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Wildlife in Your Florida Backyard? Here’s What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Do

by BROOKE GOLD HASSON | Oct 17, 2016

Raccoons and other wildlife in your Florida BackyardFlorida is a biologically rich and diverse state that’s home to thousands of different wildlife species – and there’s a good chance you’ll encounter some of them in your own backyard.

While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the wildlife, it’s important to take certain precautions to keep your family and pets safe.

Here are six helpful suggestions for safely interacting with wildlife in your Florida backyard:

Install Fencing Around Your Backyard

Installing a fence around the perimeter of your backyard can deter most animals from entering your property. If you can’t build a fence around your yard for financial reasons or due to homeowners association regulations, consider at least fencing your garden. Deer, rabbits and armadillos love to eat flowers and vegetation, so if left unprotected, your flourishing garden may quickly turn into a barren wasteland of roots and dirt.

Keep Food Out of Reach

Animals of all types and sizes are drawn to the smell of food. Raccoons are notorious for knocking over trash cans, and bears have been spotted destroying trash containers in their search for food.

A trash can with a tight-fitting lid can help keep out smaller animals like raccoons. If bears are a problem in your area, consider investing in a locking trash can, or keep trash cans in a secure area that’s out of sight.

Don’t Feed Wildlife (Except for Birds and Squirrels)

You should never feed human food to wildlife in your backyard. Not only can it cause significant health problems, it also teaches wild animals not to fear humans, draws them into more populated areas, and can even spread disease.

It’s OK to have birdfeeders for small animals like birds and squirrels, but be aware that bears, raccoons and possums are also attracted to birdseed. If you have extra birdseed on hand, store it in a safe, secure area.

Keep Your Distance

When you spot a wild animal in your backyard – especially a cute, fluffy one – you may be tempted to get closer for a better look or even to pet it. This should be avoided for several reasons. First, if a nocturnal animal is in your yard during the day, it may be because it has rabies. Animals with rabies tend to be aggressive, often resorting to biting when threatened. And we all know what happens next…

Second, it’s not uncommon for alligators to wander into Florida backyards, especially if you live near a lake, river or swamp. Alligators are surprisingly fast and should never be approached for any reason.

Keep a Close Watch on Small Pets

Small pets can be particularly vulnerable to attack by wild animals. If you live in an area known for alligators or bears, keep an especially close eye on your pets while they’re outside. If your pet sees a wild animal and goes to investigate, they could get seriously hurt or even killed.

Call Animal Control

If you have any doubts about wildlife spotted in your Florida backyard, notify your local animal control service to come out and handle it. They are trained to capture wild animals in a safe manner. Additionally, animal control can release the animal in an appropriate location so it won’t continue to disturb homeowners.


Nuisance Animal

What to Do in Florida

Dog, Cat, Horse

Contact your County Animal Control Office or Humane Society.

Raccoon, Opossum, Armadillo

These wild animals may be captured with live traps or snares and removed if they cause (or will cause) property damage, present a threat to public safety, or cause an annoyance within, under or upon a building.

Need to hire a nuisance wildlife trapper? Consult the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission’s list of Nuisance Wildlife Trappers that Operate in Your County.

Waterfowl (Mallards, Muscovy Ducks, Canada Geese)

Removal of ducks can be done by a property owner or by a hired nuisance wildlife trapper. For more information, see the FWC’s instructions on Nuisance Waterfowl.


Typically, a snake will only bite a person if it is disturbed; it's the snake’s only means of self-defense. As such, leave snakes alone – even those believed to be venomous, and especially if it is in the woods or crossing the road.

If you frequently see snakes near buildings on your property, it may indicate the presence of rodents. Get rid of debris, including excess lumber and brush, to deter rodents and snakes.


If an alligator is at least four feet in length and poses a threat to people, pets or property, then call 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286). An FWC-contracted nuisance alligator trapper will remove the alligator from your property.


Contact your local FWC regional office or call the Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).


This is also true if you find an injured animal in your backyard. Unless you are a trained veterinarian, you should not attempt to help an injured animal. Instead, call an expert who knows the appropriate steps to take.

Knowing how to safely interact with wild animals is important, both for your own safety and for the safety of the wildlife. 

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