with fines up $5,000.

  • The firing of guns in Toronto is illegal.
  • Placing poison out to kill animals could result in criminal charges.

Rabies

Although all mammals can carry the rabies virus, raccoons are NOT a major carrier of this disease in Ontario. However, here are some tips to avoid human exposure to rabies: 

  • Vaccinate all dogs and cats, since there is always a chance of a pet coming in accidental contact with a rabid animal. Rabies vaccinations for dogs and cats are required by law.
  • Stay away from all wild animals, especially if they appear tame, injured or sick.
  • Raccoons that show abnormal or sick behaviour should be reported to 311.
  • If you are bitten by any animal, wash the wound with soap and water, contact a doctor, and report the bite to Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600. If possible, have someone keep the animal in sight so that it can be captured or confined.

For more information about rabies visit the Rabies Research and Development Unit.

Also see how to wildlife-proof your home.

 

ExpandSkunks

Skunk Facts

  • Skunks are burrowing animals found in almost all parts of Ontario. 
  • Skunks are omnivorous; they feed on grubs, insects, small rodents, carrion, fruits and vegetables. 
  • In Ontario, skunks breed from February to March; gestation is eight weeks – they produce four to seven young which are usually independent by mid-summer. 
  • Skunks are active all year but may be dormant during periods of extended cold. They are attracted to spaces under porches, sheds, woodpiles, rocks or debris, garbage, pet food and open composts.
  • Removing a skunk without repairing or attending to the attractants creates an opportunity for other skunks to move in.

Problems and Best Solutions

Lawns and gardens
Skunks are usually attracted to lawns and gardens, especially after a rainfall when grubs and larvae are near the surface. Skunks dig small round holes, and in some cases, roll up large chunks of sod. The grubs feed on the grass root system, destroying the grass. 

For information on natural lawn and garden care, see getting started on a pesticide free lawn.
 

Garbage/composters

Green bin contents, compost and pet food can provide a real feast for skunks. Once skunks find a food source, they will continue to return. Since skunks are poor climbers, try the following deterrents:

  • Storing green bin and garbage inside the garage or basement until the morning of pick up
  • Use a repellent-like oil of mustard or mothballs in the bottom of the green bin or garbage container
  • Secure your green bin and garbage containers so that they cannot be tipped over 
  • Use an enclosed composter
  • Feed your pet indoors

Evicting skunks from homes, sheds, porches
Skunks are burrowing animals, so spaces under porches, sheds, woodpiles, rocks or debris are an open invitation for skunks to set up house. Preventing these animals from moving in should be your priority. The following suggestions will assist you in removing skunks and will discourage them from re-entering.

Note that eviction should only be done when babies can move on their own.

Step 1: If you think you know where the entrance to the den is, check to see if it is in use. Cover the hole with dirt or balled up newspaper. If the hole is in use, the skunk will burrow through the dirt or paper. If the dirt or paper is undisturbed for three to five days, the hole can be closed permanently.

Step 2: Encourage skunks to leave on their own by making the home uninhabitable. Try:

  • Distribute urine-soaked kitty litter in and around the den. 
  • Keep the area brightly lit. 
  • Play a radio at the entrance using an all-talk radio station. 
  • Block the entrance with dirt or newspaper to create an obstacle to entry.

Install a one-way door, allowing the skunk to leave, but not re-enter. This method should not be used between April and September when skunks are rearing their young, unless the babies are mobile

Step 3: Before permanently blocking any entrance:

  • Check to see if skunks have moved out, especially between April and September when babies may be present. (see Step 1)
  • Be sure that no animal is trapped inside the den, as it will starve to death. Not only will the animal suffer but you will be left with a decomposing carcass.

Step 4: When you are sure that all skunks have left:

  • Secure the hole to prevent re-entry. 
  • Make sure all boards or galvanized heavy wire screening is extended at least 20 to 30 cm straight down and 20 to 30 cm angled 90 degrees outwards underground. Skunks are excellent diggers and continuing the barrier at a 90 degree angle makes it more difficult to dig under. See prevention skirt
  • Backfill the area with dirt. 
  • Repair siding and holes in buildings. 
  • Place wood or wire screening around base of porches and buildings as a prevention skirt
  • Make sure you cover these areas to at least 20 to 30 cm straight down and 20 to 30 cm angled 90 degrees outwards.
  • Eliminate piles of rocks or debris and stack woodpiles neatly to eliminate holes

Window wells/tree wells
Skunks can become trapped in window wells. Since they are poor climbers, you can help them out by placing a rough board or board with cleats in the well. Try to keep the angle at less than 45 degrees so that it is not too steep.

