Urban Wildlife FAQs
found a baby bird on the ground. What should I do?
I found a nest of baby cottontails.
What should I do?
I found a baby squirrel.
What should I do?
I found an injured bird.
What should I do?
Does WHS set live traps to
catch nuisance wildlife?
I have a wild animal (or bird)
in my basement. What should I do?
I have a wild animal
trapped in my dumpster or garbage can. What should
I think I have a wild animal
or bird in my chimney. What should I do?
Wild animals are eating
my flowers and my garden plants. What can I do?
I have a wild animal living
under my porch or deck. What can I do?
I have a wild animal living
in my attic, eaves, garage or shed. What can I do?
a baby bird on the ground. What should I do?
A nestling, that is a naked or down-covered baby,
found on the ground should be put back in its nest,
if at all possible. If the youngster is cool to the
touch, it should be gently warmed in your hands before
placing it back in the nest; the parents will not
reject it because a human has touched it. However,
there is an exception. Baby ducks and geese are walked
to water from the nest soon after hatching. If you
find a duckling or gosling at the nest after the mother
and siblings have left, please call to speak with
a wildlife staff person.
If the nest has fallen down, it can often be put back
in place, or a substitute nest can be made from a
berry basket, or an empty, clean margarine tub with
several holes punched in the bottom for drainage.
This can be wired in the location of the original
nest. The basket or bowl should be lined with some
of the original nest material, if possible, or some
dry grass. Once returned to the nest, the nestling
should be watched or checked every half-hour or so
to make sure the parents have returned to care for
the young bird. Be sure to watch from cover, such
as from inside your house to avoid scaring the parents.
Fledgling songbirds are fully feathered. They leave
the nest before they are able to fly and spend several
days learning to fly on the ground. They are especially
vulnerable to predator attacks at this time, but the
parents continue to feed and attempt to defend the
young bird during this period. If you feel a fledgling
bird you have found is in immediate danger, you may
place it in a bush or on a low tree branch to get
it out of harm's way. If you are concerned that the
bird may be orphaned, watch carefully, because it
only takes the parent a few seconds to land next to
the youngster, feed it, and take off again in search
of more food.
In any case, if the young bird you have found appears
to be sick or injured, or if it appears to be orphaned,
or if you have found a young owl, hawk, heron, duck,
or goose, please speak with our Wildlife Rehabilitation
Center staff at (414) 431- 6137, for further advice.
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a nest of baby cottontails. What should I do?
A typical cottontail nest is a shallow scrape in the
ground, covered with fur and grass, often in the middle
of a lawn. The mother rabbit only visits the nest
at night, to avoid attracting attention to it. The
young rabbits become independent of their mother at
about four weeks of age, when they are only about
4 to 5 inches long from nose to rump.
If you have found a rabbit nest in your yard, simply
mark the location so you can mow around it. Instruct
children to not disturb the nest and keep your pets
leashed or use another exercise area for the few weeks
it takes for the youngsters to disperse from the immediate
area. The same advice applies if you have seen young
rabbits in your yard, though they should disperse
within several days.
If you suspect a nest has been abandoned, place two
or more twigs or pieces of string criss-crossed in
an "x" over the nest in the evening. Check
the nest first thing in the morning. If the twigs
have been disturbed, the mother is evidently caring
for the babies. If it has not been disturbed, the
babies may be orphaned. They will need to be transported
to your local licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Do
not feed the bunnies or offer them food or water.
If you live in Milwaukee County, call (414) 431-6137
for further assistance.
If you have run over a nest with a lawn mower, check
all babies for injuries. Uninjured ones should be
placed back in the nest and the nest re-covered. Injured
bunnies should be transported to your local licensed
wildlife rehabilitator in a paper towel-lined, covered
box with small holes for ventilation.
If your child brings home a young cottontail and you
are wondering how to care for it... DON'T. You must
be licensed by the state to care for wildlife in your
home and cottontails have very special dietary needs;
improper feeding will likely cause serious illness
or death. Its best chance for survival is to put it
back where it was found, unless found in the road
or other dangerous situation. If its eyes are closed,
it must be placed back into the nest. The mother will
not reject it simply because it has been touched.
If its eyes are open and it is at least four inches
long and able to hop around, it is self-sufficient
and should be returned to the same location.
For a young rabbit found in a window well: if it appears
to be healthy, active and uninjured, remove it from
the window well and place it nearby, preferably under
some bushes. Cover the well so it cannot fall back
If it is weak, injured, listless or appears ill, it
will probably need to be transported to your local
wildlife rehabiltator. In all cases, where care is
necessary, if the animal was found in Milwaukee County,
it may be brought to us or call (414) 431-6137.
