If you’re lucky and you’ve created a balanced backyard habitat, a complex interdependent web of living creatures is sharing your property and providing rewarding wildlife viewing experiences. You’ve probably noticed that you can’t always pick and choose which animals may move through your yard. If you’ve done a good job of creating habitat, the songbirds, rabbits, squirrels and frogs that you expected to attract may get noticed by predators you didn’t anticipate. For example, songbirds may concentrate around a feeder and get noticed by a hungry sharp-shinned hawk or a gray rat snake. Bird seed that falls to the ground and attracts squirrels or rabbits may, in turn, attract a red or gray fox. The presence of these animals represents a healthy habitat and demonstrates a functioning food web.
In certain parts of Florida you may see the occasional Florida black bear or even the elusive Florida panther. Rare visits are not necessarily a problem, but you should work to outsmart or exclude these visitors when you start seeing them regularly. This also applies to smaller mammals such as raccoons, which can be destructive nuisances, eager to exploit food sources such as garbage, pet food, bird seed or even livestock feed. Similarly, black bears, though wary of people, are driven by their need to eat, so anything that is accessible and can be eaten is a potential bear attractant.
Fruit producing trees and shrubs are a favorite seasonal food for bears. You can secure these plants by using electric fencing , which provides a safe but effective deterrent for bears and other wildlife. Garbage is by far the biggest attractant and a food source most likely to contain items harmful for all wildlife. Use animal-resistant trash containers to store trash and wildlife or bird food. Don’t leave pet food out overnight or stock feeders with more than a day’s worth of seed. Use squirrel-proof bird feeders to deter raccoons. Promptly clean meat smokers and barbeque grills after use. If a problem develops, you may have to modify the placement of your bird feeders or remove them. Remember that birds don’t need supplemental feeding; native plants attract the greatest variety of birds and other wildlife.
Find more information at Living with Wildlife and in the brochures below.