To put the board in the well, approach slowly and keep low out of sight. Retreat if the skunk stamps its front feet or raises its tail and approach again later. Keep all pets and people away and the skunk will leave on its own; usually after dark. Either leave the ramp in place permanently or place a tight cover over the wells to prevent this from happening again.


After they spray
A skunk can spray up to 10 feet with great accuracy from the two ducts located under its tail. Skunks are placid creatures and will only spray when they feel threatened. It provides advance warning by stamping its front feet, raising its tail and turning its rear end toward the threat.

To remove skunk spray from ...

Eyes Flush with large quantities of clean water. The painful irritation that occurs when the spray gets into the eyes will soon pass. Consult your doctor as soon as possible.
Pets Consult your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Non-living objects Use dilute chlorine bleach, ammonia or vinegar. Do a test spot to make sure these do not damage the material.
Skin Wash with carbolic soap.


Trapping, hunting and poisoning

If you live-capture a nuisance animal, and do not kill it humanely, you must, within 24 hours, either release it in close proximity to where you caught it, as directed by the Ministry of Natural resources, or, if it is sick, injured or immature, turn it over to an authorized wildlife custodian or Toronto Animal Services.

Using body gripping traps or placing poison could result in criminal charges and/or provincial charges with fines up $5,000.


Rabies
Although all warm-blooded mammals can carry the rabies virus, skunks are a major vector of the virus in Ontario. To avoid human exposure to rabies:

  • All dogs and cats living in Toronto are required by law to be vaccinated against rabies. Consult your veterinarian for more information. Stay away from all wild animals especially if they appear tame, injured or sick. Skunks exhibiting abnormal behaviour should be reported to 311.
  • If bitten by any animal, wash the wound with soap and water, contact a doctor, and report the bite to Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600. If possible, have someone keep the animal in sight so that it can be captured or confined.

For further information about rabies, visit rabies.mnr.gov.on.ca/.

ExpandSquirrels

Squirrel Facts

Squirrel eating nut

  • Squirrels have been known to live up to 20 years in an urban setting and three to six years in the wild. 
  • Squirrels breed twice a year; from late winter to early spring and then again in mid-summer to early fall. Their gestation period lasts for 40-44 days and on average have a litter of two to five young. Mother squirrels are very protective of their young and if threatened have been known to attack people and pets. Nests are normally found in the crowns of trees, high above the ground to protect the young from predators. 
  • Natural predators are hawks, foxes, weasels, minks, raccoons, skunks, snakes, owls, ravens, cats and dogs. 
  • Squirrels are active during the day and sleep at night. They do not hibernate over winter.
  • Squirrels play a big role in tree propagation. They carry and bury nuts under the ground. Over winter they tunnel through the snow to retrieve their buried nuts. About 10-20% of buried nuts are lost under the ground. It is these lost nuts that will grow into the trees that beautify our natural landscape.

Problems and Best Solutions

  • A squirrel's natural habitat is in hardwood or mixed forests where nuts are found in abundance. They have adapted very well to city life due to the invention of bird feeders. Eliminating this food source should encourage the animals to move on.
  • Remove old TV antennas - the tower provides an easy access to your attic. 
  • Any open vents or holes in a chimney or house roof should be repaired with 1.25cm (½") mesh hardware cloth or sheet metal that exceeds at least 15cm (6") beyond the hole. Check the area for loose roof vents, rotten or loose soffits, loose shingles and have them repaired.
  • Overhanging tree limbs should also be trimmed back. Squirrels are great climbers who can scale a brick wall with great ease. They have been known to nest on apartment balconies that are 20 storeys above the ground. If you see a squirrel on your balcony, check again in 24 hours, if it is still there, look at our checklist of preventive wildlife measures for humane methods to encourage the squirrel to leave.

Trapped in a chimney

If your chimney has holes or open vents, it is quite common for a squirrel to move in. Preventing these animals from moving in should be your priority. The following suggestions will assist you in removing squirrels and will discourage them from re-entering.

Trapped above the damper

If the squirrel is above the damper, you can hang a 1.25cm (½") thick rope down the chimney. The squirrel will usually climb the rope and leave the chimney.

