Part 1: Dealing With Wild Animals in the Wildland-Urban Interface

Part 1: Dealing With Wild Animals in the Wildland-Urban Interface

Photo: Franco Folini/Flickr Creative Commons

Part One of a Three-Part Series by District 6 neighbors Dave Marshall and Nancy Bain

Many people who live in Austin’s District 6 live in areas that border on wilderness preserves or in areas that have recently been reclaimed from the wilderness for urban development. This creates a real tension between man and wild animals. We want to keep our properties safe and yet be able to live with the interesting wildlife that might be in the area.

More humans now live in cities than on farms, in forests, or in the countryside. We continue to coexist with wildlife nonetheless, and it seems human and animal habitats are intersecting more often today. But it’s not just that wild animals have moved into our neighborhoods; humans have moved into theirs. We have in the last few decades made the wild more urban, pushing deeper into the country and higher into the hills, and building on ever-steeper slopes. A 2013 report by the research firm CoreLogic found that of the 17 million homes built in the U.S. between 1990 and 2008, 10 million were built in the “wildland-urban interface,” or WUI, where the city collides with the outback.

Simultaneously awed and terrified by our urban critters, we are at a loss to understand them. We leave food out for cats, but coyotes eat it; providing easy meals to unintended visitors could create conflict with pets. We lure rats into boxes to gorge on blood-thinning poisons, not considering that the rats spread the poison up the food chain, endangering other animals and humans who may consume them. We chop down rotting trees in the name of neighborhood beautification, destroying the homes of woodpeckers and other birds. We deposit brush in piles behind our homes, causing habits for wildlife and increasing fire danger. We build roadways across canyons and lock animals into isolated parks that ensures their genetic decline. We build houses on hillsides that disrupt movement critical to their hunting, hiding, and sheltering.

But there are things we can do to make sure human safety and allow our wild animals to stay wild. While some people would like to exterminate these wild animals, this is not recommended or supported by our wildlife professionals. Remember it is unlawful to discharge a weapon in the city limits. If a wild animal must be relocated, it is imperative to engage a trained professional. However, this practice does not always work. Often, the void will be filled by another animal.

What to Do Around Your Home and Neighborhood – Excerpt From Austin Animal Center

  • Keep wildlife wild – don’t feed them!
  • Do not feed pets outside or leave pet food outside
  • Check your property for and eliminate potential sources of food and water
    • Clean up bird seed on the ground
    • Keep barbecue grills clean
    • Tightly cover and secure garbage cans and compost bins
    • Clean up under fruit and nut trees
    • Eliminate artificial water sources
  • Trim brush and shrubbery near ground level
  • Make sure fences are secure and close off crawl spaces under porches, decks and sheds
  • Keep small pets inside if possible and monitor them when outside
  • Provide sturdy secure shelters for poultry or other animals living outside
  • Always follow leash laws and walk dogs on leashes 6’ or less in length
  • Be aware of possible coyote den sites when in parks or other natural areas. Coyotes are protective of pups and may view people or dogs (even larger dogs) as interlopers. Coyotes den, mate and birth pups generally from January to June and are most territorial then.
  • Install motion activated sprinklers or outdoor lighting around your property
  • Install a coyote roller addition to fencing that it is 6-feet high (A coyote roller is a 4-foot, aluminum extruded ribbed roller designed to prevent animals from getting the foothold they need to climb over a fence.)

Texas Parks and Wildlife and Huston-Tillotson University are collaborating on a study to learn more about the coyotes moving into the city limits.

For further assistance contact an Animal Protection Officer at the Austin Animal Center.

Stay tuned to for Parts 2 & 3 in our Wild Wild Life Series!