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a baby squirrel. What should I do?
A young squirrel found without its mother immediately
present does not always need human assistance. If
the squirrel's eyes are open, it seems to be uninjured
and it can climb up a tree, leave it alone - the mother
is probably close by and the young squirrel is just
out exploring on its own. If its eyes are open, but
it appears to be sick or injured, speak with our wildlife
staff for advice.
If its eyes are still sealed shut, it has probably
fallen from its nest. If uninjured, the youngster
should be placed back in its nest. But first, touch
the infant. If it feels cool to the touch, it should
be carefully warmed by holding it gently in your hands,
or placed on a hot water bottle filled with very warm
water. A zip-type plastic bag may be used if no water
bottle is available.
If the squirrel cannot safely be placed back in its
nest, place it on the warm-water filled bag or bottle
and place it at the base of the tree containing the
nest. Do not put food or water in the box. There is
a good chance the mother will find the baby and return
it to the nest. Keep an eye on the young squirrel
from indoors so your presence doesn't prevent the
mother from returning, and you can also watch for
possible predators, such as a stray cat. If after
an hour the mother hasn't retrieved the baby, call
your local licensed wildlife rehabilitator or humane
society for further advice.
Please do not attempt to raise the animal yourself.
They do not make good pets, it is illegal, and they
require a special diet, housing and care if they are
to be returned to the wild with any chance for long-term
If you have found an animal in Milwaukee County which
you believe is injured or has been demonstrated to
be truly orphaned, please speak with the WHS Wildlife
Department at (414)431-6137 for advice regarding transport
to our facility for care. While awaiting transport,
do not provide the animal with any food or water,
unless you are directed to do so by a Wildlife Center
staff person. For animals found outside of Milwaukee
County, contact your local wildlife rehabilitator
or humane society. You can call 414-ANIMALS ext. 6542
for a listing of some these outside areas.
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an injured bird. What should I do?
Rapid first aid is extremely important for an injured
bird. The best first aid for an injured bird is dark,
quiet and rest. Place something over the bird to contain
it, ideally a box or basket, but even a towel or an
article of clothing will work.
If a bird has collided with your window and is on
the ground, gently capture it with gloves or by draping
it with a towel and place it in a box or paper grocery
bag that has small air holes poked on the side. Close
the container and place it in a dark, quiet, warm
place where it will be undisturbed for an hour. After
an hour, open the container outdoors. If the bird
flies out and up to a branch, it has recovered. If
it does not fly, flies weakly or in circles, or if
it appears to be injured, close the container or recapture
the bird and bring it to the nearest wildlife rehabilitator.
If you are in
Milwaukee County, bring the bird to us or call (414)
431- 6137. If you are outside of Milwaukee County,
bring the bird to your local humane society or wildlife
rehabilitator. In order to minimize stress for the
bird, do not play your car radio and keep noise
to a minimum during transport. For very large injured
birds such as owls, hawks, herons, or others, please
talk to our staff for advice and possible assistance
from a trained rescuer.
Birds collide with windows because of the reflections
on the glass. Prevent window collisions by applying
"Whispering Windows" static window clings
on the outside of problem windows. Whispering Windows
are available through Wally's
Workbench. For more information about
preventing bird/window collisions, visit our "WINGS"
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WHS set live traps to catch nuisance wildlife?
Live-trapping does not provide any long-term solution
to a nuisance problem, as another animal is likely
to move into the area vacated by the trapped and
transported animal. Live-trapping also separates
mothers from their young and vice versa, consequently
causing the death of young animals still dependent
on the parent. It also moves an animal to an unfamiliar
habitat where the animal has no shelter, does not
know the location of food and water sources, is
likely to have to compete for living space with
resident animals of its kind.
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a wild animal or bird in my basement. What should
In most cases, a wild bird or animal in a basement
will be able to leave on its own if it is given a
means of exit. This is best done by opening the basement
windows and turning off the lights in the basement.
If there is a doorway to the outside at the top of
the basement stairs, this should also be opened. The
animal should recognize the open doors or windows
as exits and leave within an hour or two. Any windows
that do not open should be covered with a towel or
blanket so the animal will not be attracted to the
light coming in these exits.
Instead of opening all of the windows and doors, you
may choose to open only one and darken all of the
others. Again, turn the lights out so the animal is
attracted to the light coming in the open window or
door. Keep people and pets out of the basement so
they don't scare the animal into hiding.
