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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Urban wildlife: Can we live with them?


A survey of Extension Wildlife Specialists in the U.S. provided a basis for estimating the magnitude of urban wildlife damage and control in this country. Response to the 9-question mail questionnaire was good (76 percent) following the single mailing to all Extension Wildlife Specialists or people in similar positions listed in the national directory. The majority of questions were answered based upon the experiences and best estimates of these specialists for the interval October 1986-September 1987. Specialists had difficulty providing estimates of damage and costs of prevention and control; 57 percent were not able to provide any data on these topics. Several of the questions dealt with attitudes of people requesting urban wildlife information and/or assistance and wide ranges of responses were received to most of these questions. Most people (78 percent) appeared willing to implement prevention/control measures recommended by these specialists, more than half (61 percent) wanted the animal handled/removed by someone else, and only about 40 percent wanted the damage stopped regardless of cost. Also, slightly over half (55 percent) of clientele represented did not want the offending animal harmed in any way. These results were highly variable from state to state. Several differences were noted in overall responses regarding urban wildlife species. Requests for information were received most frequently for bats and snakes, but both of these groups of animals ranked very low in terms of actual damage reported. The most frequently mentioned groups of animals causing damage in urban areas were roosting birds (including pigeons, starlings, and sparrows), woodpeckers (especially flickers), tree squirrels, bats, and moles. In terms of actual dollar values of damage done, white-tailed deer and pocket gophers apparently caused the most estimated damage. Due to these differences, it is necessary to know which criteria are being used to make an assessment of the relative importance of animal damage control problems. Techniques for controlling urban wildlife damage, such as exclusion, live-trapping, repellents, and poisons, are compared and discussed in some detail in this paper. As urbanization occurs across the nation, concerns about urban wildlife damage will continue; in most cases, we can and will live among these creatures.

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