Squirrel is in the damper

  1. Cover the stove or fireplace door with a barrier to keep the squirrel from escaping into your home until you are ready. 
  2. Open the damper to give the animal access into the stove or fireplace. 
  3. Close the damper once the squirrel has moved into the stove or fireplace to avoid it from trying to re-enter. 
  4. Prepare your home. The idea is to create an easy and attractive escape route for the squirrel. If possible, close off the room that the fireplace is in (i.e. close the doors to other rooms or hanging a sheet in open doorways to act as a barrier). Remove all valuable or breakable items from the room. These could be knocked over or broken. Turn off all lights in the room and draw any blinds that may provide light but not an escape route. 
  5. Open all windows and doors to provide an escape route for the squirrel. 
  6. Arm yourself with thick gloves and a thick towel or blanket. Open the fireplace door slowly so you don't scare the animal. Sit back and if all goes as planned the squirrel should run toward the light coming from open windows or doors and escape.
  7. If the animal takes a wrong turn and ends up running around the room, don't panic! Try following it and directing it to the outdoors or capture it with a blanket if possible and quickly carry it outside in the blanket.

Notes:

It is better not to catch the squirrel in a net. The squirrel may get tangled in netting. Never grab a squirrel, even if you have gloves on. Squirrels can bite through any glove. Never corner a squirrel – it may become aggressive. Never light a fire while a squirrel is trapped in a stove or fireplace – you may injure or kill the animal leaving you with a smelly dead animal to remove.
 

Living in the attic

Having open holes and unsecured closures to an attic is an invitation for many wildlife species including squirrels. By following these easy tips you will become equipped with a knowledge and understanding of ways to prevent (as well as humanely remove) squirrels from entering your attic.

Note: Always use caution when entering an attic, if the flooring is unsecure or you do not feel safe, do not enter. Contact a local animal removal agency to help you humanely remove the animal.

If you do choose to enter the attic, follow these guidelines:

Step 1: Encourage squirrels to leave on their own by making the attic uninhabitable.

Try:

  • Entering the attic making a lot of noise to scare the animal away. Playing a radio at the entrance using an all-talk radio station. Sprinkling Naphtha Flakes around the area (babies must be mobile) or distribute urine-soaked kitty litter in and around the den. Remember that the smell may spread through your home. Keep the area brightly lit. If there are very young baby squirrels in a nest, make sure they are able to exit on their own. Hang sweaty clothing in the attic. Wild animals do not like the smell of people.
  • Squirrels are afraid of owls. Try to make a model of an owl to use as a scarecrow.

 

Step 2: Before permanently blocking any entrance, check to see if the squirrels have left.

  • Spread flour near their nest site and check for tracks.
  • After 24 - 48 hours. Block one hole with loosely crushed newspaper. Block all other holes completely, with strong material. Wait another 24 - 48 hours. If the newspaper has not been disturbed, you can assume all the animals have relocated.

Step 3: When you are sure the squirrel has left:

  • Make the necessary repairs to prevent other animals from getting into your attic. Call a professional to make necessary repairs if you are unable to. Check the home for loose roof vents, rotten or loose soffit, loose shingles or holes in the garage. Make sure your chimney is capped securely.
  • Remove overhanging branches or trees, old TV antennas, etc. (anything that may give an animal a way to get in your house).

Abandoned young
It is general practice to leave all baby animals alone and not to touch or relocate them. In most instances the animal's mother is close by and the baby is not in any real danger. However, if the squirrel looks pale, looks to be shivering (sign of cold and/or shock), mangled, covered with fleas or is bleeding call 311.

Squirrel behaviour
Squirrels are not known to be carriers of rabies. However, the young often exhibit friendly behaviour to people or pets. Young squirrels are naturally curious and are on their own at a very young age.
 

Normal behaviour

  • Approach people and trying to climb pant legs. Young squirrels have no fear of humans. It is important to note that they still may bite if handled or grabbed. 
  • Adult squirrel attacking people. A mother squirrel who is protecting a nest or young babies may feel threatened and be protective of her young.
  • Missing hair on backs and shoulders: This is normal for a nesting female squirrel because she uses her own fur to line the nest.

Unusual behaviour and signs of illness

  • Tumors on the squirrel's body. 
  • Paralysis of hind legs. Could have been injured by a car, attacked or have a broken back due to too little calcium in diet.
  • Seems weak or is lying on the ground.

