Wildlife Resolutions

By Claire Garvais   |   January 10, 2019
A bobcat kitten found near Sycamore Canyon road in Montecito (photo by SBWCN Staff Member Jessie Zamichow)

Many of us have New Year’s resolutions for 2019. It’s common to shoot for the stars and find out that two weeks into January our resolutions are more difficult to keep up than we thought. Not to worry! Here’s an easy resolution to stick with all year: saving wild lives.

The finches at our feeders, pelicans at the harbor, and even the occasional opossums in our yards are all integral to our beautiful Santa Barbara ecosystem. The Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network is a nonprofit organization that cares for 3,300 of these animals yearly. We are happy to provide 12 easy tips to try our at home and around town that will save lives and make living in harmony with wildlife a breeze.

1. Clean bird feeders and baths regularly.

Dirty feeders and baths lead to unhealthy flocks. Keep your backyard visitors healthy by replacing bird seed after it rains to keep birds from consuming moldy seed. It’s also a good practice to clean bird feeders every one to two weeks (the cleaning process varies depending on the material from which your feeder is made, but can be found online easily).

Bird baths with murky, stagnant water spread diseases and encourage mosquito populations. Dump old water out of your bird bath and scrub with a solution of 1 part bleach, 9 parts water. Be sure to rinse your bath with water afterwards to get rid of any leftover chemicals. 

2. Keep trashcans closed.

Make sure your trash and recycling bins are firmly sealed to prevent wildlife, like raccoons, from getting into them. Eating trash is not good for them, and encourages them to hang out near your property, which can lead to problems for your household. 

3. Unwanted wild mammals in your yard? Use natural, humane repellent!

Wild mammals like opossums and skunks are great for ridding gardens of slugs, snails, ticks, and rats. If you find these visitors are becoming too much of a nuisance, we recommend using Critter Ridder, an animal repellent from the humane Havahart brand that uses hot peppers to deter mammals. You can also make your own pepper based repellent by chopping an onion, two jalapenos, and one tablespoon of cayenne pepper into two quarts of water. Boil, strain, and spray! Coyote urine is also very effective repellent and can be purchased inexpensively online. 

4. Do not leave pet food outside.

Cat and dog food attracts every kind of wild mammal. Bring pet food in, especially at night when these critters are most active. If they learn your home is a food source, it will be difficult to get them to leave. 

5. Put up ultraviolet decals to prevent window strikes.

One of the most common reasons for an adult bird to end up in our care is a window strike. Some birds are stunned and recover with a little TLC, but many others die from their injuries. Window decals prevent birds from striking windows. These do not have to be large, colorful monstrosities though! Ultraviolet window decals appear clear to the human eye, but shine in the eyes of birds. They are low cost and available on Amazon. Decals are especially recommended for large, uninterrupted panes of glass. 

6. Never use rodent poison or glue traps to deal with unwanted wildlife.

Rodenticide is a big problem in Santa Barbara County. Anticoagulant rodent poison does kill rodents effectively, but it also will kill anything that consumes the rodent body. This has caused many hawks, owls, coyotes, foxes, and even mountain lions to suffer and perish. Before thinking about using poison to rid an area of rodents, remember that it poisons the rest of the food chain as well. Glue traps also kill much more than the intended targets. Lizards and small birds frequently get stuck to the traps and starve. (Note: if you find a bird stuck in a glue trap, do not try to cut it out. Bring it and the trap to SBWCN at 1460 North Fairview Avenue). Try to find the source of your rodent problem like a crawl space that could be patched or a food source that could be removed.

7. Put up owl boxes in open spaces for natural rodenticide.

Owl boxes are easy to make or buy and provide excellent homes for barn owls! A single barn owl can eat up to 1,000 rodents in a year. That’s some pretty effective rodenticide! Owl boxes are great alternatives to traps and poisons. They work best in open spaces (one box per 20 acres of irrigated land is recommended). They may not be as effective in smaller, more urban spaces. 

8. Do not feed bread to ducks.

This is a hard one to swallow. Uneaten bread in pond water leads to cyanobacteria, dangerous algal blooms, and attracts rats. Too much bread, especially white bread, is harmful for ducks as it is not high in protein and contains levels of sugar and carbohydrates that can lead to malnutrition and improper growth. We don’t recommend feeding ducks to begin with, but healthier alternatives for them are oats, seeds, or lettuce. 

9. Save nests by trimming trees between October 1st and February 1st!

This is the period of time in which the fewest nests will be in the trees. Most birds nest outside of this timeframe, with the exception of pigeons and doves who nest year round. Be sure to still check your tree to make sure there are no occupied nests before trimming. 

10. Try to keep cats inside.

Cats present a huge problem for small wild animals. It is very hard for an animal who has been injured by a cat to recover from their injuries, as cat mouths and claws have a high concentration of dangerous bacteria. If you absolutely cannot keep your furry friend indoors, we recommend outfitting them with a breakaway bell collar. The bell will warn wildlife of your cat’s presence, and the easy breakaway clasp will prevent any injuries to your cat should their collar get caught on something.

11. Dispose of all fishing line, nets, and hooks properly. Don’t leave anything behind.

Improperly discarded fishing materials lead to gruesome injuries for seabirds. Save lives by keeping track of all line, nets, and hooks at all times. Try not to fish too close to areas where birds are feeding. If you see a bird caught on a hook or tangled in line, be sure to call SBWCN immediately at (805) 681-1080.

12. Put the SBWCN Helpline (805) 681-1080 into your contacts.

Our pets have us to take care of them, but wildlife in need has no primary caretaker; their first lines of defense are you and the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network. Please don’t hesitate to call our Helpline at (805) 681-1080 should you find an animal in need or if you need some wildlife advice. Animals can also be brought to our Wildlife Care Center at 1460 North Fairview Avenue in Goleta. If you have any questions about transporting an animal in need, please call us as well.

Do you think you could add saving wildlife to your New Year’s Resolutions? With these practices, we can all save wild lives. If you have any questions, comments, or wish to support wildlife by volunteering or with a donation, please reach out to contact@sbwcn.org. Thank you for supporting wildlife!


You might also be interested in...