• A blackbird on a bird feeder in British Columbia. Birdfeeders should be located close to windows to prevent birds from flying into windows. (Photo: tgreyfox/Creative Commons)

What do you do if you have a raccoon in your attic? Or skunks under the back porch? Where’s the best place to hang a birdfeeder?

These questions and more were discussed by a speakers panel last Friday at the City of Ottawa’s wildlife speakers series, with this session focusing on backyard biodiversity and how to invite nature into the yard.

Nicholas Stow, an ecologist and senior planner for the City of Ottawa, says that the strategy should be coexistence through respect and understanding. “Most of the concerns that people have are very easily resolved with a little bit of knowledge,” he says. “That’s what we’re trying to give people.”

Stow says that it's currently birthing season for a lot of urban wildlife, like squirrels, raccoons and skunks. “It’s this season when people are most likely to begin noticing wildlife in their homes.”

Bill Dowd, founder of Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control. (Photo: Thomas Hall)

The backyard biodiversity session is one of four sessions that is part of the City of Ottawa's wildlife speakers series. (Photo: Thomas Hall)

To address the conundrum of inviting wildlife into your backyard while keeping it from getting too close, Sarah Kirkpatrick-Wahl, conservation coordinator at Nature Canada, had several tips.

  • Hang birdfeeders close to windows as this actually prevents birds from flying into windows. Homeowners should be sure to keep them clean because mold can grow in wet seeds.
  • Think of wildlife when you’re planting your garden. Try to have a variety of plants that are pollinator friendly and bloom all summer.
  • Plant milkweed. Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed, and once the caterpillars have hatched, they only feed on milkweed. By planting milkweed, you can create an urban haven for monarchs and other butterflies.

While seeing wildlife may be a treat, having unwanted visitors enter homes is not. Bill Dowd, founder of Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control, provided suggestions on keeping wildlife out of houses.

  • Inspect your home at least four times a year. Look for ripped up shingles and damage to soffits and other parts of the roof. Also, check the insulation in the attic for evidence of mice or other animals. This type of damage can be a warning sign that something has made itself at home.
  • Screen common entry points for urban wildlife, like chimneys and vents. Animals get inside and make nests, which can cause anything from fire hazards to bad smells.
  • Garbage should be kept in safe containers and only put out first thing in the morning. This prevents animals from getting too comfortable, treating a house as a potential food source.