Trapping and poisoning

Although trapping is a quick answer, it does not solve the problem. If one animal has found a way to get in, so will others. Trapping may also leave starving young behind to die, causing a bigger problem. Current Ministry of Natural Resources guidelines state that using body gripping traps or placing poison could result in criminal charges and/or provincial charges with fines up $5,000.


wildlife-proof your home
 


 

 

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ExpandWildlife-Proof Your Home


Raccoon on the roof

The invasion of wild animals into your home is frustrating. Using loud noises to scare animals away may not always be enough. We will always have wildlife within our city environment, and we will have problems with these animals until we take preventative measures to reduce their populations by making sure they can't live in our homes.

You may have to modify your home or make repairs that can be costly. However, once the repairs are done and you begin a regular inspection of your  home, we believe your wildlife problems will be over.

If wild animals cannot be humanely encouraged to leave your home using the deterrents suggested here, we recommend that you get help from a professional and reputable wildlife removal company.

You may have to dig a trench around a shed or patio and install fencing, called a prevention skirt, below ground to keep foxes and other animals from digging dens.

Using deterrents

Deterrents are ways to keep animals from using your home for their den or nest. The check list explains which areas of your home can attract wildlife as den sites or food sources. These areas should be inspected in the early spring and fall. Damaged or weak spots should be repaired.

After an animal leaves you must make the necessary repairs immediately or the same animal or another one will move in.

 
Areas that cannot be repaired or screened should be checked regularly. These areas may include light fixtures or decorative outdoor fixtures, tool sheds, etc. Some areas, such as balconies, should be checked daily.


Remember these tips when you use the deterrent methods: 

  • Follow the instructions
  • You must be as determined as they are. If you're using noises to scare animals away, make them loud and non-stop over a 24 to 48 hour period.
  • Most of these animals are nocturnal and will not move out until late evening hours.
  • Before making repairs, make sure all animals have left the area.

Use common sense when selecting a deterrent method. 

  • Try the least expensive methods first.
  • Pay attention to detail when reading instructions on a deterrent substance.
  • An odour deterrent may not work in an outdoor area or in an area that is so large the animal can move away from it.
  • Using an odour deterrent in your home may also affect you!
  • Putting a deterrent substance on the surface of a lawn may not work if the animal can go around it, move away from it or turn back and avoid the substance.
  • Try several methods at the same time.
  • Use the exact product recommended, apply it exactly as suggested..

 

ExpandWildlife-Proof Your Lawn

Is your lawn being destroyed?

Grass with dug up holesIn the spring and fall, skunks and raccoons forage for their favourite meal - the white grub larvae. Circular indents in your lawn are the work of skunks, while raccoons tend to peel or rip up the sod. The damage caused by raccoons and skunks is the most obvious, but is only secondary to the damage caused by the grub larvae.

Grub larvae live deep in the soil until spring or fall when they rise to the surface of your lawn to eat the roots of the grass. In areas where there are more than five to 10 grubs in each 1/3 square metre (one square foot) of lawn, you will see patches of dead grass. The most common grubs are the white grubs that are the juvenile stage of the June beetle or "June bug". Two other species are the European chafer and the Japanese beetle. Damage is often the most severe in spring and fall when the moisture in the soil is very high.

Grub Control

It is much easier to control newly hatched grubs than older ones. Turf should be kept healthy at all times. Grubs do most of their damage in the fall. 

Wildlife Deterrents

  • If you are using sensor lights, use one 100 watt bulb for every 15 square metres (16 square yards).
  • If you use pure soap flakes, sprinkle them generously near the affected area and remember to water thoroughly. Other repellents such as Tabasco Sauce, cayenne pepper and even dirty cat litter can be used but anything put only on the surface of the lawn may not be as effective. The animal may dig through the repellent and continue digging up your lawn.
  • Try using a scarecrow.
  • Stake out an area of the lawn with string placed about 30 cm (one foot) off the ground. Tie noisy objects or aluminum pie plates to the string so they hang and blow in the wind. Staking the string in a zigzag pattern may confuse the intruders. Keep this in place for spring and again in fall.
  • Wind chimes or a radio tuned to a talk show can scare animals away.
  • Try several methods at the same time

Also see how to wildlife-proof your home.