unwantedRaccoons, opossums, and skunks exist in every neighborhood in Santa Cruz County. These three species have adapted very well to the arrival of the human species into rural and previously undeveloped areas and their habitat. They are often referred to as "urban wildlife" and can be found throughout the entire U.S.

For information on how to deal with unwanted wildlife guests, contact Native Animal Rescue.

  • For *marine mammals* (seals, sea lions, otters) please call Marine Mammal Center: 831-633-6298
  • For Capitola city and beach rescues: 831-471-1141
  • For New Brighton State Beach rescues: 831-464-3660
  • For Sea Cliff State Beach rescues: 831-685-6447
  • For Sunset State Beach rescues: 831-763-7063
  • For Manresa State Beach rescues: 831-724-3700
  • For *wild* birds, baby mammals, reptiles and amphibians call N.A.R: 831-462-0726 (messages answered as time permits), or bring them to: 1855 - 17th Avenue (north side of Capitola Road). N.A.R. is open 24/7.

  • Who's that knocking at my door?

    Opossum (1)
  • Why my house?

    While these wild animals can and do adapt to living closely with humans, for the most part they still prefer to avoid humans and dogs. If they do move closer to humans, it is generally for one of the following reasons:
    • Easy eats/free meals: someone is feeding dogs, cats, birds or other pets outdoors. Cat food, in particular is especially attractive and seems to draw wildlife from far away.
    • Other attractions: loose garbage, unattended/unsecured bird coops, small ponds with birds and/or goldfish.
    • Water: Droughts make it more difficult for all creatures to find enough (or any) water. Once one individual of the above species finds conditions ideal they move in and set up home nearby. These animals are all nocturnal, so they look for places that are dark, quiet, warm and cozy to sleep during the DAYTIME hours. From dusk to dawn is when they will be out foraging for food. The most obvious places for them to set up house include: Under houses or decks, in sheds or garages, in woodpiles, in walls of house and in attics.
  • They've moved in, now what?

    In order to co-exist with these animals and encourage them to move to a more acceptable living distance you must first eliminate the conditions that are attracting these animals to your property (See Why my house?).

    As long as the attractions exist on your property, you will continue to have these uninvited guests. Removing one of these animals by trapping will only buy you a little time before another one or a different species moves in to take its place.

    Next you must convince your unwelcome guest that the space he/she has learned to think of as "home" is no longer attractive. You can do this by using one or more of the following techniques:
    • Illuminate the area during the daylight hours. Hang a trouble light if possible, or shine a light into or under the space. They don't like well-lighted areas.
    • Play a radio or create other noises during the daytime to disturb the animal during his/her sleeping hours.
    • Place a wide-mouthed jar with holes in the lid and either ammonia -soaked rags or mothballs (use only one or the other or you will have a dangerous chemical reaction) in the area where the animal(s) is living. This will smell up the area and make it less desirable. (Do not throw loose mothballs into area; it is unhealthy for the animal if it comes in contact with them. We have had reports that the animals will just remove the mothballs) Finally, you must identify how the animal(s) is entering and exiting their living space. You can put down some flour, cornstarch, etc., by the spots that seem most likely to be used by the animal as entrances. You can then do some "amateur tracking." If you determine that there are more than one entrance and exit, close off all but one.  Then after several days of using the above described methods to discourage your uninvited guest, you can finally seal off the last opening once you are sure the animal is out. Use the flour tracking technique to verify that the animal is gone. The best time to do this would be at dusk when the animal(s) is most likely to be out looking for food. Smooth the flour over just before dusk, then watch for tracks leading out and make sure that none are heading back into the space.  Tracking should also give you information as to how many animals you are dealing with and must be accounted for before sealing the entrance.If you seal all openings without following the above suggestions, it is very likely that the animal will make an effort to dig or destroy its way back into its "home" space.

    The steps recommended above will usually discourage an animal from returning to the same space because it is no longer desirable as a home. If you think that just trapping the animal and relocating it seems much easier, consider the following:
    • If you don't change things, you will end up with another animal living there soon
    • Relocating these animals potentially creates a new problem for people living near relocation areas
    • Relocating the animals minimizes chances of survival for these animals and can dramatically increase the chance of spread of disease among different populations of the same species
    • These animals play an integral role in the health of local ecosystems. If an animal has become trapped in your garbage can, tip the can on its side. He/she will leave when they feel it is safe. If an animal has become trapped in a window well or pit, put a board or large pipe into the area so they can climb out. Cover such areas to prevent another occurrence.
  • How do I prevent them?

    • Pick up pet food at night
    • Cover garbage cans tightly
    • Keep fallen fruit picked up
    • Cover woodpiles to keep animals out
    • Seal any and all entrances or openings in porches, foundations, and outside stairways. Make sure foundation vents are secure.
    • Do not leave garage or sheds open at night
    • Put twenty-four inch wide sheet metal around fruit tree trunks to discourage climbing.
    • Initiate an insect control program. Controlling their prey will also help you control them.
    • Repellants can be helpful. However, they are just a temporary solution. Rain or heavy dew quickly washes most repellents away.
    • Protect poultry and rabbits by keeping the bird or animal area well secured at night. There are many night predators. Trapping is not a solution to this problem as removing one predator the area for another.
    • For Skunks: A three foot high wire mesh fence, extended six inches beneath the ground surface, will keep skunks out of the yard. Spotted skunks may scale this fence once in a while, but this type of activity is rare. To deter these climbing, agile skunks, erect the fence at an angle.
    • For Opossums: Bird netting can be purchased at hardware and garden departments to cover fruit and vegetable gardens.
    • Humane trapping is another temporary solution. In some areas skunks are protected by law because they are furbearers. Before you would pursue a trapping alternative, check the laws in your area.