In situations involving chipmunks and squirrels, a
light coating of powdered sugar or flour can be sprinkled
on the windowsill. After a few hours look for the
animals' footprints in the sugar or flour to determine
if the animal has left.
Animals or birds in basements have almost always come
in through the chimney and furnace system. We strongly
recommend that everyone cap his or her chimney to
prevent this problem from recurring. A chimney cap
is a wire mesh and sheet metal cover that fits over
the top of the chimney pipes outside of your home.
They are available at many hardware stores or a chimney
sweep can be contacted for purchase and installation.
You may also purchase one at WHS. Click
here for more information.
For Milwaukee County residents, if you have followed
these instructions and the animal or bird has not
left after a few hours, please call (414) 431-6204
to speak with our staff for further recommendations.
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have a wild animal trapped in my dumpster or garbage
can. What should I do?
If you have a wild animal such as an adult raccoon
in your dumpster, as long as it is NOT the day the
dumpster will be picked up or emptied, a large branch
or board should be placed in the dumpster at a shallow
angle leading up to the top of the container. The
lid of the dumpster should be left open to allow
the animal to exit. It is important to know that
raccoons are generally active only at night, so
it may not leave until after dark. Keep human activity
to a minimum in the area around the dumpster so
the animal will not be too frightened to leave.
If the dumpster is scheduled for emptying or pickup
that same day, please speak with our staff about
getting the animal rescued before the container
If the adult animal is in a garbage cart or can,
the container can usually simply be gently tipped
over on its side with the lid open and the animal
allowed to leave on its own. Again, the animal may
not wish to leave during the daytime, especially
if there is human activity in the area. If there
is much traffic or if there are children in the
area, wait until dusk to lay the cart or can on
If you have a situation involving young or juvenile
animals without their mother in a dumpster or garbage
cart, please speak to our staff at (414) 431- 6204
directly for advice.
In the future, these problems can usually be avoided
by keeping the lid of the dumpster closed, especially
at night. The lids on trash carts and garbage cans
should be held closed with bungee cords. Bungee
cords are inexpensive stretchable bands of rubber
or elastic with a hook on each end and are available
at hardware stores.
One final preventative
measure is to pour 1/4 cup of ammonia in the garbage
bag before sealing it and placing it into the trash
can. Ammonia will minimize the food odor and thus
make it less likely that animals will follow the
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a wild animal or bird in my chimney. What should I
Only one animal that gets into a chimney can get out
on its own, that's a raccoon. All other creatures
will need to be helped out. How can you tell what
kind of animal it is? If you haven't seen it, you
must identify it by sound. Bang on the damper door
and see what response you get: Fluttering and flapping
is bird's wings; scratching and squeaking is a squirrel;
grunting, or, in the case of babies, high-pitched
trilling means raccoons.
Never light a fire or try to smoke animals
out! This can result in tragic injury or
death for the animals and dangerous fire and smoke
possibilities for people, and is usually unsuccessful
Instead, if you have a raccoon family, you may choose
to simply allow the young grow up and leave on their
own. If not, you could place a bright light in the
chimney - a mechanic's trouble light works well -
and keep continuous noise nearby, such as a radio
turned to a rock or a talk station, especially at
night when raccoons are active. If you don't wish
to deal with the situation yourself, you can call
Neighbors: Humane Wildlife Solutions.
There are a few chimneys that even raccoons can't
climb out of; these have bell or cone-shaped smoke
chambers above the fireplace. Providing a length of
old knotted bed sheets tied together and secured at
the top of the chimney extending all the way down
to the animal's level will allow it to climb out.
A squirrel may be able to climb out if a heavy knotted
rope is dropped down from the top. Otherwise, the
squirrel must exit through the fireplace or furnace
duct in daytime. A quiet, darkened room with only
one lighted opening will encourage a swift exit.
Birds, too, will usually fly toward a light. Make
sure that all windows and doorways that are not to
be exits are covered with blankets or drapes. Keep
pets away and noise to an absolute minimum.
However, prevention is the best method for keeping
your chimney clear of wild animals. When the event
is over, be sure to cap your chimney with a commercial
metal chimney cap to prevent the problem from recurring.
Neighbors: Humane Wildlife Solutions
can humanely remove animals from a chimney and can
install a chimney cap for you; call (414)
If you reside in Milwaukee County and need further
information or assistance, call (414) 431-6137 to
speak with the wildlife staff.
