Tips on Living with Wildlife 

Published 10:32 pm Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Now that spring is underway and the weather is warmer, wild animals are becoming more active, people are spending more time outside and interactions between the two typically lead to an increase in phone calls to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s Wildlife Helpline. 

Very often the advice agency biologists give to callers who are concerned about wildlife in their backyards is to do nothing. While some encounters may call for action, the majority of the time, wildlife should be left alone and enjoyed from a distance.

Snakes won’t bite if left alone and they will usually retreat if given the opportunity. Most snakes, even venomous ones, would much rather escape from people than bite them. Snakes don’t view humans as a food source, and they prefer not to use valuable energy or venom in self-defense. Most snakebites occur when a person picks up a snake, steps on one accidently or tries to kill one. Depending on the species, killing a snake can be illegal. 

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The Commission does not send people out to trap and remove snakes since removing one snake is not going to prevent another one from taking its place. Here are a few tips that people can follow to make their backyards less hospitable to snakes.
• Clean up clutter by removing piles of rocks, wood and other debris that attract rodents and snakes.
• Keep lawn grass cut short. Snakes prefer tall grasses that provide shelter for themselves and for their prey. They’re also easier to spot in shorter grass.
• Close gaps and holes, repairing damage to siding and foundation and seal openings under doors, windows and around water pipes to discourage snakes from entering your home.

Making your backyards less hospitable to snakes can also deter other wildlife, such as foxes. It is increasingly common to see foxes during the daytime and is not a sign the fox is sick. Spring time is when female foxes search for sheltered places to give birth and raise their young. Foxes are particularly fond of enclosed, cubby-like spaces. 

In North Carolina it is illegal to relocate or trap foxes outside the regulated trapping season without a depredation permit. Homeowners should employee non-lethal deterrents to make foxes uncomfortable enough to leave on their own.
Deterrents like flashing lights, portable radios tuned to a talk station or motion-activated water sprinklers can convince foxes to go elsewhere. Even if they have already had pups, foxes will typically relocate if the den site becomes too uncomfortable or they perceive the area is dangerous for their pups. 

Foxes only use a den while raising young, so once the pups are old enough to survive outside – usually by mid to late summer – they will abandon the den and move on.

Similar to foxes, coyotes are now a common sight throughout North Carolina, including in residential and urban settings. While coyotes usually are wary of people and avoid human contact, everyone, when outdoors, should be “coyote smart.” 

If you do encounter a coyote, don’t panic – coyote attacks on people are extremely rare. Hazing, or standing your ground and shouting, waving or throwing small objects should be enough to scare away a curious coyote. This also keeps them properly fearful of people. 

To keep coyotes, foxes and otherwise wildlife from around your home, here are a few tips:
• Never intentionally feed wildlife; doing so rewards them for coming near humans. This can cause a wild animal to lose its natural fear of humans, which in some cases leads to bold or aggressive behavior.
• Eliminate unintentional food sources by removing food when your pet is finished eating outside, securing garbage inside a building or in wildlife-resistant containers, removing fallen fruit from around trees and use bird feeders that keep seeds off the ground. Foxes and coyotes are attracted to small animals gathered around bird feeders, so it is recommended that feeders be removed during the summer.
• Keep your yard free of debris piles, dense grasses or shrubs or other areas that could provide shelter for animals you don’t want around.

For more information, call the N.C. Wildlife Helpline toll-free at 866-318-2401 or visit

– Submitted by NCWRC