Wildlife can live and thrive in urban environments. Many species have successfully adapted in Huntsville and can be seen throughout the area. A sampling includes:
- Coyotes, foxes and bobcats prey on small animals such as rodents.
- Omnivores such as raccoons and skunks mainly come out at night. Recently, the armadillo joins these other omnivores in north Alabama as common urban wildlife seen by citizens. Opossums eat both rodents and plants.
- Rabbits and deer are herbivores and can be seen foraging in the early morning and evening. Shy of humans, deer are often spotted as a mother with fawns or a lone buck creeping through the trees and bushes. As whitetails prefer forest edge and meadow to actual dense forest, the cutting of forests has actually made more habitat for the white-tailed deer, which has increased its numbers. In some cities, older deer seem to have learned how to cross the street, as they look back and forth while crossing roads looking for cars while fawns and younger deer will recklessly run out without looking. Interestingly enough, most traffic accidents involving deer happen with deer that have just left their mother and are less likely to watch for cars.
- The American alligator, a once-threatened species that was saved from extinction through farming and conservation, can frequently be found living in open areas with access to water, such as golf courses and parks, in its native range. In the North Alabama region, alligators have been reported on Redstone Arsenal and the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge. These animals sometimes come into conflict with humans and will open garbage bags in search of food, eat food left outdoors for pets, take unattended pets (mainly cats and dogs under 20 pounds), feed on prized garden plants, dig up lawns or pose as traffic hazards when they run out into the road.
HOW DO I PREVENT URBAN WILDLIFE FROM COMING ON MY PROPERTY?
Seek harmony by respecting the wild nature of these animals. Never intentionally or unintentionally provide a food or denning location. Dog and cat food and bird feeders tend to be the most common source of unintentional feeding. Attempts to ‘tame’ raccoons or bobcats through feeding typically leads to the death of the animal once it uses the doggie door, breaks a window or inflicts other destruction to the home, or literally bites the hand that feeds it.
HOW DO I PREVENT LANDSCAPE DESTRUCTION CAUSED BY URBAN WILDLIFE?
Chipmunks, squirrels, ground hogs, armadillos, etc. look to hide nuts, create a burrow, or seek a yummy worm snack by digging in the ground – and this includes a beautifully landscaped yard. Residents can help keep wildlife from nesting in their attics and crawl spaces by making regular home repairs, such as replacing rotting facial boards and securing any exterior access. Nuisance wildlife complaints should be directed to a wildlife specialist – someone who specializes in animal removal. A quick Google search of the Internet may also provide a list of deterrents that discourage the animal’s behavior.
SMALL PET & CHILDREN SAFETY
Huntsville Animal Services receives many calls from concerned citizens regarding the safety of pets, children and themselves when confronted with urban wildlife. There is rarely a danger to the public unless someone is attempting to pet, hand-feed, or catch a wild animal. We advise the public to never, ever handle or touch any wildlife. A cautionary note – free roaming cats and unattended dogs under 20 pounds might be taken by a coyote or bobcat as a meal.
A primary fear is that foxes, bats, coyotes, raccoons and skunks have the Rabies virus. While the virus is a possibility, it is extremely rare in Huntsville’s urban wildlife population. As of 2015, the United States Department of Agriculture has not found a single case of Rabies virus on the deceased bodies of Huntsville’s urban wildlife.
REPORTING DEAD WILDLIFE
Use the Huntsville Connect service request platform or call Animal Services dispatch to remove dead animals from our public roadways.
REPORTING SICK OR INJURED WILDLIFE
Sick or injured wildlife should be reported to this department. Animal Services is passionate about helping urban wildlife if and when they need assistance. Most species are humanely euthanized, but certain species such as eagles are often placed with certified wildlife rehabilitation professionals based on State of Alabama and Federal guidelines.