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animals are eating my flowers and plants. What can
Animals eating flowers or other garden plants are
common problems. There are several methods you can
employ to keep your garden safe from foraging animals.
The most effective,
long-term solution is to install fencing around
your garden. It should be at least 4 feet high and
ideally buried 12" below ground. This will
discourage digging animals such as woodchucks. But
even an 18" high fence should keep rabbits
out. Remove any brush piles that may be attracting
Several plants are
offensive to some wildlife and can therefore replace
or serve to protect preferred ones. These include
marigolds, garlic, onions, iris, peonies, daylilies,
begonias, boxwood, witch hazel, bayberry, willow,
highbush, cranberry, daffodils, snapdragons and silver
- Place human
or dog hair around affected areas.
- Use an artificial
owl or fake snake to try to scare animals away.
This should be moved periodically or else the
animals will get used to it.
- Sprinkle dried
blood, red or black pepper or chili powder around
Place wire mesh
cages around vulnerable plants.
- Tabasco sauce
mixed with water can be sprayed on edible plants,
then washed off for human consumption.
- Two safe
animal repellents, Liquid Fence, and Ropel, are
available at Wally's
Workbench at WHS or online.
Please remember: if you plant flowers or a garden,
you will attract wildlife. Trapping and relocating
an animal is merely a short term fix, as more animals
will take their place and you may be taking a parent
animal away from its young.
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have a wild animal under my porch/deck. What can I
First, decide whether the animal's presence really
poses a problem for you. If not, leave it alone. If
you really believe it does, you will need to determine
where the animal's entry point. Once the entry point
has been found, you will need three things: a bright
light such as a mechanic's trouble light, a radio
and some type of safe repellent, such as ammonia-soaked
Shine the light and place the radio under the deck
or outside the animal's entrance. Tune it to a hard
rock or talk show station. Soak rags with ammonia
and place them near the entrance. Now you have made
this dark, quiet place bright, noisy and smelly.
It is important to do this for three days; day and
night. The rags will need to be re-soaked one or two
times a day. If the animal has babies, this will give
her enough time to relocate them safely.
To determine if the animal is gone, heavily sprinkle
flour or baby powder in front of the entrance. Or,
loosely ball-up some newspaper and place it in the
hole. If there are no tracks or the newspaper is not
disturbed in a 24-hour period, the animal has moved
out and the entrance should be sealed off immediately.
Trapping and relocating an animal is usually ineffective
in the long run and often inhumane, especially in
spring and summer when babies could be left behind
to starve to death.
Please remember, anytime you have an opening underneath
a deck or porch, wild animals will make a home there.
To prevent a future wildlife problem, seal off all
openings using bricks or hardware cloth or heavy metal
mesh, ideally the bottom of which is buried 12"
below the ground. Good
Neighbors: Humane Wildlife Solutions can
secure your porch or deck against animal entry. Call
them at 414-431-6202
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have a wild animal living in my attic, eaves, garage
or shed. What can I do?
Most animals gain access through pre-existing holes
in rotten wood or loose panels. An animal usually
opts to take up residence in your attic or garage
because it wants a dark, quiet, warm place where it
can be undisturbed. Fortunately, it is relatively
easy to convince the animal to relocate.
If it is winter, we recommend leaving the animal alone
until the season warms; it may have a hard time finding
a new home. In cases where there are baby animals,
we suggest waiting until the young are grown and have
left the nesting area. To get an animal to leave on
its own, take away what it came for - the dark, the
quiet and definitely any source of food. Make the
area bright with blinking, flashing or steady lights
near the animals. Make sure the light can't tip over
to start a fire! Keep continuous noise in the attic,
garage or eaves by turning on a radio tuned to a talk
or rock station as loud as you reasonably can.
Do not use any toxic substances as a repellent. Instead,
try "hazing" with lights and noise to drive
out birds after nesting season. Use anything that
flaps, flutters or flashes to keep them away - windsocks,
ribbons, foil dishes, wind chimes.
Mammals are likely to stay away after sturdy home
repairs make their hideout unavailable. To make sure
the animal has definitely moved out, first cover the
entrance with paper. If the paper is undisturbed a
day later, solid repairs should begin immediately.
Otherwise, continue hazing with noise and lights.
We discourage the trapping and moving of animals.
Doing so may cause young to be orphaned and separates
the animal from its known food and shelter areas.
Also, another animal is likely to move in, if the
hole that allows the animal access is not properly
repaired. Call Good
Neighbors: Humane Wildlife Solutions at
414-431-6202 for help solving your
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